Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Scandinavian Dugnad

I was invited by the Scandinavian DSpace User Group meeting to join them in their first official meeting yesterday in Oslo. It was great to see so many people representing a small-ish geographical area and a reasonably small population all together from 4 nations (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) to talk about DSpace. Probably 35 people all-in, with plans to extend the group to be the Nordic DSpace User Group to include members from Iceland, and perhaps even the Faroe Islands, and Greenland (if DSpace instances appear there).

In the grand traditions of Open Source and Open Access, I borrowed presentations given at the recent DSpace User Group Rome, and gave them an update on the state of the DSpace Foundation, DSpace 2.0, and then went on to produce some original slides telling folks how to get involved in DSpace developments. Hopefully all the content will be available on the web soon.

As your humble chronicaller struggled with his sub-par Norwegian, he picked up some interesting things. There is good user end development going on in Scandinavia which could be harnessed to bring improvements to the DSpace UI. There are also increasingly many requests for "Integration with ...", where the object of integration is one of a variety of library information systems. Statistics are high on the agenda here as they are everywhere else. They are also a base of experts in multi-language problems stemming from being polyglot nations with additional letters in their native alphabets.

It's clear where the future of repositories lie in Scandinavian nations where the national interest and the community feature prominently in society and culture. Bibsys, a major supplier of library systems and services in Norway (and organisers of the meeting), have 29 DSpace clients on their books already, and are looking at tighter integration between it and their other products, right down to the information model level. National research reporting systems are much desired repository data sources, and internal information systems at each institutions are starting to feed into their public repositories.

With such a big user group, and such a community focus, there is little doubt in my mind that the Nordic user group will be a great asset to the DSpace users in that region, and probably to the DSpace community as a whole.

PS Dugnad is a Norwegian word effectively referring to voluntary, communal work which benefits the community to some degree, but is also social and enjoyable for the participants. It also formed the basis of the 2006 DSpace User Group Meeting in Bergen

Friday, 26 October 2007

Exciting news from the pages of the Chronicles

Some of you will already know this, but for the benefit of those that don't but wanted to know, here is some job related news on my part.

With the recent launch of Spiral, I have felt free to consider again my place in the world, the work I do on Open Source and Open Access, and my general future, knowing that if I were to leave Imperial College, I would not be leaving having achieved nothing visible.

I have, therefore, decided to make a move from the academic into the commercial sector, and have taken up a position with HP Labs to work with DSpace especially in the context of India, where it has become extremely popular. So towards the end of next month you will see the "About Me" section of this blog get updated, and I may vanish off the radar for a week or two while I get myself up and running in this new post.

I'm greatly looking forward to working with the DSpace folks both in HP Labs Bristol, Bangalore and Vermont!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

DSpace 1.5 Alpha with experimental binary distribution

The DSpace 1.5 Alpha has now been released and we encourage you to download this exciting new release of DSpace and try it out.

There are big changes in this code base, both in terms of functionality and organisation. First, we are now using Maven to manage our build process, and have carved the application into a set of core modules which can be used to assemble your desired DSpace instance. For example, the JSP UI and the Manakin UI are now available as separate UI modules, and you may build either or both of these. We are taking an important step down the road, here, to allowing for community developments to be more easily created, and also more easily shared. You should be able, with a little tinkering, to provide separate code packages which can be dropped in alongside the dspace core modules, and built along with them. There are many stages to go through before this process is complete or perfect, so we encourage you to try out this new mechanism, and to let us know how you get on, or what changes you would make. Oh, and please do share your modules with the community! Props to Mark Diggory and the MIT guys for this restructuring work.

The second big and most exciting thing is that Manakin is now part of our standard distribution, and we want to see it taking over from the JSP UI over the next few major releases. A big hand for Scott Phillips and the Texas A&M guys for getting this code into the distribution; they have worked really hard.

In addition to this, we have an Event System which should help us start to decouple tightly integrated parts of the repository, from Richard Rodgers and the guys at MIT. Browsing is now done with a heavily configurable system written initially by myself, but with significant assistance from Graham Triggs at BioMed Central. Tim Donohue's much desired Configurable Submission system is now integrated with both JSP and Manakin interfaces and is part of the release too.

Further to this we have a bunch of other functionality including: IP Authentication, better metadata and schema registry import, move items from one collection to another, metadata export, configurable multilingualism support, Google and html sitemap generator, Community and Sub-Communities as OAI Sets, and Item metadata in XHTML head <meta> elements.

All in all, a good looking release. There will be a testathon organised shortly which will be announced on the mailing lists, so that we can run this up to beta and then into final release as soon as possible. There's lots to test, so please lend a hand.

We are also experimenting with a binary release, which can be downloaded from the same page as the source release. We are interested in how people get on with this, so let us know on the mailing lists.

Come and get it:

DSpace User Group 2007, Rome

Last week was the annual DSpace User Group Meeting, this year held in Rome, hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:

These guys have an interest in DSpace for sharing knowledge throught the developing world, and kindly offered to run the user group this year. The FAO building is set at the east end of the incredible Circus Maximus, and just 5 minutes up the road from the Colosseum. And we could see all of this from the 8th floor terrace cafe where lunch and coffee was served every day.

The presentations for this event are mostly available online, at:

If there are presenters reading this whose papers are not yet online, please contact the conference organisers so they can make it available.

I felt that this year the balance between technical and non-technical presentations was struck particularly well. While there were streams of non-technical presentations, there were highly technical tracks for the developers among us to attend. Specifically worth a mention was Scott Phillips' Introduction to Manakin, which is something we will all need to get to grips with in the long run, and something which I knew woefully little about. After that session, though, I'm confident about getting stuck in.

The quality of the work going on with DSpace is definitely reaching a high degree of maturity, with increasingly many developments leveraging the latest features of DSpace in new and innovative ways. For me this suggests that our platform has approached a critical point where we must, as a community, find a way to make these developments easier to share and easier to adopt and easier to write.

So thanks from me to the organisers. It was great to see the usual suspects again, but equally great was it to put faces to names from the mailing lists and IRC. See you all next year!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

my my where did the summer go

OK, ok, it's been a long long time since I updated. Did I say at the beginning that this was an experiment in seeing if I was capable of maintaining a blog? If I didn't I should have done.

But there's a good reason that I've not updated for a while. That is, that I've been working flat out on the Imperial College Digital Repository: Spir@l, and am pleased to finally announce in a quiet way that we are officially LIVE:

On the outside it doesn't look too serious. A standard looking DSpace, I hear you say, with an Imperial College site template on it. And you'd be right. But only about the tip of the ice-berg.

Without wishing to blow my own trumpet (modesty is the third or fourth best thing about me), please do check out the article which I co-wrote with my good colleague Fereshteh Afshari:

And you may also be interested in my presentation at the recent DSpace User Group Meeting in Rome 2007 (more on that later, maybe):

I could probably be persueded to write a little here about how it works; maybe you'll even get snippets from the monolithic technical documentation that I'm in the middle of writing.

Oh, and there's more news, but now I've got your attention again you have to wait for the next installment.