Sunday, 28 April 2013

CLOUD-ME: part 2

The Cloud - for permanent digital storage?
By Tani12 [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ()], via Wikimedia Commons
This blog continues to list the free web resources that Andy Tattersall and Claire Beecroft (University of Sheffield, School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR)) identified in their recent presentation to Health Libraries Group Wales. The presentation was entitled A free web toolkit for the modern library and identified resources under the acronym CLOUD-ME.

Part 1of this blog covered first two elements of CLOUD-ME -  Curation and Learning.

O is for Organise

  • Mendeley - "Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organise your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research". Also allows you incorporate your own notes with pdf copies of articles and to store these within your repository, which is then accessible from any web-enabled device. ScHARR now use Mendeley as their preferred reference manager, and it was certainly the site I use most from having completed the CPD23 Things programme.
  • ReadCube - a simplified bibliographic reference manager, place to organise your research, create online sticky notes and to annotate articles. An alternative to Mendeley.
  • Slideshare - as mentioned under "L is for Learning"; and mentioned as a curation tool.
  • F1000 Posters - "a unique open access repository for posters and slide presentations across biology and medicine. By keeping the work visible long after a meeting has ended it maximises the return on the time, effort and money invested in creating each presentation. " An example posted from the ScHARR team - Learn something new in 20 minutes presented at LILAC 2012. [Your experience?] - do you use something similar? How do you create your posters?
  • Google Sites - billed as "a free and easy way to create and share web pages". Google account required in order to make your own sites. [Your experience?] . Similarly Google Forms  - part of Google Drive.
  • If this then that -  your action in the cloud using one tool can then trigger reactions in other tools. This is great and overcomes some of the problems of dealing with multiple channels and tools. So for instance, IFTTT automatically posts a new entry to the CILIP Cymru Wales Facebook page and sends a tweet from @CilipinWales when a new blog entry is published. Fantastic! The options seem vast. Well worth a look.
Clearly there are lots of copyright issues with all of these services. There are also some concerns about longevity of service given recent commercial acquisitions (e.g. Mendeley has been acquired by Elsevier recently). Andy suggests that the free citation services can also provide a useful discovery tool for grey literature, as an adjunct to the mainstream abstracting and indexing services. 

U is for YouTube ?!?

OK, I think we'll allow Andy and Claire a little poetic license here. This section is really about video in the Cloud.
  • Screencast-o-matic - Capture your own instructional videos by recording your screen together with an audio commentary. Another personal favourite from the CPD23 Things programme. I've used it and will use it again. The free access allows you to record one video of up to 15 minutes duration. This can then be downloaded and saved to other services (e.g. YouTube, Vimeo etc), freeing you up to make another video in Screencast-o-Matic. The paid for account at $15 p.a. may also be well worth considering. In true Blue Peter style - here's one I created earlier - How to find Welsh Government Publications.
  • Camtasia - provides a similar service. This is a paid for service but the free-trial option will allow you to check it out. [Your experience?] .
  • SocialCam - create a video using your iPhone, iPad or Android device and upload it to the Cloud, with linked-in sharing to Facebook, Twitter etc. Andy and Claire have used this for creating video abstracts ahead of delivering papers at conferences.[Your experience?] .

D is for Docs

  • Google Drive / Google Docs - allows synchronous editing online. Claire and Andy schedule 60 minute online meetings and work collaboratively on writing papers. This "paper slamming" technique takes a little getting used to but can be really effective in the longer term. Google Drive also allow you to synchronise your documents with Cloud storage and then access them from any web enabled tool. Google seems to be cropping up quite a lot so it's probably worth mentioning that the University of Sheffield is a Google University.
  • Google Talk / Google Hangouts - an online videoconferencing platform where up to 15 people can video conference, screen-share, work collaboratively on documents. With 150M users and growing, Google + may also be a great place to easily share documents from Google Drive.[Your experience?]
Andy thought that his behaviour has changed because of the Cloud - he no longer stores quite so much on local storage media, but is increasingly reliant on online curating and search tools such as Mendeley.  Interlinking between services (using IFTTT etc), and ability to work and access information whilst on the move are contributing to this behaviour change. Of course, there are concerns of data security and service longevity, both issues which need to be considered and reviewed regularly.

M is for Mobile

Mobile technologies are becoming the predominant vehicles for engaging with the web and thus also Cloud services. Services such as Google Drive and Dropbox enable you automatically save your documents to the Cloud, and to be able to access them anywhere and from a variety of platforms. In general, these Cloud services synchronise your activity. For instance, start watching a film in the Cloud on your mobile, pause, and resume  watching  from the same point later on a different device.

E is for Embed

Embedding is the rationale behind the Cloud. Creating, accessing and changing your content seamlessly and in Martini  fashion (any time, any place, anywhere);  sharing content with other platforms and other users; collaborative working. Use the technology to best help you in these aims, by using automatic synchronisation and sharing tools. 

But what happens when things go wrong? Always have backup plans in case you can access the Cloud. For instance if using a laptop to provide a presentation and the WiFi network goes down, can you use your mobile phone to set up WiFi hotspot and allow you to continue accessing your Cloud based resources?

Think of others when you share from Cloud resources.. Will all of your users have adequate connectivity to be able to watch a video online? Does content display well on mobile devices? Will security or firewall restrictions prevent some from accessing your shared content? Will users be confident and familiar enough with the technology for this not to be a barrier to their access, learning or enjoyment?

Some final thoughts...

This was a fascinating session and there are some direct actions that I will be following up:

  • setting up connectivity services such as IFTTT
  • checking out what's available through MOOCs 
  • revisiting Netvibes for automated delivery of current awareness services
  • investigating and
Please share [Your experience?].  

  • Which Cloud services you find invaluable?
  • Do you have concerns about using Cloud resources and storage, or are you hampered in using them because of workplace IT security restrictions? 
  • Alternatively, has your organisation fully embraced Cloud storage and working practices?
  • Has this changed the culture of your organisation away from creating and maintaining information silos? Are people more collaborative because of this?

Thanks go to...

With appreciation to Andy and Claire for their excellent session. This was a video-conferenced session so it is further evidence that great learning can be successfully provided at a distance. Thanks also go to the Health Libraries Group Wales for organising such an interesting day, and to the Royal College of Nursing Wales for their hospitality.

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