We all agree it shouldn’t be, that it’s a basic technical pre-requisite for modern collaboration, and everybody has great ideas [...]
Posted on March 9th, 2010 by marc
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"I don't build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build."
- Howard Roark from 'The Fountainhead' by Ayn Rand, 1942
We all agree it shouldn’t be, that it’s a basic technical pre-requisite for modern collaboration, and everybody has great ideas for new ways to do it …but… the truth is that sharing digitally at Macquarie is harder than it should be.
There’s no shortage of options – dozens of file servers, repositories, hundreds of websites and web applications like blogs and isolated wikis – but all come up short when measured against the dimension of audience reach.
The reason is that these spaces are partitioned into functional or political islands, either arbitrarily, by design, or by technical constraint. We find ourselves in a world where we either set up an isolated bubble that needs another set of credentials and precludes serendipitous participation, use physical network proximity as a substitute for identity, or simply anonymously host inappropriately.
Nobody set out to create this world but it’s a common situation in organisations subject to grant funding or where central technical strategy lacks alignment.
The upshot is that we default to using email, the lowest common denominator, as our most prolific sharing mechanism. Email is a directed, point in time medium with inherent truth multiplicity, transparency inadequacy, temporal anomaly, and security impropriety. That’s a complicated way of saying what we all know – email doesn’t cut it.
This is not going unrecognised. There are strategic initiatives in progress to create durable, long term capabilities. Macquarie Memory will deliver a pan-University electronic document and records content management (ECM) repository. The Marketing Web Strategy will deliver web content management (WebCMS) technology to standardise authoring, editing, approval and publishing of official University websites in a simple, structured fashion. We’ll work together to make sure these are designed to work in-concert, and implement collaboratively to make sure they deliver compelling and relevant products.
But these are medium to long term options with structured formality. We can make a real and tangible difference in the immediate present by leveraging two recent developments, namely the production availability of a single source of identity, the OneNet Directory, and the maturation of wiki technology for organisation-wide use and beyond.
A coalition of the willing in the form of Marketing, the Learning and Teaching Centre, Informatics and Macquarie International has been working together on how to get wiki technology into everybody’s hands in a project codenamed Omnipedia, announced at the February United Federation of Infoservices and introduced in today’s March Management Advisory Committee for Academic Learning Technologies (MACALT) committee meeting. Multiple faculty and departmental IT units have already opted in or expressed interest.
A wiki is a website that allows the easy creation and editing of any number of interlinked web pages via a web browser. It’s read-write web technology that lets potentially anybody publish and change web based information.
In the case of MQU, wiki represents a fast way of engendering effective, ad-hoc collaboration and sharing. It achieves this across a broad spectrum of access, from the anonymous public at one extreme to a small targeted student study group at the other, as well as everything in between based on identity and group membership. For the first time, the decision about what audience a space needs to reach will be purely determined by publisher discretion and governance model, as opposed to technical constraint or limitation.
Project Omnipedia will deploy Confluence by Atlassian, an Australian software company with a Silicon Valley attitude. Confluence receives top billing as an ‘enterprise wiki’, which means that it adds authentication, access control, plug-in extensibility and search to traditional wiki functions.
Macquarie International, as a Confluence vanguard, will offer its experience and expertise, as well as contributing commercially to the project.
Informatics will operate and underpin Confluence with performant hardware, the University’s industrial strength Oracle database implementation, and the single source of the truth for every student and staff identity, the OneNet Directory.
The Learning and Teaching Centre will leverage and transfer its expert skills and knowledge with pre-existing wiki technology to assist initial establishment of, as well as incremental transition to the new technology. Within its mandate, LTC will also assist with evangelism and training.
Marketing will offer policy input and operational governance decisions to ensure directed growth and coordinated disclosure principles.
Omnipedia will offer a broad spectrum of mixed intranet and internet access, from anonymous public at one extreme to a small targeted student study group at the other, as well as everything in between based on identity and group membership as opposed to physical connection. It will be available to staff in any Faculty or Departmental unit.
We aim to deliver a widespread yet low cost production implementation for use by selected initial projects in May 2010. Existing wikis like the MindTouch Deki tech currently in use within LTC will remain available though new project content will be directed to Confluence to prevent new legacy creation.
Omnipedia represents a great example of cross-boundary collaboration on an opt-in basis at our University. I’m very excited by this prospect; we’ll post more information as the project develops.
Please contact Mark Silva for info about or to jump on board with Omnipedia.
This blog is about promoting discussion in areas of significance for Universities it is not necesarily the viewpoint of MQ and should not be taken as such.