Archive for yodl-ing

JISC YODL-ING Project recent presentations

Our YODL-ING project partners Steve Bayliss and Martin Dow from Acuity Unlimited, presented some of the excellent work they have been doing for us in the project at Open Repositories back in June. The Presentations are available from the conference web site:
  • Stephen Bayliss, Martin Dow, Julie Allinson. Using Semantic Web technologies to integrate thesauri with Fedora to support cataloguing, discovery, re-use and interoperability, Open Repositories 2011, Austin, Texas. PDF
  • Stephen Bayliss, Martin Dow, Julie Allinson. An integrated approach to licensing and access control in Fedora using XACML and the Fedora Content Model Architecture, Open Repositories 2011, Austin, Texas. PDF

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The all new York Digital Library

On the 1st March, the Digital Library went live with it’s new interface and a number of new image collections, totalling several thousand images. The interface has been developed as part of the JISC YODL-ING project, as an extensible multimedia search and browse interface. The first iteration contains tabs for searching all resources in the digital library – this searches the dublin core metadata present on everything in YODL. A second tab offers a dedicated image search tab and makes use of the rich VRA data associated with image objects. Collection browsing offers an alternative to searching and image streaming allows users to zoom and pan a high quality image in the browser.

Many of these images are free for public use without any login. York users may login to see full resolution images and to access some additional collections, particularly for History of Art students. The collections themselves include photographs from the Library collections, showing the University throughout it’s near 50 year history, and academic image collections from Nigel Morgan, Jane Hawkes, Amanda Lillie and Helen Hills cover a range of History of Art topics.

In addition, in the background the Digital Library now runs on Linux Ubuntu VM-ware (upgraded from Solaris), on the very latest version of Fedora Commons (3.4.2) with FeSL providing access control, and an upgraded Muradora (1.4) for our submission workflow. Various custom components are included which have been developed by the York team, in particular Nigel Thomas (interface) and Frank Feng (workflow). Special mention also to our partners  Steve Bayliss and Martin Dow at Acuity Unlimited, who have helped troubleshoot some thorny issues whilst also working on prototypes (more on these in future posts).

York Digital Library (YODL) can be found at

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Developing Mobile Application for Education

On Wednesday 21st of July I attended an introductory event on how to develop on mobile devices (Symbian, Android, IPhone/IPad) and how to deliver mobile friendly web content. This event was hosted at the University of Reading and organised by the nice people from DevCSI a JISC funded initiative.

The event kicked off with Paul Raymond introducing the Symbian platform which runs on Nokia devices. Followed by a demonstration on how to create a simple “hello world” application which accepted a text input and responded with a greeting to the user.  The web runtime kit was chosen as development environment for Symbian. The web runtime kit had the advantage of using standard HTML, CSS and JavaScript to construct native mobile application for the platform. The installation experience and ease of use of the integrated development environment (IDE) compared favourably against Android and IPhone IDE’s. For more information see

Developing for the IPhone was presented by Sam Easterby-Smith, a demonstrator application similar to previous was demoed. Interleaved with a novel interactive session using balloons to demonstrate the memory management caveats on the IPhone, such as retention, sharing and memory leaks. While only an introduction further workshops will be held in Manchester for in depth coverage of development. Xcode the IDE for IPhone/IPad was more comprehensive than that of Symbian, while objective-c the development language was sufficiently different from Java/C# to merit further study.

The afternoon session started with Patrick H Laucke from Opera Software, presenting on Mobile Device Friendly Content for the Web.

A overview of the techniques considered:

  • Do nothing other than develop websites to standards; most mobile browser can view such sites albeit with resolution constraints.
  • Build separate mobile site, such as, avoid browser sniffing and redirects instead give users a choice between mobile and desktop. Refactor layout for mobile devices by reducing content on a page by reorganising and avoid removing features.
  • Build a single adaptive site, with techniques such as fluid layout, progressive enhancements, CSS 2 Media Types {screen, print, handheld}, and CSS3 Media Queries, reduce content delivered over the wire with CSS sprites etc to improve performance see work pioneered by Yahoo in this area

Arguments for using native applications vs web application was presented, native apps have the advantage of using phone features such as geolocation, access to camera, video and audio in the past, however these have since been offset by the availability of the same features in the HTML5 specification, which means browsers implementing the specification will have access features such as geolocation, access to camera and native playback of video and audio without the need for 3rd party plug-in. Geo location has useful applications in location sensitive search. For a demo of geolocation see (Firefox only on desktop browsers).

Further detail and installation instructions for the event can be found at

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Digital Library 2010 and beyond

It’s New Year and time for an update on what’s going on in the University of York Digital Library and to reflect on what is in store for the next year or so.

In terms of our core funding, this ends in the summer of 2010, with the JISC YODL-ING project funded until March 2011. These funding deadlines help frame our work for the next period and to fit in with this I have created a ‘roadmap‘ document, intended to show where we are planning to get to in the next 18 months. This document is still a ‘draft’, intended to be flexible enough to incorporate changes in direction if circumstances alter. As always, comments are very welcome about the document and the future direction of the Digital Library.

The project has now been around for a little over 2 years, with the first year being spent in recruiting staff, deciding on the architecture and establishing requirements. Since August 2008, a lot has happened, culminating in a York Digital Library (YODL) beta service which is now available for testing with public open access to some content and additional collections access controlled by University username and password. Other highlights from the past 2 years include our History of Art Image Service which, over the coming year, will see students of History of Art actively using YODL to view and download images; also, the Electronic Key Texts pilot which last year made a series of recommendations about how the Library could begin to offer course readings electronically, moves into phase 2 of the pilot to really test delivering content to selected Departments. Lastly, we have been part of another successful JISC bid and are now a partner on the Lifecycle strategies and architecture for regional e-content (LIFE-SHARE) project with Leeds as lead, Sheffield and JISC Digital Media.

For the coming months, a raft of developments are happening, including some performance enhancements, allowing York users to add their own content to YODL and a new improved interface. That’s aside from all the collections which will be coming on stream this year, including lots of images from History of Art, Archaeology, King’s Manor and the Borthwick Institute

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Spreading the word about YODL

After a year of developing and implementing the pilot phase of YODL, the york online multimedia repository, we feel we have useful experience to share with other people working in this area. In July Julie Allinson and Elizabeth Harbord published an article in Ariadne, a Web magazine aimed at information professionals in archives, libraries and museums . The article outlined the progress of the project from its inception through to its actual implementation. ( To accompany this, Julie suggested Frank Feng and I write a companion article from a technical perspective. I found this a slightly daunting but very interesting challenge, and the article we jointly wrote is now online. The article can be read at

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Accessibility 2.0 – A Million Flowers Bloom

On Tuesday, I was at the Accessibility 2.0 conference hosted by AbilityNet. The conference introduced some important topics currently effecting web professional, touching on accessibility with Silverlight, support of HTML5 and WAI-ARIA on assistive technologies as well broader discussion on accessibility on mobile devices. The events were organised into a series of presentation and discussion panels from a group of distinguished speakers

Christian Heliman keynote “Finite Incatatem – Accessibility is not black magic” slides are available on slideshare, the main focus of his presentation was to increase the profile of universal design (accessible design/development practices) in web development and particularly to include accessibility early on the development phase. He also, introduced the work done on Easy YouTube player an attempt at making YouTube videos more accessible to people with disabilities. Further presentation on making multimedia accessible is presented by Open University at Techshare 2009, with an interesting comparison of media players including easy-youtube.

Silverlight accessibility was touched on by Saqib Shaikh (Microsoft), who introduced Silverlight as cross platform, cross browser, open standard and demonstrated accessibility features built into the platform such as colour contrast, keyboard access and the potential to create accessible videos. A series of demonstration were made showing how screen readers (NVDA) interacted with an open source accessible Silverlight media player particularly reading closed captions/audio descriptions from W3C timed text files associated with the video.

Steve Faulkner presented on HTML5 and WAI-ARIA, he reported current browser support for HTML5 is limited, with Microsoft Internet Explorer yet to fully support this. HTML5 form controls were poorly supported by assistive technology at present, with very few exposing even basic keyboard access. The HTML5 canvas element was criticised for being an accessibility black hole, since no content is exposed to assistive technologies, although workaround for producing accessible content have been suggested. Video element was also criticised for lacking support for caption/subtitling at least in the first release of the standard.

Steve compared WAI-ARIA support reporting support was much better across browsers and assistive technologies such as JAWS, NVDA and ORCA. JAWS public beta shows support for a variety of roles from Drag-drop to ARIA Live Region used commonly with AJAX. He also demonstrated the use of landmark roles to mark specific regions of a page and quaintly described as “super charged skip to content links”.

Two discussion panels were held during the day, the first was on “Accessibility beyond the desktop discussion” and second on “To comply or not to comply? That is the question”. The first considered the impact of mobile technology on accessibility and considered how content could be presented accessibly to wide group of people. The second considered the challenges of producing accessible web solutions within the constraints of a work environment, presenting the issues faced by developers and offered recommendations. Detailed transcripts of the discussion panels to follow shortly with links to slides as and when published by AbilityNet.

Update – Speaker presentations

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