Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Hansard 2.0: Designing e-Democracy into the new Australian Parliament Hansard

The Australian Department of Parliamentary Services has issued a "Request for Tender for Provision of a replacement Hansard Production System". Hansard is traditionally the published record of what is said in parliament and parliamentary committees. However, Hansard is not a verbatim transcript of what is said. Hansard is already on the web, but as a simple conversion of the previous paper system. There is the opportunity with "Hansard 2.0" to produce a system which makes use of the Web's features to provide a better service for e-Democracy.

The Department of Parliamentary Services have provided a very detailed and clearly written 83 page request for tender document. The document contains a very useful five page glossary, and a ten page introduction to the work of the Department of Parliamentary Services, its work practices and systems, with work flows and metadata. The statement of requirement is twelve pages long.
3.1 About the Department of Parliamentary Services 6
3.2 Hansard Background Information for this RFT 8
3.3 Hansard Production System – Application Dependencies 11 ...

Statement of Requirement 37
5.12 Overview 37
5.13 Job Creation and Management 37
5.14 Resource Management 38
5.15 Text Creation, Editing and Formatting 40
5.16 Document Management 42
5.17 Publishing 43
5.18 Reporting 44
5.19 Administration and Security 44
5.20 Architecture and Technology 45
5.21 Future Proofing 46
5.22 Project Plan and other Documentation 47
5.23 Administrative and Support Capabilities 48 ...

From: Table of Contents,
Hansard RFT Document, ATM ID DPS08024, Agency Department of Parliamentary Services, 29-Sep-2008
While very clearly set out, the scope of the tender is very limited:
The DPS seeks a solution that better meets the business needs of Hansard by significantly reducing the time taken to produce and publish transcripts, thereby improving Hansard service delivery standards along with maintaining service quality and enabling editors to focus on the more value-added component of their editing work.
What is being looked for is a way to reduce the time needed to produce transcripts. However, this will not necessarily improve the working of Parliament nor enhance democracy. Hansard is not a transcript of what is said in parliament and to design a system as if this is what it was will not enhance the operation of Parliament. A better approach would be to create a system which provides a transcript as one output and then allows this to be enhanced with other information, much as a web based document, such as a Wiki is. The documents used by Parliament could be linked to the transcript, the video and audio of what was said could be linked. The corrections to indicate what the MPs meant to say could be incorporated in the record, without obscuring what they actually said.
Category 43000000 - Information Technology Broadcasting and Telecommunications
Close Date & Time 18-Nov-2008 2:00 pm (ACT Local time) ...

Location ACT
ATM Type Request for Tender

The Department of Parliamentary Services (DPS) is seeking a solution to replace its current Hansard Production System (HPS).

The HPS is a document production and management system that interfaces with a number of disparate systems to make possible the publishing of Hansard. It currently incorporates:

1. job creation
2. rostering of editor resources
3. allocation of committee jobs both in Parliament House and interstate
4. production and workflow monitoring of chamber and committee transcripts
5. transmitting of draft transcripts to networked printers, to e-mail accounts and to a web services portal
6. preparation and publishing of documents via the internet and in hard copy
7. document management
8. security access control
9. information management components providing performance data relating to quantity, accuracy and timeliness of work which are the basis for annual reports and management information reporting needs

Conditions for Participation As defined in the Request for Tender documentation
Timeframe for Delivery It is expected that a Contract will be in place by March 2009 ...

From: Request for Tender for Provision of a replacement Hansard Production System, ATM ID DPS08024, Agency Department of Parliamentary Services, 29-Sep-2008

Glossary of Terms
CATComputer Assisted Transcription using Stenograph shorthand machines.
CPALCentralised Parliamentarians’ Address List.
ChamberSenate, House of Representatives, or House of Representatives Main Committee.
COBWEBCommittee Online Booking Website which enables committee staff to book Hansard and Broadcasting services for committee hearings.
ContractThe Contract which the DPS intends to enter into with any Successful Tenderer, substantially in the form of the draft document at Attachment A of this RFT.
DARTDigital Audio Recording for Transcription (a For the Record (FTR) digital recording solution to record audio from chambers and committees for playback and transcribing by Hansard editors or external providers).
Scheduled to replace current Digital Audio System in early 2009, but reference is generically used to mean current Digital Audio System also.
  1. Job transcript.
  2. Turn files, which are subsequently consolidated into a transcript.
  3. Incorporated material.
EditTranscribe and check own turn (editor), following which a turn may be subedited.
External ProvidersOutsourced transcription services, i.e. organisations that have been engaged under contract to record and/or transcribe committee proceedings.
FTR (For the Record)Company contracted to provide replacement digital audio system.
GreenDraft speech or question sent to a member of the House of Representatives for review.
GSTGoods and Services Tax levied on the supply of goods and services under the A New Tax System (Goods and Services) Tax Act 1999 (Cth).
HansardTraditional name for the transcripts of what is said in parliamentary chambers and committees proceedings.
HouseHouse of Representatives chamber.
HPSHansard Production System.
In-camera HearingA committee hearing not open to the public and for which the transcript is not made publicly available.
ISRInformation Storage and Retrieval system which generates name ID values for all senators and members.
KPIsKey Performance Indicators.
LoggingCreating a log of proceedings, speakers, interjections, etc. for chamber or committee hearings.
Logical ComponentA portion of text that can be grouped into a single entity, for example a speech or a debate. There may be several turns in a logical component, or several logical components in a turn.
Module systemPrinciples by which Hansard allocates staff/teams to roster segments to cover span of sitting hours.
MonitoringCreating a ‘voiceover’ for committee audio recordings to identify speakers.
Nil TurnTurn that contains no text, coding or other information required for publishing.
Official Hansard
  1. Chamber “book” produced for each week, containing prefatory pages, chamber proceedings and answers to Questions on Notice or Questions in Writing. Previously known as the Weekly Hansard.
  2. Final committee transcript.
OH&SOccupational Health and Safety.
ParlInfoDPS system that provides a common service to support the authoring, collection, management and presentation of web-based parliamentary information and the retrieval of that information.
PCNParliamentary Computing Network.
PinkDraft speech or question sent to a senator for review.
Private BriefingCommittee meeting not open to the public and for which the transcript is not made publicly available.
Proof Hansard
  1. Chambers “book” produced each day, containing prefatory pages, chamber proceedings and answers to Questions on Notice or Questions in Writing. Previously known as the Daily Hansard.
  2. First committee transcript draft.
Public HearingCommittee hearing open to the public and for which the transcript is made publicly available.
Question TimeDaily period in Senate and House during which members ask ministers questions without notice concerning areas within their responsibility.
Properly known as Questions without Notice. Compared with Questions on Notice (Senate) and Questions in Writing (House), which are provided by chamber departments and incorporated, with answers, at the end of each day’s Hansard chamber report.
Question Time Bulk SendSending to all political party leaders and the Presiding Officers of a draft Hansard report of the day’s question time.
Request for Tender (RFT) This document and includes all Stages, Attachments and Schedules.
Roster ComponentSection of a roster to which a resource or resources may be allocated e.g. between noon and 1:00pm or 7:30pm and 11:00pm. Generally is dependent on chamber/committee sitting times and requirement to roster OH&S breaks.
Senators’ and Members’ Services Portal (SMSP)Intranet portal containing a number of ‘windows’ or content blocks that display a variety of information to senators, members and their staff. Hansard Production System currently provides draft Senate and House speeches (Pinks and Greens) to a content block in SMSP.
ServicesServices required by the DPS more particularly described in the Statement of Requirement.
SidenamesSpeaker names set up in chamber and committee transcripts, usually containing metadata, or coding that assists the sending of speeches and Parlinfo searching and indexing.
SMESmall to Medium Enterprises.
SOAService Orientated Architecture.
SOAPSingle Object Access Protocol.
SpeechA speech made, a question asked, or an answer given by a senator or member in a chamber.
SORStatement of Requirement.
Successful TendererThe Tenderer selected to enter into a Contract.
TendererA person who submits a Tender in response to this RFT and includes a potential Tenderer.
TranscriptA Hansard transcript for a chamber or committee, made up of turns created by editors.
  1. Period of proceedings an editor transcribes– usually 7 ½ minutes for each of the chambers and 5 minutes for committees.
  2. Individual Microsoft Word files that an editor can create and edit. Turns need not be time referenced e.g. a whole job could be one turn.
VRVoice Recognition – most editors use Dragon Naturally Speaking v9.0 to enter text. VR does not mean direct translation of source speech direct to text.

From: Glossary of Terms, Hansard RFT Document, ATM ID DPS08024, Agency Department of Parliamentary Services, 29-Sep-2008

Are CB Radios Safer to Use While Driving?

Last night's premier of Top Gear Australia (derived from the BBC's "Top Gear" TV car show), had the three presenters Warren Brown, Charlie Cox and Steve Pizzati, driving in the Snowy Mountains while operating hand held CB radios. While this is not necessarily illegal, it is hard to see how talking on a two way radio would be less distracting that a phone. Perhaps this is an area for research.

According to the Roads and Traffic Authority (NSW), CB and two-way radios are not banned for drivers:
300 Use of hand-held mobile phones

(1) The driver of a vehicle (except an emergency vehicle or police vehicle) must not use a hand-held mobile phone while the vehicle is moving, or is stationary but not parked, unless the driver is exempt from this rule under another law of this jurisdiction.

Offence provision.

Note Emergency vehicle, park and police vehicle are defined in the dictionary.

(2) In this rule:
mobile phone does not include a CB radio or any other
two-way radio.

From: Australian Road Rules
Research has shown that talking on a phone impairs driving ability. It is not holding the phone in hand that is the problem, but having a conversation. Hands free phones cause similar impairment to hand held telephones. However, having a conversation with someone in the car may cause less impairment and conversing with someone in an adjacent car, as was the case in Top Gear, may be less of a problem.

One area which appears to have not been researched is the impairment from two way radios. Most two way radios are "simplex", that is the radio can only transmit or receive, it cannot do both at once. As a result the two parties have to take turns speaking and there are usually pauses in the conversation between. This makes for a stilted and unnatural conversation, but perhaps this reduces driver distraction.

Hands free kits for mobile phones in cars try to reproduce the free flowing two way conversation of a hand held phone. In practice this is limited by the noise level in the car and positioning of speakers. Less sophisticated kits, and those not well fitted, effectively operate as automatically switched simplex radios, cutting off the audio of the remote party while the driver is speaking. This is normally seen as a problem, but perhaps it increases safety.

Some CB Radios have the option of a tone at the end of a transmission to indicate the other party can now speak (commonly called "Roger Beep"). It may be useful to include this in hands free car kits to indicate to the remote party that the driver has finished speaking.

While the research is not clear on this point, some indicate that conversations with passengers in cars are less impairing as the passenger can see the traffic situation and so know when not to distract the driver. It may therefore be that a videophone showing the traffic, or a phone which detects the driver is busy and sends a synthetic voice or tone to say "driver busy" might help. Such a system might use a tone to indicate to the driver that it is not a good time to talk, or even switch off the microphone to stop them. The phone could detect when there is frequent breaking and use of turn signals, to indicate a high driver workload. Some hand held telephones, such as the iPhone, have accelerometers built in which could be used to to detect when the car is manoeuvring and so it is less safe to talk.

A simpler alternative might be to place a "Push to Talk" button on the car steering wheel. As with a two way radio, this button would need to be held down while the driver was speaking on the telephone. This would have the advantage that the driver would be only able to hold the button down and speak, when the car was proceeding in a uniform heading. As soon as the moved their hands on the wheel to change direction, the button would be released. This should have the effect of training the driver to not talk when manoeuvring.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Green fix for Digital Education Revolution budget

In "Developing a Green IT strategy - Saving the planet, one classroom at a time" at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2008 (ACEC'08), 2pm tomorrow, Mark Winter will propose power saving measures for computers in schools. He claims that this can save enough on power bills to resolve the dispute between the state and federal governments on funding of the Digital Education Revolution program:

“... states can save upwards of 50%-70% off their PC power consumption, that in turn saves money and CO2 emissions”. “The states can then use these savings to fund the installation of the new PC’s being allocated to them through the Digital Education Revolution (DER)”.

“We know that the Rudd Government’s “Digital Educational Revolution” Policy will change the way that the education of our youth is delivered, however at what cost”. “With the promised $1.2 bn in funding, more schools will have access to more PCs than ever before. More PCs means more energy consumption, which means higher electricity bills and greater carbon emissions” Winter said.

“NSW was allocated 74,838 PC’s in round one of the DER and with this comes a power bill to run these PC’s of around $4.6 million dollars per annum, so you can understand why Verity Firth, the NSW Education Minister is upset and is wanting clarification on who will be paying the ongoing costs associated with the scheme.” Mark went onto say.

“The NSW Education Minister has the ability to self fund the shortfall and can save $3.8 million in power consumption by mandating simple measures that all PC’s within school are centrally shut down when not in use. This will not only have substantial savings for the states, allowing them to use these savings to fund the ongoing costs it will also assist with reducing Australia’s carbon footprint”, Winter concluded. ..."

From: Australian Green IT initiative can resolve the federal governments funding crisis with the states around the Digital Education Revolution, Media Release, Computers Off Australia, 29 October 2008.

ps: Hope this makes sense. It was my suggestion, as one of the advisers to the CoA campaign. The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education is speaking at ACEC'08 on Wednesday morning.

For more details on how government can reduce energy costs, see my report for the Envrionment Department . For measures individual teacher can take, see the CoA web site.

Testing a Government Sustainability Website

The New Zealand Ministry for the Environment has issued a Request for Proposal to do content relevance and usability testing of the sustainability.govt.nz website. There is a 17 page, 253kb MS-Word document with the requirements. This provides a useful overview of what is required in such evaluations. Curiously, the RFT does not ask for an accessibility testing of the web site.
GETS Reference: 23497
Title New Zealand based opportunity Content relevance and usability testing of sustainability.govt.nz website

Request for Proposal
General Information The nature of the project is to conduct target audience testing of the sustainability.govt.nz website, including relevance of content and usability that will inform the proposed refresh of the site scheduled for early 2009 (refer to schedule 1).


Additional Documentation to Download
File Name Description File Type File Size
RFP Content relevance and usability testing of sustainability.govt.nz.DOC RFP Content relevance and usability testing of sustainability.govt.nz WORD 253kb

Relates to the following TenderWatch Categories
864 Market research and public opinion polling services
846 Web development services

From: Content relevance and usability testing of sustainability.govt.nz website, NZ Government, 2008


The Ministry for the Environment’s Household Sustainability Team launched the sustainability.govt.nz website in December 2007. The website was developed to raise awareness and help inform people about the sustainable choices they can take in their homes, in the areas of waste reduction, building, renovating, energy, water efficiency and transport.
A series of user personas was developed during the initial design phase of the sustainability.govt.nz website. Since sustainability.govt.nz was developed, the Household Sustainability Team has commissioned market research to allow segmentation of the population and appropriate targeting of interventions to the segments based on what motivates particular groups of people. This research has allowed further refinement of the sustainability.govt.nz target audience (see below).

Since its development, sustainability.govt.nz underwent a minor refresh in June 2008. This refresh included changes to the visual design and usability of the site. An online survey of the site’s current users has also been conducted. This survey will help gain a greater understanding of who the users are, why they are using the site, and their expectations for the site. It is expected that this survey will contribute to the project to test content relevance and usability for the site’s target audience.

The long-term direction of sustainability.govt.nz is to further develop its ability to bring about behaviour change in the target audience in the areas of waste reduction, building, renovating, energy, water efficiency and transport. Testing the relevance of existing content and usability of sustainability.govt.nz for the site’s target audience is part of the wider development of the site. A larger refresh of sustainability.govt.nz is scheduled for early 2009, and will be informed by the findings of this testing project.

The Household Sustainability Programme is designed to deliberately target sections of the population who are aware of sustainability issues and are interested in changing their patterns of behaviour.

By accelerating changes of behaviour in our target audience it is expected that they will influence others, who will be “pulled along” with their peer group. Over time, the aim is to influence an increasingly wide section of the population until the majority of households support more sustainable patterns of consumption and behaviour.

Note: further information on the target audience is available on request.

This RFP seeks responses from agencies which are able to provide the following services:

1.Ability to identify and recruit target audience members
2.Website usability testing (based on the target audience’s ability to use the website)
3.Content relevance testing (based on relevance to target audience - may involve a social marketing approach)
4.Evaluation of the findings from this testing project to inform the proposed sustainability.govt.nz refresh

In order to provide a website that meets the needs of our target audience to make sustainable choices in the areas of waste reduction, building, renovating, energy, water efficiency and transport, the Ministry is seeking proposals for carrying out the following services:

1.Design and draft a content relevance and usability testing plan for sustainability.govt.nz (note: a summary of findings from the online user survey is available on request. The full report of results from the online survey will be available to the successful proposal once a contract has been awarded).
2.Contact, recruit and confirm members of the site’s target audience as participants for the testing.
3.Test the content relevance and usability of sustainbiltiy.govt.nz for the target audience.
4.Prepare a summary report of findings from the content relevance and usability testing of sustainbiltiy.govt.nz for the target audience that will inform the proposed refresh scheduled for early 2009.

From: Request for Proposals, For Content relevance and usability testing of sustainability.govt.nz website, NZ Ministry for the Environment

24 September 2008

TiVo Mostly Good After Two Months

After two months, I have mostly good things to report on the TiVo. Its ability to predict what I might want to watch is so good as to be unnerving. Several times I went to manually record a program and found that I could rewind back through the part of the show from before I started recording it. The TiVo anticipated I wanted the program and had already started recording. In other cases I couldn't rewind live, but could do so several days later (I assume the TiVo filled in the missing bit from a repeat).

The "Wishlist" function to find programs on topics works well. I have an interest in trains so asked for TiVo to record train documentaries. I thought this might take months, but within a few days the TiVo found an episode of a travel documentary which featured a train.

There have been some problems. I found once or twice the TiVo was recording the same show using both tuners simultaneously: one on standard definition and one high definition. Most of the time this is not a problem, with the guide indicating that these are the same programs so only one version gets recorded. To eliminate the program I decided to delete the HD channels, as these look no better on my small screen than standard definition. But I then found the HD channels kept reappearing the next day. After several deletes the TiVo seems to have got the idea I don't want HD.

Also I have had a problem with the remote control not responding a couple of times. The amber light on the TiVo flashes to indicate that the box is receiving signals from the remote control, but their is no response to any buttons pressed. The only way I have found to fix this is to turn off power to the box and restart it. After a minute the TiVo reboots and everything is fine for a few days.

However overall the clever interface makes me wonder why all PVRs are not like the TiVo.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Nomad Aircraft for Australian Defence Force

Australian Defence Force Nomad AircraftOne relatively inexpensive item the Australian Defence Force could add to its shopping list is 50 of the Nomad short take off and landing (STOL) aircraft. The Nomad was used by the Australian, Indonesian, Papua New Guinea, Philippine and Thai military, but production ceased in 1985. In July 2008, Gippsland Aeronautics announced it had purchased rights to make the aircraft.

When fitted with new generation turboprop engines the Nomad will have about three quarters the carrying capacity, in terms of passengers and volume of cargo, as the ADF's new NHI NH90 helicopters, at considerably less cost. The STOL fixed wing aircraft could be used where the vertical and heavy lift capability of a helicopter is not required, resulting in lower purchase and operating cost and lower crew training requirements. The Nomad will use about half the fuel of a helicopter, reducing the logistics burden on larger transport aircraft needed to bring in supplies. The Nomad will also require considerably less maintenance and less sophisticated support.

The Nomad cargo cabin internal dimensions are 6.2 x 1.22 x 1.6 m (l x w x h) this 3 m3 smaller than the the NH90 capacity of 4.8 x 2.00 x 1.58 m (l x w x h). The NH90 has a wider cabin and a rear ramp for easier loading. However, the Nomad's door is 1.32 x 1.2 m, so should be able to (just) fit a standard US DoD Joint Modular Intermodal Containers (JMIC). The JMIC containers, such as those made by Garrett, are 1.31 x 1.1 x 1.1 m, allowing five to fit in a Nomad, whereas only four would fit in the NH90. Australian pallets and ISO pallets should also (just) fit.

There was criticism by the RAAF of the STOL handling of the Nomad, poor single engine performance and critical centre of gravity for loading, but these problems may be corrected to some extent for the newly manufactured aircraft.

Ecovilla buildings for classrooms

Ecovilla buildingAt Canberra' flower festival, Floriade, I came across an Ecovilla. This is a steel frame building designed for homes and public buildings. It has been used in indigenous communities and would appear suitable for a computer equipped learning centre for such communities.

Construction starts with "mega-anchors" (steel piles driven into the ground), then galvanised steel framework built up. The building is covered with a Tophat curved steel roof. The demonstration building had corrugated steel cladding on the outside and min-corrugated steel on the inside. Usually flat sheeting would be used on the inside for aesthetics, but the min-orb looks good when painted and would provide a very durable finish. The buildings can be made single or two stories high and can be provided with instructions as a kit for local assembly.

It looks feasible to use this system for building classrooms for a learning commons or flexible learning centre. Because the floor is above the ground, it would be easy to add extra wiring underneath for computers.

This is a pre-cut building, rather than a prefabricated one. That is the components are cut to size in a factory, shipped to site as a flat-pack and then assembled on site. The volume of material to be transported this way is far less than prefabricated buildings. The system would lend itself to modular building designs, with a standardised kit of components assembled into different configurations to suit local needs. The system also lends itself to the buildings being easily modified and added to. Local materials can be used to clad the building so it can blend in to the local environment.

The demonstration building had an interesting "Unitank" flat pack water tank. This looks like a giant ice cream tub, being an inverted truncated cone. The tank is transported as flat sheets of steel, then rolled up and assembled on site.

Outside the demonstration building was some corrugated steel which had been perforated into decorative fence. This made me think this would be a good way to make security windows for the Ecovilla, especially if it was equipped as a classroom filled with computers attractive to thieves. Instead of having to fit security screens, a sheet of corrugated steel with holes punched for ventilation could simply be fixed in place at the window.

The building had a solar panel on the roof and LED low power lights inside. There was a composting toilet and a clever shower cubicle made of a curved sheet of the same mini-orb corrugated steel as the walls.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Designs for the Learning Commons

Learning Commons: Evolution and Collaborative Essentials by Barbara SchaderIt is time I took "Learning Commons: Evolution and Collaborative Essentials" (Barbara Schader, 2008) back to the library, so I thought I would blog the best bits:

From information commons to learning commons and learning spaces:
This makes the case for the Library to take on a central role in learning, beyond just handing out books. I would have liked to see some of the practical issues covered. Traditional, at the universities I am familiar with, the Library was one place on the campus which was open for extended hours and staffed. Most teaching spaces were either unlocked and unstaffed (such as lecture theatres) or locked and unstaffed (such as computer labs). Just the fact that libraries have staff makes a useful improvement in service.

Curvilinear  desks occupied at the Learning Commons of the Unviersity of Calgary LibraryThe Information Commons at the University of Calgary: Susan Beatty: What were most interesting were the photos of desk and classroom designs. What are described as "curvilinear" desks (I have called serpentine). After some searching I found photos at the University of Calgary web site with similar photos to the book, showing the curved desks both unoccupied and occupied. These seem to be older photos with large CRT screens, whereas the book shows the same desks with more modern flat LCD screens. The occupied desks seem to be for individual study, having low zig-zag partitions down the middle of the desk to give the students some privacy. The students are sitting at 90 degrees to the length of the desk.Curvilinear  desks unoccupied at the Learning Commons of the Unviersity of Calgary Library

In contrast the unoccupied photo seems to show a classroom. The same style desks have the students sitting at 45 degrees and no partition down the middle, so they can see the teacher. The rows of desks seem to be much closer together.

Building for learning:
synergy of space, technology and collaboration: Susan Thompson and Gabriela Sontag:Floor plan, Kellogg Library, California State University San Marcos Interior floor plans are shown for the Kellogg Library of the California State University San Marcos. The plan shows a more rectilinear design and more stacks of books than is now common.

The Saltire Centre and the Learning Commons concept: Saltire Centre Glasgow Caledonian University Jan Howden: The photos of the Saltire Centre, appear to be works of art in their own right, unlike the utilitarian photos of other libraries. In finding these I came across "Planning and Designing Technology-Rioch Learning Spaces" (Northumbria University and JISC, 2008), which comes with a remarkable collection of resources:
  1. Case Studies
  2. Flickr Photo Library
  3. Virtual Campus
  4. Further Resources
I was unable to get some of their plug ins to work, but there is also a
printable version.There are also the Designing Spaces for Effective Learning (March 2006) and Spaces for Learning.

Alden Library Learning Commons at Ohio UniversityTransforming library space for student learning: the Learning Commons at Ohio University's Alden Library: Gary A. Hunt: DesignGroup undertook the work for the Alden Library Learning Commons at Ohio University. This shows some very narrow and uncomfortable looking desks wrapped around poles.

Georgia Institute of Technology, West Commons Improving Student Life, learning and support through collaboration, integration and innovation: Crit Stuart: Georgia Institute of Technology, West Commons is shown. This has large desks with a very slight curve along the front.

The Information Commons at the University of Auckland, Hester Mountifield: Floor plans, and papers about the Kate Edger Information Commons are available. An image gallery is also offered, but in contrast to the Saltire Centre, these photos are so artisitc as to be useless for any practical purpose.

Multicore virtualizing power saving server at ANU

The ANU is inaugurating a new SUN T2 multicore computer, on 16 October 2008. Interested persons from the local IT industry are invited to attend:
Multicore processors such as the T2 are designed to be able to process a large number of tasks concurrently. They are ideally suited to applications such as database and web servers, where, in the case of the T2, up to 64 transactions could be processed simultaneously. To have such a capability in a single unit results not only in lower up-front costs, but in very considerable power savings. When used in conjuction with virtualization, a number of (virtual) servers can be hosted on a single physical machine, resulting in even greater savings. Such technologies form part of a suite for forming eco-responsible datacenters.

The ANU is holding a launch of a state-of-the-art T2 multicore computer, which will mark a new phase in the computer science curricula at the Australian National University. The event is scheduled for the afternoon of Thursday October 16 at the ANU and consists of:
  • a seminar on bug and security vulnerability analysis of programs by Professor Cristina Cifuentes.
  • an introductory workshop on multicore programming by Dr Peter Strazdins.
  • a reception with representatives from ANU and Sun Microsystems.
Interested persons from the local IT industry are invited to attend. Full details, including RSVP instructions.

Sustainable Futures Educational Forum

The AIIA is holding a Sustainable Futures Educational Study Forum, in conjunction with their Sustainable Futures 2008 Conference, 7 October, 2008:
8:00Arrival & Registration, Coffee & Networking
8:30 AIIA Welcome and Introduction Ian Birks
8:40 MC Introduction Roger La Salle - MC
Matrix Thinking
8:45 Scene Setting Keith Suter
Thought Leader
9:00 "Green ICT 101" “ What is Green ICT? Gary Veale
9:15 Are Green ICT benefits real? Alison O'Flynn
9:30 How low can my carbon foot print be? Kerryn Schrank
9:45 Green ICT Technologies? Warren Donnelly
10:00 Regulatory Reporting? Jesco D’Alquen
10:15 Change management? Paul Engelman
Pitcher Partners
10:30 Facilitated Q&A Simon Taylor
Box Hill TAFE
10:45 Morning Tea
11:05 Sustainable Futures Forum re-commences
10:50 Networking & Expo for those not continuing on to Sustainable Futures Forum
11:30 Close

From: Sustainable Futures Educational Study Forum, AIIA, 2008

Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy

The Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, was prepared at the request of the Australian Environment Department. It recommends a 50% reduction in computer energy use by 2020, using voluntary industry programs, mandatory use by Government, and web education programs. The report has been mentioned in "Government Should Adopt US Energy Scheme" (Sue Bushell, CIO Magazine, 18 September 2008) and "Call to cut to the core" (Simon Grose, Canberra Times newspaper, September 22, 2008).

The purpose of this document is to propose a strategy for the Australian ICT industry, in conjunction with government, to improve the energy efficiency of PCs and Monitors in Australia.

This strategy proposes voluntary use of the US EPA Energy Star program by the Australian ICT industry and web based industry and consumer education programs on energy efficiency. It is proposed that Australian federal and state governments encourage this voluntary program by government purchasing Energy Star products and by government using the web based information in product selection. While the program would be voluntary, those companies which did not offer Energy Star rated products and did not provide details of them on the web would be excluded from government tenders.

It is proposed that industry work with government on consumer and professional education on sustainability, using the Internet as a delivery mechanism. International initiatives on ICT energy efficiency should be encouraged in Australia, along with locally developed programs. A government sponsored free e-learning package for universities and professional bodies to train ICT professionals in sustainability is proposed.

It is proposed that Australia set a target of a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ICT by 2020. This will contribute a 1% overall reduction in Australia's greenhouse gas emissions.


  1. Mandatory Energy Efficiency in Government Procurement: Require Energy Star conformance for federal government procurement and for federally funded programs, such as computers in schools. Use a simplified version of US Government procedures. Require energy efficiency product specifications to be on the web in the standard format.

  2. Develop Sustainable ICT E-learning Modules: Sponsor a free e-learning package for universities and professional bodies to train ICT professionals in sustainability. Focus the content on energy efficiency and draw on case studies of real world energy saving projects.

  3. Audit ICT Energy Use Annually: Demonstrate the efficacy of ICT energy saving by regular audits of ICT energy use. Develop an annual ICT energy audit, based on previous ICT audit and analysis used for greening whitegoods.

  4. Voluntary Energy Star Standard for Industry: Adopt the US Energy Star Program as the basis of a voluntary standard for efficient PCs and monitors.

  5. Standard Web Format for Environmental Product Data: Develop a standard format to display energy efficiency data and other environmental data on the web, suitable for both consumers and corporate users. In Australia. Propose the format as an international standard.

  6. Promotion and Market Information, Finding Shared Incentives: Promote and support energy saving to consumers. Encourage international consortia to expand their programs to Australia. Encourage the ICT industry to support local initiatives.

Next Steps for Industry and Government

  1. Decide which measures to adopt

  2. Cost and schedule the measures

From: Executive Summary, Personal Computer and Monitors Energy Efficiency Strategy, Report and Recommended Plan of Action, Tom Worthington, Version 1.0 of 23 September 2008

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Launch of ANU 10% by 2010

10by2010_Logo The "10% by 2010" program to reduce carbon emissions at ANU will be launched the Innovations Lecture Theatre, 9th October, 3pm followed by afternoon tea:

Did you know that nearly 10% of ALL Energy consumption in Australia is consumed by appliances in standby mode?

Commit to reducing your emissions and you could win some FANTASTIC prizes!

Launching 10% by 2010!

How often do you think about your carbon footprint?

How often do you wonder whether you can make a difference?

At ANUgreen we have worked out that:

  • If all staff and postgraduate turned off their monitors when they were not at their computers, we could save 1,000 tonnes of CO2
  • If all staff and postgraduates turned off their computers overnight (check with your IT staff that this is possible), we could save 5,000 tonnes of CO2
  • If all the office lights were turned off during non-working hours we could save 2,500 tonnes of CO2
  • If 25% of people who currently drive to the ANU decided to carpool, we could save 5,000 tonnes of CO2
And that all adds up to 10% of our consumption (excluding transport).

How hard is that?

If all the actions above were implemented, we could save 10% of our current energy consumption (not including carbon emitted through transportation).


  1. About the program
  2. Get involved
  3. Prizes and sponsors
  4. The technical stuff

ANU Festival of Teaching

The Australian National Unviersity is running a "Festival of Teaching", 22 to 24 October, 2008. My contribution for the 'Linking Research and Teaching Swap Shop' is "Blended Learning: Using a Learning Management System Live in the Classroom".
Professor Elizabeth DeaneDAY ONE – WEDNESDAY, 22 OCTOBER
Opening/short speech by Professor Elizabeth Deane, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) – to introduce Professor Mick Healey ...

Opening and welcome – Professor Lawrence Cram, Deputy Vice-Chancellor ...
Professor Mick Healey – Keynote address, incorporating Questions and Answers ...
ALTC and VC award winners and student representative presentations ...
Dr Janette Lindesay – "Understanding how the world works: translating science into practice"
Professor Sasha Grishin – “Teaching art history at the ANU”
Dr Megan Poore – “Powering on with Podcasting: the Skillsoup academic skills project”
Dr George Quinn – “Making In-Country Programs the Norm in the Study of Asian Languages” ...
Dr Anna Wilson - “Hamiltonians, horse hair, haiku”
Professor Kathryn Robinson – Teaching the writing practices of ethnographic research
Hypothetical “Linking Teaching and Research – What’s in it for me?”
Session run by research led teaching community of practice
Facilitated by Professor Kent Anderson ...
Workshops exploring “How to foster research and teaching links in our own practice, in our Colleges and at the ANU?”
Session run by research led teaching community of practice ...

A sharing of good examples from the ANU Colleges – presentations and discussions
Facilitated by Assoc. Professor Richard Baker ...
Linking Research and Teaching Swap Shop
Professor Mick Healey to present ...
Plenary: Key lessons, publicising the practices, action planning and evaluation ...
Professor Elizabeth Deane, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education), Where to from here? ...

From: Program: Festival of Teaching: Linking Research and Teaching to Benefit Student Learning, Schedule, ANU, 2008

Australian National University
Linking Research and Teaching Swap Shop
Friday 24th October 2008 ...


The idea of the swap shop is to share interesting practices associated with linking research and teaching to benefit student learning. The key question for all participants is “What aspects of the practices I have learnt about today could I adapt for use in my courses / school/College?”

Linking research and teaching

There are four main ways of linking research and teaching:

• Learning about others’ research
• Learning to do research – research methods
• Learning in research mode – enquiry based
• Pedagogic research – enquiring and reflecting on learning

Today’s session is particularly focussed on interesting practices to engage students in the first three ways.

All academic staff are encouraged to participate. Please bring 20 copies of your interesting practice (1 side of A4 is all that is needed). If you are unable to attend on the day, but would like to send in details of an interesting practice ...

Sitting on tables of three, you will each have 5 minutes to summarise your interesting practice to your two colleagues and 5 minutes to answer their questions.

A suggested set of headings to summarise your interesting pratice includes:

• Title of interesting practice
• Name and contact details
• Context e.g. department, course, year and number of students
• What do students and teacher do? – This is the key heading
• Hot tips
• Does it work?
• Issues and how have you dealt with them

2.00 to 2.15 Welcome from Professor Mick Healey; organisation of the event
2.15 to 2.50 Swap shop I
2.50 to 3.10 Tea and biscuits
3.10 to 3.45 Swap shop II
3.45 to 4.15 Plenary: key lessons, publicising the practices, action planning and evaluation

From: Linking Research and Teaching Swap Shop, ANU,2008

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Australian Training Packages Unwrapped

Looking around for material on records management I came across the intriguing "Training Packages Unwrapped" by Peter Shanks.This aims to demonstrate how to use web technology to present training material online, specifically for vocational training courses listed in the Australian National Training Information Service (NTIS). Peter promises an easy-to-use format, moodle, tiddlyWiki's and wikiversity ready text. But I had difficulty finding the context for what he was doing and when he did it.

Trimming the provided URL to "bluemountains.net"results in a web page entitled "Peter Shanks" with a tag cloud of some phrases. The me link explains he began teaching IT at Bathurst TAFE in 2005. There is a link to the Bathurst TAFE Moodle system, but it appears you have to be enrolled at the TAFE to use the site. The link to ICA05 , dated June 2006, describes how to integrate ICA05 with lesson plans and assessment tasks. I had to do a search to find that ICA05 is the vocational system's code for ICT Training.

What is interesting is the claim to be able to auto-generate moodle module skeletons and automatically generate tiddlyWiki's for each unit. But it was difficult to find any further explanation.

There is a link to a blog called Cert IV web, which is running commentary about a web design course (Certificate IV in the National Skills Framework). The latest post was September 15, 2008, so this is current material, with interesting postings on web technology and techniques.

So now with some context the Training Packages Unwrapped, makes a more sense. This takes the definition of what is in the course and converts it to formats used by learning management systems, such as Moodle, to Wiki-like formats and to office document formats which the student can fill in. Those in higher education should note that nothing comes for free and the vocational sector have put a lot of time and effort into precisely defining the formats for course definitions in very great detail, without which such automated tools would not work.

Training O2, appears to be a social networking site for vocational students and teachers can discuss and vote on training materials. This also seems to have been done by Peter Shanks.There appear to be several hundred users of the system. The Tag cloud for all resources shows a mix of technical web issues and course topics:

(children's (community access analyse apply asp audit australia automotive business children client communication community conduct construct control css customer database debugging design develop development disability dom equipment events festival financial food forms frames howto html identify implement industry information internet interview javascript laboratory learning links maintain making manage management mechanical monitor needs people perform performance personal php plan planning prepare procedures process programming programs provide public record requirements research review risk safety safety) samples security service services services) software sound sql support systems technician technology test tips training tutorial tutorials using web design web development website with work workplace xhtml xml your

From:Tag cloud for all resources, Training O2, Peter Shanks, 2008

How to Create On-line University Courses in Electronic Archiving: Part 15 - Redesign for 2008

Last year I developed and ran a short course at ANU on Electronic Document Management, reporting as I went along. The course went reasonably well and is being offered again in 2008, along with modules by others on Material Science , Innovation Management and Data Mining. Also I am to produce a module on Information Architecture and suggested one on Green ICT. But the first priority is to revise the e-document management course from last year, applying what I have learning about blended learning in the interim. Also I would like to change the emphasis from that of using electronic records to get work done more efficiently, rather than the emphasis of records managers for keeping records. There is no value in keeping records, electronic or otherwise, there is only value in what those records can be used for.

Reducing the amount of content

The 2007 e-document module, which is available via my Moodle system, was based on the material I developed for the ANU course "IT in e-Commerce" (COMP3410/COMP6341). My part of the course was "Metadata and Electronic Document Management for Electronic Commerce". As the module developed I also included material from "Writing for the web" (a short course I had run for local government) and "Extreme web design" (used in ANU course "Networked Information Systems" COMP2410/6340).

There was far too much material for a 12 hour module. The original intention was for the web design and web writing material to be in a separate short module, but that one did not end up running in 2007, thus the temptation to pack all the material into the module which did run. So now what I can do is remove some of what was in the e-document course and put it back in the web course where it can be given the depth it deserves.

No accreditation

The intention was also to apply for accreditation of the course from the ANU. However, the advice was that the 12 hour course was too short to practically fit with the ANU's longer courses. The course would need to be expanded to make it at least a 3 credit point course (half the lenght of the usual one semester courses). This would make the unit far too large for 12 contact hours. The obvious solution would be to add work for the students to do in their own time away from the university, turning this into a blended course. But that would change the character of the course and is something which will have to wait for later.

New content

The course was designed for public servants and based on my experience when in the Australian Public Service. In particular it drew on the report "Improving Electronic Document Management: Guidelines for Australian Government Agencies" which was prepared by a committee I chaired. The description of the module mentions the National Archives of Australia's "Designing and Implementing Recordkeeping Systems" (DIRKS) strategy. However, this was only mentioned briefly in the module.

DIRKS Overview

NAA provide a very detailed manual for their eight step DIRKS strategy, based on the international standard ISO 15489 "Information and documentation - Records management". (Part 1 is the actual standard and Part 2 is the guide)
One Step Process

In addition, I mentioned, but did not cover in detail "Note for file: A report on recordkeeping in the Australian Public Service", Management Advisory Committee , 31 August 2007. The MAC report suggests a simplified version of DIRKS and states that National Archives developed a quicker and more practical one-step process that complies with ISO 15489. However, the document contains no reference to where this one step process is documented and the link to an Australian Bureau of Statistics case study ‘Keep the Knowledge’ is incorrect.
A simplified one step process would be useful for this short course, as the intention is not to turn out trained records managers, but to provide public servants with as much as they need to know in relation to electronic records. However, without a document which actually details what the one step process is I will have to make up my own.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What to see from a Sydney to Melbourne Train Window

Rail map of Eastern Victoria and Southern New South Wales.As I am going to Melbourne to talk at a Green ICT Conference I thought I should take the low carbon approach and booked on the Countrylink XPT train. Any suggestions as to what to see out the window would be welcome. Previously I have been Brisbane to Sydney by XPT, as well as other train trips.

There is an excellent rail map of the route: Central (Sydney), Strathfield, Campbelltown, Moss Vale, Goulburn, Gunning, Yass Junction, Harden, Cootamundra, Junee, Wagga Wagga, The Rock, Henty, Culcairn, Albury, Wangaratta, Benalla, Southern Cross Station (Melbourne). The route follows the Main South line Sydney to Albury, then the North East line to Southern Cross Station, Melbourne.

Sydney to Melbourne direct

Sydney to
Melbourne XPT

Sydney to
Melbourne XPT

(Sydney) dep

Moss Vale
Yass Junction
Wagga Wagga
02:49Connections to
, Griffith
The Rocka14:18a03:11
to Echuca
Southern Cross
(Melbourne) arr


From: Sydney to Melbourne direct Daily, CountryLink, 2008