“Good APIs”

What makes a “good” API”? Can we say anything about good practice in providing or using machine interfaces to third party services on the web? UKOLN have consulted widely and suggest, among other things, that providers of APIs should make it useful, keep it simple, follow standards and use consistent naming structures. For API users there is perhaps less obvious good practice, but it’s important to choose the API carefully (they explain what this might mean), to think about risks, and respect the API terms of use.
UKOLN are now asking developers to comment on these principles; do they seem right? Is it useful to document them? For whom? How?
If you’ve got views on this then here’s where to post comments: http://blogs.ukoln.ac.uk/good-apis-jisc/.

Developer Happiness Days Winners Announced…Soon!

As many of you will know from the longtail of developer happiness days (tag: dev8D), the shortlist for the developer decathlon has now been announced. Potential winners of the Five Thousand Pound Grand Prize (or even the two-thousand pound runner up prize) include:

“List8D” prototype by Team Bsmmmm

“Lazy Lecturer” prototype by Team Three Lazy Geeks

“sh!” prototype by team Rangtangdingdong

“splashurl” prototype by team halfHourHacks

“SpACE tool” prototype by team SpACEmen (second video here):


Information Environment Rapid Innovation Grants

We (Andy, Amber, Balviar, David, James) are happy to announce that we are about to issue a new Grant-Funded Call for rapid innovation projects within the Information Environment on 6 March 2009.  You’ll be able to read all the text about what money is available and the conditions for using it in more detail in the Grant but to give an overview of what we are looking for:

The drivers for this grant have come from a number of different directions:

We’re looking forward to seeing what bids come back.  This forms the perfect opportunity for:

The tag for discussion on this rapid innovation Call is jiscri.  Please use this if you’re commenting on the Call via Twitter or posting on other blogs and social media about it so we can easily gather all those comments together and learn and respond as we go along.  Subscribe to the JISC-ANNOUNCE list at www.jiscmail.ac.uk to get notified about this or other funding opportunities from JISC or go along to http://www.jisc.ac.uk/fundingopportunities.aspx on 6 March to get the call.

Grant Funding Opportunities

An update on funding opportunities …

This month, November 2008, we will be releasing a Call for projects for grant funding. Outline details are on the Grant Funding Roadmap. UK FE/HE institutions are eligible to bid, with some types of projects restricted to HEFCE- and HEFCW- funded institutions, due to funding streams.

We’re finalising the Call at the moment, but you won’t go far wrong if you start thinking about what you want to do in:
– implementing automated metadata and textmining
– starting up repositories for research data, research papers, learning materials
– networking and enhancing repositories
– preservation in relation to repositories
– short technical projects to improve repository services
– connections between services to support particular disciplines

Bidders will have until January to prepare proposals, and succesful projects will be expected to start by 1st April 2009.

For those of you most interested in supporting research, please note there will also be a Call for projects related to Virtual Research Environments.
If learning and teaching resources are of particular interest, in December there will also be a Call for the forthcoming HEA/JISC Open Educational Content programme.

Date for your diary: Monday 15th December will be a Briefing Day for anyone who would like to come and hear about the funding opportunities related to the Information Environment and Virtual Research Environment Calls. It will be in Central London, probably 10-4. Details will be released soon.

If you’re not based in UK FE/HE, you may be interested in the Funding Roadmap for Invitations to Tender. These are open to anyone, so if you think you have expertise relevant to the sort of issues reported on this blog, then tenders are very welcome.

We will announce the Call on this blog as soon as it is released.

Interesting repository user interfaces

There are a number of interesting repository user interfaces being developed by the repositories in the start up and enhancement strand of the JISC repositories and preservation programme.

The Faroes project is developing a repository for language teachers called language box. The repository is designed to be very lightweight and is collecting basic learning resources (web pages, power points, images, videos, etc) rather than complex learning objects.

Their beta repository can be seen at: http://languagebox.eprints.org/ The bull fighting resource is a particularly good example of how the repostitory interface handles different types of resources. I think the interface pulls off the trick of being instantly familiar, you can start to use the repository without stopping to think or scanning around the interface for the option you want.

The Kultur project is developing a repository for the creative arts departments at 3 institutions. As most of their deposits contain images of artworks then they needed to develop their eprints interface to suit these objects. The demo that they have so far is very attractive:  http://kultur-demo2.eprints.org/. The slideshow on the home page makes it clear that we are dealing with a visual repository and they have taken the interesting option of hiding all metadata for an item until you click on the further information box.

The Lirolem project produced a repository that has a simple but very effective way of displaying items which consist of multiple formats. Here is an example of an item that is text and images: http://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/1606/ Notice how responsive the interface is, clicking between the document and images tabs is instant as is clicking between different images. They have also chosen to include a “bookmark this” link on every repository item.

I am also hearing good things about the new, improved interface for Primo: http://dablog.ulcc.ac.uk/2008/10/21/primo-new-version-coming-soon/ 

All of these interfaces have taken the approach of displaying the item in the most prominent and appropriate way while relegating the metadata to the bottom of the screen or hiding it in a clickable box.

I know all these examples are eprints and that most of the work developing these examples has been done by Southampton, but these are the ones that have come to my attention so far. Apologies if I have missed any others. I would love to hear about interesting interfaces on other software platforms.