Say hello to Archi

CETIS has developed a free, open source, cross platform ArchiMate modelling tool, Archie, which is now available for download @

The tool creates models using the ArchiMate modelling language. As described on the site, the tool has been developed primarily for the “newcomer to ArchiMate and not an experienced modeller. They do not intend to become a “modeller” per se, nor to be an “Enterprise Architect” but to borrow and apply techniques or Architecture modelling in piecemeal (often opportunistic) IT developments in a mixed HE/FE institution. The Archi user is interested in connecting IT developments to institutional strategy . . .”

The team would really welcome feedback on the tool and have set up a forum area on the site for community contributions. So, if you have any thoughts, please post them into the forum. They will all help towards further development of the tool and user guides.

Talis platform day

Last Friday I attended one the current series of Talis platform days in Manchester. The days are designed to give an introduction to linked data, how to work with open data sets and show examples of linked data in action from various sources including Talis.

In the morning the Talis team gave us overview of linked data principles, the Talis platform itself and some real life examples of sites they have been involved in. A couple of things in particular caught my attention including FanHubz . This has been developed as part of the BBC backstage initiative, and uses semantic technologies to surface and build communities around programmes such as Dr Who.

Dr Who fanhubz

It did strike me that we could maybe start to build something similar for JISC programmes we support by using the programme hash tag, project links, and links from our PROD database (now Wilbert is beginning to semantify it!). This idea also reminded me of the Dev8 happiness rating.

Leigh Dodds gave a comprehensive overview of the Talis platform which you can free account for and play around with. The design principles are solid and it is based on open standards with lots of restful service goodness going on. You can find out more at their website.

There are two main areas in the data store, one for unstructured data which is akin to an amazon data store, and one structured triple store area – the metabox. One neat feature of this side of things was the augmented search facility, or as Leigh called it “fishing for data”. You can pipe an existing RSS1.0 feed through a data store and the platform will automagically enrich it with available linked data and pass out another augmented feed. This could be quite handy for finding new resources, and OERs ran through my mind as it was being explained.

The afternoon was given over to more examples of linked data in action, including some Ordinance Survey open maps and genealogy mash-ups leading to bizarre references to Kajagoogoo (and no, I can’t quite believe I’m writing about them either, but hey if they’re in DBpedia, they’re part of the linked data world).

We then had an introductory SPARQL tutorial. Which, mid afternoon on a Friday was maybe a bit beyond me – but I certainly have a much clearer idea of what SPARQL is now and how it differs from other query languages.

If you are interested in getting an overview of linked data, and an overview of SPARQL, then do try and get along to one of these events, but be quick as I think there is only one left in this current series.

Presentations from the day are available online.

There be dragons

Dragons, of varying natures, and presence were a bit of a theme at the JISC Curriculum Delivery and Design programme meetings in Birmingham last week. Christina Smart has provided an excellent summary of the delivery day. Including a summary of the dragons den activity, where the projects had to give five-minute pitches around the sustainability and embedding plans for their projects.

Dragons of a different sort came to my mind during the course of the Design meeting the following day. In fact many of the conversations reminded me of the recent BBC programme The Beauty of Maps. It seems to me that charting the journey of course related information is very much akin to the development of cartography. For some institutions, there is an almost mythical path that course related documentation goes on to find the holy grail of course approval. Many systems and places help it on its journey, but very few of them really know very much about each other, often provide duplicate information, and the actual course (or map) may bear very little relation to what is actually taught in the course. Adapting the course information and updating can also be problematic.

From the baselining exercise the projects have undertaken. It seems that currently most institutions course documentation do illustrate some information about a course, but not the whole picture. In the wider teaching and learning context there are lots uncharted areas. Some existing course approval documentation, may have some interesting and, to continue the map analogy, some rather lovely illustrations which bear no relation to the reality of the taught course – those uncharted gaps where there be dragons. Others may be contain lots and lots of information, but like the Klencke Atlas are the height of an average man and takes two people to open the pages, so are kept locked away and only brought out for special occasions – like QA audits.

As well as having uncharted waters, where indeed there may be dragons, a number of the projects also pointed to the risk of their project being hijacked by institutional dragons or maybe pirates. Most UK Universities seem to be in some state of transition at the moment, either technologically in terms of reviewing their core service provision, or personal wise with changing senior management – not to mention the wider changing political and funding environment. A number of projects highlighted the difficulties of working within these changing environments and the problems of scope creep from the project focus to an institutional one.

Accessing, sharing and using course information data is of course central to these processes and ideally we want move from these medieval maps to something more dynamic and open with many levels of representation such as google maps, or perhaps openstreetmap. This is starting to happen but there are still some choppy waters ahead. What is encouraging is the work that is starting to emerge from both the design and delivery projects to address this e.g. Dynamic Learning Maps at the University of Newcastle and work around including MLO into course representation at MMU .

Again, an overview post of the day again has been provided by Christina.