Digital Estate

Complexities: there’s not an app for that

It is still quite amazing how much the digital world can hinder, not help. It is such a fantastic resource, and opportunity, and there’s an app for that you know. But at times, maybe more than even we realise, it can really ‘mess with your head.’

A recent experience with tech illustrates. A decision to move my main nexus of note taking and commentary to Microsoft OneNote – cross platform, ability to add all kinds of attachments and ephemera, easy online and offline work. Fantastic. But…

A less than random complexity intrudes – and cutting a long story short – moving files from an account that is full to another that is empty, which should be simple, turns out to be surprisingly hard. Hard in the sense that it takes a lot of time to try different things and find that they, surprisingly, don’t work.

Another example, my fantastic MacBook, which followed on from many years use of a MacBook Pro, has an intermittently ‘dodgy’ return key. Just refuses to press properly, sometimes. Into the Apple Store 50 miles away and they tell me, after first wrongly – and unimpressively – claiming it was out of warranty, that I’ll have to leave it there for up to 5 days. It’s in daily use, contains professional and personal data, and, like, I’m going to hand it over to an unknown tech department, together with the decrypt drive key. Sure.

So I have to go back sometime.

These things add up. If you want to do easy and hard things with tech, it can be frustrating and challenging at times. So be prepared. Yes, yes, there are many other platforms I can use… and I do, and the same thing applies at some point in time to all of them(1).

In some ways tech is a victim of its own success, so we expect it to to work more easily than it does. This may be especially true in corporate environments where protecting the business is more crucial than ever – and that means there is a balance required between flexibility (use your own device on the company wifi) and security (how do we know your three year old is not a savant hacker out to steal our secrets).

A former colleague, many, many years ago, taught me a relaxation technique when dealing with (then) PC’s that would not behave. Take a newspaper, roll it up, and thwack it heartily against the side of the (TV sized) monitor. It is not so much the action, but the noise that it made – the combination of newsprint and massive monitor creating a sound that is surprisingly satisfying. Almost addictive. It also does not damage anything.

Don’t try this today – monitors are not what they used to be. Too light and unbalanced – they’ll fall over and break. 24″ monitors the size of Mini engines, and the same weight, were rather more stable.

We should not be surprised, tech has a history of fallibility – remember that car that would never start when you were late?



(1) If you would like to explore why this happens – two sources might help: the Mythical Man Month, by Frederick P Brooks; and Dreaming in Code, by Scott Rosenberg. The first more academic, the second more readable.

poetry Welsh

Happy #NationalPoetryDay 2016

The Village

R. S. Thomas

Scarcely a street, too few houses

To merit the title; just a way between

The one tavern and the one shop

That leads nowhere and fails at the top

Of the short hill, eaten away

By long erosion of the green tide

Of grass creeping perpetually nearer

This last outpost of time past.

So little happens; the black dog

Cracking his fleas in the hot sun

Is history. Yet the girl who crosses

From door to door moves to a scale

Beyond the bland day’s two dimensions.

Stay, then, village, for round you spins

On a slow axis a world as vast

And meaningful as any posed

By great Plato’s solitary mind.


(c) R.S.Thomas

Digital Estate

The Digital Estate

In a previous post I mentioned the idea of the Digital Estate, an idea originally from a colleague referring in a similar way to our physical estate — buildings etc. — to our online presence and world that is usually made up of many different systems and services. Even as an individual we may have a significant number of online spaces and platforms in use on a daily to yearly basis – but as an institution, library or department we may have dozens or even hundreds of online manifestations of our services.

In case by this stage you are wondering what this is about, just from a disambiguation perspective note that I am not talking here about our digital afterlife – about which swathes of information can be found online e.g. from BlakeMorgan.

Recall that floor of the building that is used but has not been decorated in decades, or centuries? Or spaces that were remodelled, remade and decorated a few years ago and look tired now? Well, why on earth might we imagine our digital estate might fare any better?

Is that important? Yes, as increasingly digital first, mobile first, social first, anything online first is the norm, and just might be our first point of contact with users and, is you have them, customers.

While this is hardly news to many, I wonder if planning and implementation of online sites and services is cared-for as much as changes to our physical estate? Architects, QS, Interior designers may have their virtual equivalents, but what about M&E and FF&E specialists?

If we begin not simply to consider web pages, but online services and API’s that provide access to systems as well as users, then some consideration needs to be given to consistency across our digital estate. This is not about similar or alternate or channelised branding as often found in websites, but about considering how the online nations will access our resources – how will they harvest them, how will they be permitted to reuse the content. This has little comparator in the physical world – although we can potentially explore areas such as building, H&S, and fire regulations.

Providing access to our digital estate might just need some more thought. Each project, each website, each database is so often customer built that simple data exchange between systems is an issue – and has been for all our online time.

[dots_world_map by sNowFleikuN @ DeviantArt]

Classics computer science digital humanities language Latin linguistics

Digital Latin Library

Digital Latin Library

“The Digital Latin Library (DLL) is a joint project of the Society for Classical Studies, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Renaissance Society of America. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Scholarly Communications Program funds the project, and the University of Oklahoma hosts it.

We use the word “library” to describe our project because that word’s many meanings apply to what we’re building: a library of texts and resources, a place where individuals and groups can study and collaborate on projects, a series of volumes published according to a uniform standard, and resources for digital applications.”

Timeline (


In January, the OU DLL team submitted a proposal to the AWMF for a two-year implementation grant to build and implement the Digital Latin Library (DLL).

By the middle of 2017, we will deliver a collection of resources collectively known as the Digital Latin Library (

  • a specialized, standards-based library catalog of Latin texts and related resources, including authority files for authors, works, and manuscripts
  • a digital archive of scholarly materials related to critical editions
  • three pilot critical editions for the LDLT
  • a desktop application for advanced visualization and analysis of Latin texts
  • web-based applications for reading, annotating, creating, and sharing texts and commentaries
  • documentation for the continued maintenance of these resources after the funding period has ended.
library South Wales Swansea University

Swansea University Libraries – Delivering the Bay Library – the short story

A Shorthand social story about the building of Swansea University’s Bay Library

Big Data computer science conference cultural data digital humanities South Wales Swansea University Tourism Welsh Government

A Year of Digital Adventure: building our digital estate

For Wales, 2016 is the Year of Adventure. In this fledgling digital world of ours though, every year is full of digital adventures, where new technologies, services, apps, ideas and people come to the fore.

The prologue to the digital adventure is about the idea that there will be a time after technological development to having an impact, to change the world; a time when Nanotechnology Meets Local History, a time when a global brand can be created through social media, and a time where technology is easy to choose, use, deploy and benefit from.

Some of these things are here and now. Some of these things take more time and more effort than most of us would like. Deciding what commercial technology to use in an ever changing market, and for ever changing users, is very hard. With open source, free, software, the time and resources required to deploy can still be a challenge – and even making a simple choice, which particular piece of software to use, can be a minefield.

Our digital estate is a key aspect of everything that will come next. An organisation or an individual’s digital estate is their digital world and it is no less important than physical buildings and architecture or, in a personal sense, the fashions we choose to wear.

The digital estate can and does apply to cultures and countries – and what a fantastic challenge and opportunity it is to build on, and maybe beyond, Andrew Green’s and the National Library of Wales’ Theatre of Memory and create a truly Digital Wales.

Recently, two fantastic events at Swansea University brought some of this home. Last week the CHERISH-DE launch talked about how the project will develop innovative approaches to digital economy themes relating to humans, society and industry. The range of academics, from Swansea, Newcastle, Bath and others, and the commercial partners including local and global names, was broad and uplifting.

An Adventure in Big Data

Today, at the Swansea University School of Management, Tourism professionals, data scientists and others met to discuss An Adventure in Big Data. This event covered areas such as big data, smarter cities, tourism, and what can happen when viral marketing turns political, turns around, and bites you. With visitors from Spain, Flanders, Denmark, the US and more, this was one of those meetings that had a distinct digital buzz about it. If Swansea University’s School of Management can make discussions like this happen across the public and private sectors, then it might just hit on a winning formula.

As a number of the talks at both these events highlighted – the digital world is already here, ignore it at your peril.

library poetry

National Poetry Day 2015

Crabbe cover
But what strange art, what magic can dispose
The troubled mind to change its native woes?
Or lead us willing from ourselves, to see
Others more wretched, more undone than we?
This BOOKS can do;–nor this alone; they give
New views to life, and teach us how to live;
They soothe the grieved, the stubborn they 
Fools they admonish, and confirm the wise:
Their aid they yield to all: they never shun
The man of sorrow, nor the wretch undone:
Unlike the hard, the selfish, and the proud,
They fly not sullen from the suppliant crowd;
Nor tell to various people various things,
But show to subjects what they show to kings.
digital humanities language linguistics Welsh Welsh Government

The making of a digital language?

To be a digital, online language we might expect that various support tools are required, foundations if you like.
Languages need computer support, digital tools and from these a range of advances become possible. Without these tools and foundations then might languages struggle in an online world?
This is only a starting point, but we might well ask:
  • what is a digital language; and 
  • what might be necessary or sufficient to support a digital language?

As a simple example, unless a font exists that contain the basic character set of the language, computer user interfaces and applications in that language are not possible. Then we move on to spell checkers, grammar checkers and more advanced applications such as voice recognition and voice generation (text to speech).
Resources provided through or under the Welsh Language Commissioner’s office can be found here. Other relevant links can be found below in this list of requirements for a digital language. This is not an exhaustive list by any means.


  • Application support
  • Applications User Interface (UI)
  • OS UI
  • Application support: spellcheck, grammar check, etc. ( link)


Advanced and Research

  • Advanced Apps/research areas
    • Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
    • Speech Recognition (command, control, transcription, translation – see list below – no Welsh Language support)
    • Translation: 
    • ID/Biometric speech recognition
    • Text To Speech (TTS)
    • Font support for archaic language versions

So, easy huh!
In addition a lively culture and ecology of digital artists, performers, coders and hacktivists might be nice. One day.

Further reading:

Wales – languages technology portal:

computer science linguistics

The Winograd Schema Challenge

An alternative to the Turing Test, an annual challenge with its first submission in October 2015.

See Nuance’s website for more information.

cultural data Welsh Government

Digital Exhaustion

I was just reading an informative piece, as always, by the 1709 blog which summarises the state around digital exhaustion. Not the tiredness of computers, but the way in which digital artefacts can be resold or passed on:

Whether EU law allows digital exhaustion arguably remains however an unresolved issue, with diverging interpretations being provided at the level of national courts. Yet, despite the legal and economic relevance of allowing markets for second-hand digital works, current EU copyright reform plans seem regrettably not to include any consideration of issues facing general digital exhaustion, or its lack thereof.

Which led me onto wondering whether Wales, Welsh Government &c. have any opinion on these matters?

The always interesting 1709 blog can be found here: