Thursday, 31 July 2008

California Day Six/Seven

Completed the drive down highway 1 from monterey in the north to san luis obospo in the south staying at Apple Farm for out twnetieth wedding anniversary today.  Megan found a track on the ipod called Big Sur.  Just as we were driving through.  We alos finally got the ipod wireless radio thing to work afer all thistime so we could play my road trip playlist from an article in the paper a while ago.  This place has a bautiful pool and free internet for 30 minutes. Some of the kys are sticking ad there is no backspace.  No such thing as a free lunch but we had another breafast at the Lighthouse cafe in Pacific Grove voted number one breakfast by the Hill Family for two days in a row.  Next stop Hearst Palace booked for 11:20 tommorrow.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

california days five/six

Not unexpectedly the laptop has blue screened for the final time so
can only update by mobile phone fortunately we have a paper trsvel
journal which will be our record goes to show how tech can always let
you down in the end. We have been shopping and now on road to
monterey and carmel pebble beach and 17 mile drive fabulous. 8o sign
of Clint today.

Monday, 28 July 2008

California Day Four

The early morning was spent booking tickets online for the Giants baseball game at 18:05 as they had advertised bleacher tickets on the TV. Got as far as the final hurdle then realised didn't have a printer for the tickets so went onto the phone and booked that way. Very easy even if I had an argument with the voice activated response system. We then caught the bus at the end of the drive which seemed the most convenient way to get into the City without a car and then got down onto the pierside for a short walk in the blazing sun up hundreds of steps to Coits Tower with far reaching views - no mist today. Further exploring of more districts including North Beach and then a lunch at a place called Annabel's a 1930's wooden bar and bistro. Then onto the Art Museum but after two pints of the local steamer ale it was time for a siesta in the nearby Park. Went onto the game which was entertaining as there was plenty of banter around us and no shortage of wholesome american snacks including eyesh cold limonade. Billy bought a big Giants finger. Great view of the Bay and first time we have heard the American anthem (all stand please).

Saturday, 26 July 2008

California Day Three

A visit to Golden Gate Park in the morning which included a visit to the arboretum, the AIDS memorial garden and Shakespeare's Garden which contains every plant mentioned in Shakespeare's plays. We also visited Stows Lake and hired a 6 seater bike which we cycled round the whole park for about an hour much amusement down hill (very fast) much straining up hill (only one person cycling). Lots of health and safety warnings including helmets...we then walked back to the MUNI to catch the train into the city for a good walk around including the Piers, Fisherman's Wharf, the financial districts. We saw a guy in his underpants (only) and a guitar but didn't get on a cable car (too crowded today). Ended up in Sinbads for a drink on the waterside where we saw Jack Sparrow and then to the Cosmopolitan Cafe for cocktails and some dinner while watching the Baseball on TV. It was a Friday night so the City workers were out partying. Helen walked through an ornamental pool by mistake which we all found very funny.

Friday, 25 July 2008

California Day One/Two

Well it's really day two, but we didn't arrive until 21:30 local time in San Francisco yesterday after quite a stressful transfer in Calgary. Apart from Jacob's Rugby tour last year, this was our family's first and very short visit to Canadian soil where we had to change planes, collect and transfer our luggage and also clear both Canadian and US Customs in 30 minutes. Needless to say we didn't, however, they held the flight so it was a scene out of Dumb and Dumber as we all ran down the entry gate onto the plane thinking we might all land on the tarmac at the end. We are staying in Twin Peaks in a wonderful home and today I'm wearing my Twin Peaks t-shirt which seemed appropriate. Today we have taken the 49 mile city tour which is signposted (sort of) and helps you get an idea of the variety on offer in this place from the piers, to the parks, past the skyscrapers and the japanese and chinese quarters as well as the Golden Gate Bridge of course. We have hired a car which is truly massive Chrysler Town and Country which needs an internal intercom for the rear set of seats but is ideal for street cruising. Although it is now 1am in the morning (UK) we are ready for the evening after a visit to an award winning 50's diner which was advertised on the route map and which took us to Fisherman's Wharf along our route. In the picture we are gazing at the Twin Peaks to our left rather than the city vista behind us. Today was a little hazy but we hope to go back and get a clearer view of the Bridge before we leave.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Degree Ceremonies

The last three days there have been degree ceremonies taking place. It is one of the best times of the year in my view - everyone dressed up, gowns and boards, general celebration. This year I only attended one ceremony as a "processional marshal" which basically means herding everyone onto the stage and into the right seat. It was the last ceremony of the day and the week and consequently some on the platform party had heard the VC and Chancellor's speeches for the umpteenth time. Imran Khan was a little bit overshadowed today as there were two honorarys and one of them was a very powerful communicator - Dewsbury MP Shahid Malik. He was joined on stage by Mo Ibrahim a former PG student who became a billionaire and is funding massive investment in Africa. Quite contrasting to have aSudanese, a Pakistani and a Dewsbury local boy made good. They were a great advert for the University's values. I didn't see Look North last night (never watch it) so don't know whether Harry and Christa had the same gravitas the day before. Probably better publicity but possibly not as thought provoking as these guys.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Service Desk system

Received a couple of issues about the help desk system in the last few days. The first was about the very long estimated time for a problem to be fixed in the automated email that is sent to all new problems reported. The second is about the web interface which has issues with fonts, logos, wording of messages, hanging links etc. This is probably because most of the heavy users of the help desk system use the full client and maybe rarely venture into the users web-based world or perhaps are just "used" to how it looks? What's most intersting is that while the system says it will take ages to fix a problem we often fix things really quickly and well before the deadline. We also have a great facility here that allows anyone to take a look at the progress of a job online. That's great. It's the little things, the minor issues that make the user experience less than "wow" and more like "grrr".

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

A vision of students today

Was reminded today by a colleague of this youtube video which 2.5 Million people have now viewed according to the stats. We have some people at Bradford that are contributing to a similar video story about student expectations and experiences and this will be filmed at the University next month and no doubt on youtube soon after! At this University we have some interesting student demographics and socio-economic and ethnicity factors. This makes our students of today more like some other University's students of tommorrow (maybe) and therefore a fertile area for research into student experiences of ICT and elearning. Today I learnt about SEEL, ELESIG, FYE and ELP (not Emmerson Lake and Palmer). More TLA, FLA and SLA's than you can shake a stick at. Why not take a look too?

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

ICL migration plan for posterity

RIP April 8th 1997 (gosh more than ten years ago)

Why IT projects don't have to fail

A Gartner report that has been useful on many occasions

In search of excellence snippets

Also wanted to keep this although it's years old. Still useful.

Stay hungry stay foolish

Also in the clearout was Steve Job's address on receiving his honorary degree. This is also available as a podcast at itunes (where else?)

Lightning strikes twice

While clearing the office I found this press cutting from the Guardian. How lucky do you feel today?

Monday, 14 July 2008

Weekend in Pateley Bridge

This weekend 20 of us went camping about 2 miles outside Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale. This is an annual event for nearly of us. There were 4 families plus one boyfriend, one teenager we were looking after and a teenage French student on an exchange visit. The campsite owner was extremely confused because there were such a lot of cars (7) with all the different families and different people stayed different nights. We split up into five teams for a car treasure hunt which had a pirate theme and took us all around the area ending up in a Druids Temple in the middle of a wood. It had taken the organisers two separate visits to organise and was brilliant. The temple was not signposted and rather spooky. We laid our treasure on the altar which included a recently deceased rabbit (road kill but not ours). The druids will wonder what all the stuff was at their next ceremony/visit. We also visited Fountains Abbey and Stoodley Grange water gardens which was great on a sunny day and the first time we have been to either place. The socks were an in-joke by the way.......we have done one of these pictures for the last ten years and I used to be second from the right and have been demoted to third. Helen always takes the photos so she never appears and if you look very carefully indeed you can see in the left hand corner the snout of Millie the dog.

A new job

There was a brief announcement on Friday to the LSS Board and to LSS staff this morning which in the fullness of time will have a pretty significant effect on me and various others around me. The full announcement reads:

Dear all

Following some rather long drawn out negotiations with HR over the past year, I am finally able to confirm the four LSS divisions and heads as follows:

Library services - Peter Ketley (includes Resources Management and Academic

IT services - Graham Hill (includes MIS, IT technical services, IT customer

Progression and Support - Ron Harle (includes Careers, Counselling, Disability and the LDU)

Centre for Academic Practice - Peter Hartley (includes TQEG, Staff Development and the Graduate School)

Thanks to everyone for your patience while this has been under discussion.

The new structure which was announced some time ago in principal, will take effect from August 1st 2008. It's a case of starting as you mean to go on by taking the first 14 days of August as vacation and then straight into clearing as a helpline volunteer on the first day back. This blog will hopefully be a good way of communicating with everyone in IT Services, LSS and also among our customers. It is wonderful that the uncertainty has finally been lifted. I really appreciate the opportunity Sara has given to lead IT Services at Bradford. Thank you to Sara for all of her personal efforts and perseverance in resolving a complex and difficult process over the last year. I am really looking forward to working with colleagues old and new to deliver the best IT Service that we possibly can.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Annual report preparations

Involved in a series of meetings over next few days (started yesterday) to catch up with everyone and to collect from the discussion some key items which can be published in the next (first) Learner Support Services Annual Report. No doubt this will be sumarised and filtered at some later point and to an extent that is happening already as we try and focus on a few specific things. It is really interesting to see where joins currently occur between different people and also where they might occur based on the the work they are involved in. There are some golden nuggets and also some great work which goes mostly un-noticed but which (with a bit of encouragement) can often be described in terms of "benefits". Typically those benefits are initially described from a technical perspective because that's the nature of the work but its useful to take a slight step back and consider context too. I hope we can make a good job of explaining the things we have done and are doing as input to this exercise.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Meeting the new student sabbaticals

Took up an invitation to meet the incoming sabbaticals who are currently being "inducted" which last weekend included an away-day in the hills above Hebden Bridge. Some of the roles have changed slightly this year as follows:
  • student activities (was sports and societies)
  • academic affairs (no change)
  • Women's liberation officer (was women's officer)
  • Union Secretary/Treasurer (separate roles last year)
  • Ethics, Environment and Welfare
  • Media and Entertainments (was communications)
and there is some continuity because Lloyd, Nadia and Katie are all doing a second term. We talked about how the SU can engage with the project management processes in the University to best effect and also about their take on the recent MORI/JISC survey on student expectations/experiences and whether there was a resonance for the SU and also for them as recent students (tick that box!). A particularly interesting conversation about their effective use of facebook for both personal and also student contact work (and a desire to try and keep separate somehow) and also on the desire to access VLE materials that are off piste for extended learning in certain modules (e.g. access to Masters material at undergraduate study). It was a very thought provoking session and they certainly have a challenge to engage and also represent such a diverse student population. Maybe they will have a think about how technology may help them after our discussions?

Monday, 7 July 2008

Another plug for great experiences of ICT

A little while ago posted an entry about the MORI survey of student expectations. In the last month a follow up survey - one year on - looks into the actual experiences that students have reported at University. Some of the original survey participants agreed to a second survey and provide a logitudinal aspect. However, most of the survey participants are new and not influenced by the earlier work. This allows for some interesting comparisons between the two survey cohorts. Overall it is a positive message for IT services in UK HE - especially those in Russell Group Institutions (but watch out for the caveats - they might not have expected as much in the first place!). It is worth a read and possibly an action plan. One of those things that long train journeys allow - a bit of time for reading the stuff in the "must get round to reading" pile.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Early morning start

It doesn't seem that long ago since the last time I was writing on the train on the way home from the last conference organising committee. Today we are meeting to finalise the programme for March 2009 ahead of the Summer break. We will also be discussing how we can address the feedback from exhibitors and delegates from the 2008 event and somehow make it even better. Quite a challenge. Helen is also travelling to London today so we were both up at 05:30 only she is travelling by coach with 55 year 10 kids and will not be home until 23:00 tonight. The train will be arriving into London before 09:00 and this morning the carriage is empty so I have a table to myself and the wireless network is pretty fast and reliable. I'd rather be in an air conditioned train travelling at 125 mph than a Glenway coach. It is a lovely start to the day with a clear blue sky and temperatures forecast at 25 degrees so no need for a coat in London today.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

commuting on your bike

A rather humbling story from this Saturday's Guardian (Family Section) for those like me who think they have done rather well to cycle the odd few miles mainly downhill every now and then. Told a colleague about this story and he told me that he had just attempted a 350 mile in 24 hour Audax at the weekend and had still cycled into work next day. Total admiration - click to enlarge and read.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Mucky ducks at York Uni Open Day

This entry links two earlier ones on University open days and duck density. Today we visited York with 9000 (yes nine thousand) others. Car parking extortionate at £4 (versus £1 at Warwick) They hold two open days a year and they are organised with military precision. I had a chance to speak to one of the organisers and tell them they had done a fantastic job. They were good friends with Roger Ash for those that know Roger and held him in the highest regard. The speakers were excellent throughout the day and the outgoing president of the student union was a fantastic role model for the hundreds gathered to hear things from the "student perspective". Surprised that there is no Student Union bar or venue at all (yet). We liked the lake but didn't like the ducks (5 humans to every duck) mainly because there was duck residue everywhere. We liked the covered walkways between every building - it's not rocket science so why can't we do that? There is a 200 acre expansion that is just starting. This will probably be ready too late for Megan and her cohort to benefit from and makes me wonder how much will be invested in the remaining part of the current campus. The student accommodation was grim (in parts). Its all very personal but I felt that even on sunny day that York did not give of its best in terms of the academic content and research and that the exhibition format was dated and uninspiring. Clearly York is doing many things really well and has a great reputation in terms of league tables and all of that so is a selective versus recruiting University. It is also in a fantastic location with the county city minutes away. It's an overall package that is difficult to compete with in many respects. Also took the chance to meet with some people in Computing Services located in the heart of the campus to talk sunray, SGD and green IT. The library was also part of the tour and I took a few photos on the phone. Loads of books, IT limited (in that building) so more of a traditional library versus learning resource centre in my view.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

You can't communicate your way out of reality

Came across an internal document dated December 2006 titled internal communications 'improving staff and student engagement'. Subtitled "you can't communicate your way out of reality (Griffin 1996). Came across is the operative word as this is a document which had certainly evaded my attention or inbox for the last 18 months - so much for internal communications? So what is internal communications - there is a definition provided "all formal and informal communication taking place internally at all levels of an organisation" (Kalla, 2005). By the way if you go looking for it on the intranet you won't find it because I just tried! (someone please correct me if I am wrong). For staff the current communication channels at that time were defined as staff briefing (weekly e-zine), notice boards, school assemblies, intranet pages, email lists, newsletters. So onto the key recommendations of the report. Number 1 to create a working group! MIS was a member and to the best of my knowledge I've never been involved (but a colleague may have been). Numbers 2 to identify a "champion". Err don't know who that is/was. Number 3 do a full communications audit to get an accurate picture. No evidence of that. Number 4 was about a policy on quality control and advertising. Number 5 was that change should be project managed and incorporate "internal communication" as part of the project life cycle. Finally number 6 internal communications should form part of the role of all committees in terms of reference. So, the process was a complete success and all the recommendations were implemented and somewhere along the way my reality is very different to this expected outcome.