Scholarly HTML and the Future of Publishing

The next generation of publishing and document authoring is emerging from work that is focused around the sciences from the Scholarly HTML group. This a group closely related to (entertwined with?) the Beyond PDF project from which the Scholarly HTML project I think emerged. There are some very interesting interconnections here that are worth noting and exploring.  In a lovely bit of irony, I’ve included a PDF (ahem…) that recapitulates the history of this movement. It’s from the PLOSBlog of Martin Fenner.

This is connected to Peter Sefton‘s group at the University of Southern Queensland who is described as running a “tremendous group … creating academic authoring tools.” Peter is doing some very interesting work based on WordPress, including a collection tool called “Anthologize”, in collaboration with JISC. According to Peter’s own description of the project, “Anthologize lets you write or import content into a WordPress instance, organise the ‘parts’ of your ‘project’ and publish to PDF or EPUB, HTML or into TEI XML format.”  Note there was a “Hackfest” at Cambridge U in March (this year) at the Unilever Cambidge Centre for Molecular Informatics (those are chemists, btw) where the outlines of a system of publishing code named Beyond the PDF (BTPDF) was drawn up on a white board.

Here’s the image:

Copywrite PMR CC-BY

Whew… now if we add to this some of our recent discussions in the Centre about compound document authoring based on LORE, intended to provide a layer of annotation and a connected graph among web accessible documents, and then reverse your perspective and consider the idea of mashing up web objects, including items within structured HTML (or better yet XML documents), in the context of building your own learning environment (PLE) or even a new course site mashup with OER-Glue, you have two sides of what seems like the same story. Note OER-Glue is a Chrome only browser extension at the moment, but according to the ORE-Glue website, “its highly optimized JavaScript interpreter, excellent support of the HTML 5 web standard, and its sophisticated development and debugging tools. Soon to follow will be versions for Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. Because the extension uses cross-browser JavaScript libraries such as jQuery and jsTree and relies upon the HTML 5 standard, it should be easily ported to those platforms.” We’ll see about that I guess. Click for a guick look at how OER-GLUE it works.

Where do I see this connecting with our work at the Centre for Educational Innovation & Technology?

It’s directly related to John’s Ph.D. thesis (John Zornig is the stunningly good Senior Software Architect that we’re privileged to have as a key leader in the Centre) on providing a means of capturing authorship (and therefore establishing credit or reputation) for work you’ve put up on the web. Until we can create metrics that measure what we think are important, like contributing back to the web community, reusing, mashing up and making contributions to the shared space of scholarship we’ll continue to be badgered by and competitively divided from things like the Q-Index (an Australian measure of academic quality, so-called) and other mistaken or at least one-sided measures of academic contribution.

But it’s also a framework for some of the thinking we’re engaged in with ENGG1200 – a course being redesigned for the UQ Engineering first year program, – about how do we build a set of tools to support learning for a large course that can be reused for other courses of different disciplinary content?  How can we re-introduce writing, storytelling and reflection into engineering just as we want to introduce and support it in COMM or HIST? Is there an opportunity to build meaning and derive value in constructing the relationships among objects, as something like a redesigned LORE might support, to create new forms of storytelling and creating connections among disparate objects in a repository – perhaps even sharing these ‘lenses’ into new connections among objects as a form of metastorytelling?

Could we/should we consider using something like ORE-Glue to aggregate elements of items from around the web to provide a best-practices collection of activities and resources for ENGG1200? Some of what they want are videos that we’d have to create and put up ourselves but the incorporation of these videos from their repository into the course site itself might be done via OER-Glue.

Imagine making collections from say the SLQ (State Library of Queensland)available that a lay person (you know, the ‘public’;-)  could pull together and annotate. They might do so for their own personal interests. But it might be of interest to allow them to ‘publish’ their new compound document set (with annotations and an organising document graph) to share their insights into how disparate objects are inter-related. The library could vette these and add them to a community site that added value to their curated works.

This is also related to Roly’s (Prof. Roland Sussex) “CogBuilder” idea, some of which was drawn from the work of CAST ( – interestingly I couldn’t link this into the email text because the Apple Mail App doesnt recognise the .cfm suffix as anything interpretable by a browser….I guess that’s telling you how old it is since  this is the Cold Fusion website builder suffix…).  More recently graphing your bookmarks has emerged in Chrome extension from a guy in Paris called Visual History. Here’s a view of my web link history for the past 12 hours from Chrome using this visualiser:

Visual History - Chrome bookmarking tool

It’s asethetic and if you mouse over any one node you get a list of the links that you hit from that node, a history of the URL.

Consider the history of “

From the Visual History Info you get:

History for this URL:

OK – that’s ‘nice’ but it lags tags, for example, that might tell you why you clicked to go there. Or, as Roly noted, notes or the research question currently under investigation. You might want something like this to track the building of your OER-Glue course or learning site.  In fact it looks awfully much like the LORE Compound object except it’s zoomed back to the level of a site not a page, or in the case of ORE-Glue, the object within a page (like a video or a particular section of a page).

Food for thought and focusing of our efforts around the essence of what we might want to do in light of both our local needs as well as our broader interestes in this area of work are something we all need to contribute to.

Finally, it turns out that even in our building there are connections we have and yet didn’t “know” fully.  In this case Tudor Goza, with whom I’m teaching the next version of the WebSciences course in Sem 2, turns out to be the co-editor of the W3C working group Ontology of Rhetorical Blocks (ORB). The goal of this project is to “develop a formal structure able to represent all discourse knowledge items such as claims, positions and arguments in relation to a scientiest’s own achievements, or the results achieved by other researchers (corresponding to a fine-grained level), or synthesise background information or experimental results (corresponding to a coarse-grained level).”

I don’t know about you but my head’s a buzz with all this – not all the connections are clear to me, nor are all the parts in the end likely to hang together, but something is vibrating at the edge of my consciousness telling me there is something really important here.  Or maybe it’s my iPhone ringing in my pocket.

— pdl —


About longpd

I'm a technologist and lapsed evolutionary biologist with an incandescent passion for new modes of seeing and learning.
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2 Responses to Scholarly HTML and the Future of Publishing

  1. Peter Sefton says:

    Thanks for the mentions.

    Since the Scholarly HTML workshop in Cambridge earlier this year the technical group I used to lead at USQ has been disbanded – so I am no longer affiliated with that institution – the work I am doing with JISC is freelance. I am just up the road from you so if you would like to talk about how Beyond the PDF and Scholarly HTML might mesh with your work I could drop by some time.

  2. Yes, thanks for mentioning our work. I’m not exactly up the road, but feel free to contact me via email (or the WordPress for Scientists Google Group) if you have any questions or suggestions.

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