ICE-cold in Toowoomba

I am here for all too short a time working with Peter Sefton and colleages on a number of collaborations on authoring and publishing tools. Peter runs the  Australian Digital Futures Institute at the University of Southern Queensland in Toowoomba – a lovely place in the mountains west of Brisbane.

We have a joint project funded by JISC – ICE-Theorem – and I’ll blog later when we have had the demo. This is a great arrangement because we have been able to contract much of the work to Peter’s group. Having now met the current group (and it’s grown since I was last here) I can say that it has a critical mass of committed developers which is very hard to put together in most academic institutions, especially those which depend on “research” output rather than technology. We’ve built up a strong mutual understanding over the last 3 or so years.

We have our differences of approach, but wherever popssible we are looking for these to compement each other. Good academic web tools will depend on a mixture of diversity and synergy. That means trying out new ideas but not getting locked into one’s own approach because you want glory or money (the chances are relatively small).

What often happens in the academic content/publishing world is that technology “empires” spring up – managing repositories, courseware, etc. They often mutate into political organisations with large consortia, where the pace is governed not by technology but by the need to satisfy everybody’s interests. At the other end of the spectrum are the geeks – in the best sense – who want to build systems in  days.

They often do. And Toowoomba is one of the places where it happens.

Peter has been showing me the Fascinator – it’s a lightweight desktop repository based on Fedora (but that’s excchangeable). We have an apparently similar approach in Jim Downing’s Lensfield. However we are looking to see how these two complement each other – Peter is document-centered, we are data-centered and there is enough difference that it make sense to go forwrad on both fronts.

But I have to rush …

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