WO to W3O


A Web Observatory performs a series of tasks in terms of capturing, analysing and presenting data to support research decisions


Standalone Web Observatories (WO) are only the first step to creating creating a World-Wide Web of Observatories W3O.


and so discovery, provenance and process orchestration are key to solving the problem.

Another baby at my age? Please don’t LIKE this post…

Using Facebook is like having a room full of new babies: a constant stream of different reactions making you laugh, cry, getting you anxious, cross or confused .. all within a few minutes.

But make no mistake – is it DEMANDING .. a constant draw on your attention and your time (with a sense of guilt if you don’t pay enough attention). There are many friends, relations, colleagues that I don’t get a chance to spend time with in person and that I really enjoy hearing from but the aggregated “volume” (in both senses of the word) of the Facebook stream seems overwhelming sometimes.

Nicholas Carr wrote about human beings changing and losing the ability to concentrate and read deeply (as with books) as a result of so much time spent jumping around between pages on the Web and I wonder if we are also losing the skill of deep/individual conversations to be replaced with a kind of booming internet “telepathy” where we hear brief snatches of what people are thinking but where the next thought quickly demands our attention calling us to move on before we spend any time to reflect and hear our friends individually.

Even as I am writing this post there has been a stream of new comments clamouring for my attention and yet I’ve already read about so much pride, loss, love and anger in the last hour on Facebook that it would take me all week to follow-up with those people who posted to find out more.

The Facebook solution to the pressure of handing all these thoughts is to respond by simply “liking” a post (or not) – a simple acknowledgement and move on and yet I wonder if that is really enough .. “liking” a picture of a kitten seems harmless enough but what does it mean to “like” a post about the death of a friend..? This perhaps a lazy-like where we don’t know what to write or we feel pressure to move on quickly to the next thought.

Perhaps its true that you can only handle so many connections/friends and I should simply delete some of you but I’d be interested to hear what you think (in person ideally or through a comment) but please don’t “like” this post: either decide you don’t feel strongly enough to respond (thats OK) or tell me what you are thinking..

Late new years resolution – no more lazy likes …

Yes but is it Web Science…?

One of the many ongoing debates in this space is the question often asked (by my PhD supervisor amongst others) about the nature of studying data ABOUT the Web (studying the structures and movements of Web Traffic and Users) vs studying ON the Web (say open data sets about bus times or how much councils spend on lunch).

Some argue that the latter is NOT Web Science since the data being studies is not “webby” .. however in Web Science we propose to study socio-technical effects in which the behaviour of users in society and the technologies they use interact.  Surely then, even though the bus times are themselves not “webby” if their availability on the Web causes some change in behaviour, tracking, funding or management of the service this may be a valid subject of studying the effect of the data on  different social groups.

One might argue that we have simply started at a different part of the socio-technical cycle…

I leave this to the reader to think over and argue for themselves…

Glass is dead – long live Glass

Google announced the retirement of Google Glass in its current form recently to the howling and cheering of fans and haters everywhere.

Even if this product does bite the dust in its current form it seems clear that Google has done something important here. Now what that something is depends on which side of the witch-burning mob you find yourself:

– this is important because Google has taken the heat and shown the way for other manufacturers to introduce VR and head mounted appliances (Occulus Rift, Microsoft HoloLens)
– this is important because it has brought to head how invasive such technologies are and this have galvanised the public to ban these devices from all kinds of locations and activities.

Make up your own mind but I feel the debate on this on eis only just heating up. Google Glass was all that functional (in my view) and so it was much easier to prioritise the privacy issues over what we were giving up. Now imagine the next guy comes along with a 2nd or 3rd gen product that really rocks? I’m keen to see how much less of a problem users will find these follow-ons if they actually add real value and are usable …

Types of Web Observatory

The sheer complexity of the types of process that a Web Observatory might support cry out for a more refined definition of Observatories and as part of my own research I have Identified an initial structure that will be tested with communities going forward

The major categories are


These are research based systems attempting to capture/share data, produce/test theory and collaborate on research projects


These are commercial systems attempting to improve financial ratios (esp Profit) and share ratios (esp market share)

    Communities (ranging from small to large)

These are engagement systems attmepting to highlight information in order to modify behaviour encourage actions/participation

The sub-types are

    Personal – ie a community of one
    Communities of Interest or location e.g. Charities,
    Communities of Governance e.g. Government

Sociomatic solutions: a way of describing social machines

There is increasing discussion of social machines in the literature following on from TBL’s prediction of the evolution of solutions to real-world problems in which people bring the intent, the cognition and the flexibility whilst machines bring the speed, capacity and tireless processing capability/focus.

These solutions in which the human and the machine exchange value and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses offer an opportunity for optimal approaches that are better than automatic or socially sourced and can be thought of as Sociomatic.

I am hoping this new term may catch on with the social machines specialists as it seems to capture elegantly the point we are trying to make.