Editorial: Welcome to New Ariadne
I have it on good authority, from one of those who were there, that when the first issue of the JISC-funded electronic publication Ariadne was launched in January 1996, water was coming down the wall of their office in the hours of darkness; but they pressed on regardless. Having been present at the launch of one or two new publications myself, I can well imagine their apprehension. These days, the Library and Learning Centre at the University of Bath, an innovative institution itself, in being the first HE library in the UK to offer readers 24/7 access, is rarely subject to such concerns; but continues to be, I am pleased to say, the location of UKOLN which has published Ariadne since that turbulent night.
It is now my pleasure, after a series of enhancements over the years effected on the existing platform, to welcome you to the new-look Ariadne which is able to do so much more than its predecessor. While conscious that not everyone wants to listen to the entire saga of one’s life-changing operation, Ariadne will nonetheless be relating some of the aspects of the work, not least because the transfer to a Drupal-based platform has involved the migration of a sizeable volume of legacy material. Developers of new systems have understandable feelings about the impact of such a legacy on their plans  and I suspect some readers will be interested in that aspect.
Brian Kelly has written, ‘I am pleased to announce developments to Ariadne which not only enhance the user interface but also, perhaps more importantly, provide much richer access to the large number of articles which have been published during its lifetime.
Ariadne was launched at a time when mailing lists provided the main communications channel with Web sites acting primarily for publishing information. In today's environment there is a much greater diversity of communications and publication channels including blogs, wikis, Twitter and social networks. Ariadne continues to have a valuable role to play in this space and we hope the developments which have been launched in this issue will appeal to both existing readers and those who may not have come across Ariadne previously. In light of the changing landscape we have reduced Ariadne's publication frequency from four to three times per year. We feel Ariadne provides a valuable publishing channel which is positioned between the many blogs which describe digital library developments and peer-reviewed journals. We hope you enjoy the new-look Ariadne and welcome your feedback.’
I have held to the view that too often we can become so fascinated and even obsessed with the nature of the carrier that we risk losing sight of the content. However, this is an occasion when I too welcome the nature of the new vehicle because it helps us to expose much more about that content, providing more context and detail than was possible before.
Yet thinking of those early days of the publication, it has become apparent to me as we have worked on checking the adoption of content prior to this latest issue, how seemingly small was the eLib community which Ariadne set out to serve. The earliest authors were so familiar to their readers that it was not regarded as necessary to post copious details about them since the assumption was everyone already knew them. In many instances I had real trouble in establishing enough data to produce an author profile such as is now offered and which will be updated on receipt of every new article or via updates from previous authors who are requested to send them via Contact Ariadne.
Just as that community has grown and diversified, so has Ariadne’s scope and readership and we have recognised the need to provide readers with more and up-to-date detail. Attaching to authors therefore, wherever possible, are data such as their institution, affiliation and location as well as a plethora of themes that can be derived from their articles. The publication is now configured so as to be able to make access and navigability easier, even to its earliest material and, as was remarked upon by one of its original editors, John Kirriemuir, when we asked him to look over the new platform,
…as the editor of the first ten issues, [I] am also glad that (finally) the magazine has one universal style throughout. … It's also good that you are keeping everything; Ariadne acts as one of the very few unbroken records of digital library development. With many websites turned off, or just plain deleted, much of the second half of the 90's, and more recent material, is no longer accessible or even in existence.
Moreover, such is the size of the content held in back issues, it has permitted the use of applications to identify trends in our community’s thinking, recognise points where certain ideas have taken off, and, pursuant to the Gartner hype principle , go through crests and troughs, when not finishing their days altogether. I must readily confess that, by the nature of my work, my own perspective is largely one that is directed towards the future; as you will note from the new front page and the Forthcoming tab ‘below the fold’, I am keen to share such thinking with readers. I suspect this is typical of practitioners in most areas of IT since we are all aware that developments in technology are never-ending; indeed they are the very raison d’être of this publication. However, wiser heads also make the point that the early days of the Web are behind us, Web 2.0 has not turned out to be a minor squib and lo and behold, IT in general and certainly the developments within our own ‘airspace’ have most certainly come to form a history. Ariadne is, thanks to the many more channels and connections to its content, now better placed to offer a clearer view of that history; as well as continue with its task of examining the new and emerging.
When I joined UKOLN I soon discovered, as Philip Hunter, my predecessor, once put it, that ‘we have at least 50 new acronyms to learn before breakfast’. I am very conscious that Ariadne ought to be helping readers who are not only new to a topic but also conceivably new to their job, ie, on their first day, first assignment and their third working language. (The reason therefore why language in the feature articles is fairly standard and most acronyms and abbreviations are expanded to give non-native English readers a fighting chance.) Now Ariadne is able to offer extra help with those acronyms, not only by expanding them, but by treating them and other terms as keywords, and providing not only an explanation but also a list of the material Ariadne holds that may be relevant to the reader’s requirements that day.
To that end also, we would like to hear if you consider a term has been overlooked, particularly if you see content in the journal that would support it.
Let us take just one example of how Ariadne might help with some recently developed technology: Elluminate, could be an example (renamed to Blackboard Collaborate after its recent purchase), of which one may have heard, but never used in anger. Selecting Keywords from the tab line on the front page gives you an overview of all the tags operating on Ariadne and you have the option to seek out ‘elluminate’ or click on the filter option and place it in the search field. The page devoted to Elluminate supplies not only an explanation of the term to ensure you have found what you are looking for, but also gives background on its usage within the journal and even how recently it has emerged as an item of interest (October 2010). Best of all, it tells you which authors have mentioned it and even who appears to be most interested in Elluminate, in this instance, Julian Prior and Marie Salter - and their article is waiting below for you to read. You can click through quickly to the most likely article, or linger over other information such as the fact that the term ‘blackboard’ is also associated, which represents another lead you might wish to follow.
I should add, of course, that you still have the option to search on ‘Elluminate’ over Ariadne from the search field on the front page (top right), which, I discover, offers Julian and Marie, and their article, as the first in the result rankings. Doubtless readers will be able to tell me when that does not work so well, or a significant term is missing, and we would like to hear from you if you would like to get in contact with us.
And this is another aspect of the Ariadne community which we would like to continue to use: your views. They have been at the centre of what has been produced starting from the initial discussions within UKOLN on a new platform through the development phase and pre-launch feedback. Rest assured that we are still keen to hear readers’ views and are maintaining an analysis of which aspects are attracting comment, favourable or otherwise and our experience with developing the system so far leads us to think that it has the flexibility to allow of further developments.
That flexibility derives from the scale on which Drupal seems to have been designed and rather seems to bear out the decision which we took when it came to consider the system to adopt for this work. The other strong contender, no surprise, was WordPress, but while it has been deployed at UKOLN with success in a variety of roles, I had reservations about its capacity to handle the amount of material Ariadne retains .
Therefore it was indeed most fortunate that our colleague Dr Thom Bunting had been using Drupal in the development of content for UKOLN’s Innovation Support Centre and other systems. Thom agreed that Ariadne ought to prove a very suitable case for the Drupal treatment and so began the work on making the journal more accessible and navigable, so meeting the principal requirements of respondents to our surveys.
Not only does the publication now offer readers far more information than formerly, it has now gathered together the disparate styles of the earlier issues and holds the legacy material from 1996 in a far more discoverable form. Thom and I have worked to ensure that the new platform properly presents the more idiosyncratic material and I would like to record my sincere thanks to Thom for his patience (with all my queries and requests) and dedication to the long and complex task.
Thanks also go to Marieke Guy and Brian Kelly and staff in UKOLN’s Software and Systems, as well as colleagues at JISC who have supported and encouraged this major development. In this context I would like to express our thanks also to Joy Palmer of Mimas with whom we discussed plans to renovate Ariadne and whose advice encouraged us to keep users’ opinions central to how the scheme was approached.
Which brings me to my final and most important acknowledgement: of the readers and authors who, whatever the platform, have continued to read, write for and support Ariadne and whose opinions have been so encouraging and thought-provoking. They have influenced how this publication is presented and navigated, and will continue to do so.
1. ‘When the "state of the art" operation in Hampshire opened in January , it was already six years overdue.’ 'Swanwick: Dogged by problems', BBC news, 19 December, 2002, 10:22 GMT
2. Figure 1: Gartner Hype Cycle 2000 in: Marieke Guy. "Integration and Impact: The JISC Annual Conference". July 2005, Ariadne Issue 44
3. Nathan Smith. “Why Drupal?” Sonspring Journal, 5 August 2010