Testing Caprét

I’ve been testing the alpha release of CaPRéT , a tool that aids attribution and tracking of openly licensed content from web sites. According to the Caprét website.

When a user cuts and pastes text from a CaPRéT-enabled site:

  • The user gets the text as originally cut, and if their application supports the pasted text will also automatically include attribution and licensing information.
  • The OER site can also track what text was cut, allowing them to better understand how users are using their site.

I tested Caprét on a single page, my institutional home page and on this blog. To enable Caprét for material on a website you need to include links to four javascript files in your webpages. I went with the files hosted on the Caprét site so all I had to do was put this into my homepage’s <head> (The testing on my home page is easier to describe, since the options for WordPress will depend on the theme you have installed.)

<script src="https://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.6.2/jquery.min.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="http://capret.mitoeit.org/js/jquery.plugin.clipboard.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="http://capret.mitoeit.org/js/oer_license_parser.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
<script src="http://capret.mitoeit.org/js/capret.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

Then you need to put the relevant information, properly marked up into the webpage. Currently caprét cites the Title, source URL, Author, and Licence URI of the page from which the text was copied. The easiest way to get this information into your page is to use a platform which generates it automatically, e.g. WordPress or Drupal with the OpenAttribute plug-in installed. The next easiest way is to fill out the form at the Creative Commons License generator. Be sure to supply the additional information if you use that form.

If you’re into manual, this is what does the work:

Title, is picked up from any text marked as
<span xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" href="http://purl.org/dc/dcmitype/Text" property="dct:title" rel="dct:type"><span> or, if that’s not found, the page <title> in the <head>

Source URL comes from page url

Author name, is picked up from contents of <a xmlns:cc="http://creativecommons.org/ns#" href="http://jisc.cetis.org.uk/contact/philb" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL"></a> (actually, the author attribution URL in the href attribute isn’t currently used, so this could just as well be a span)

Licence URI, is picked up from the href attribute of <a rel="license" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/">

You might want to suggest other things that could be in the attribution/citation.

As far as attribution goes it seems to work. Copy something from my home page or this blog and paste it elsewhere and the attribution information should magically appear. What’s also there is an embedded tracking gif, but I haven’t tested whether that is working.

What I like about this approach is that it converts self-description into embedded metadata. Self description is practice of including within a resource that information which is important for describing it: the title, author, date etc. Putting this information into the resource isn’t rocket science, it’s just good practice. To convert this information into metadata it needs to be encoded in such a way that a machine can read it. That’s where the RDFa comes in. What I like about RDFa (and microformats and microdata) as a way of publishing metadata is that it builds the actual descriptions are the very same ones that it’s just good practice to include in the resource. Having them on view in the resource is likely to help with quality assurance, and, while the markup is fiddly (and best dealt with by the content management system in use, not created by hand) creating the metadata should be no extra effort over what you should do anyway.

Caprét is being developed by MIT OEIT and Tatemae (OERGlue) as part of the JISC CETIS mini projects initiative; it builds on the browser plug-in developed independently by the OpenAttribute team.

Amazon kindle and textbooks

Amazon are renting textbooks for the kindle. Over the last couple of months I’ve been using a Kindle. We bought it with the idea of seeing how it might be useful for educational content, eTextbooks at the most basic level, though I’ve already written about my misgivings on that score. Well, we quickly came to the conclusion that the Kindle device wasn’t much good for eTextbooks: no colour, screen refresh too slow for dynamic content, not good for non-linear content (breakout boxes, footnotes, even multiple columns)–sure it displays pdfs and HTML, but it’s difficult to get difficult to get a magnification that works well and navigating around the page is clunky, and it doesn’t do ePub. But it’s fine for novels and there may be some educational utility in the bookmarking, note making and the sharing of these that is possible (though making notes using the kindle isn’t a great user experience). Anyway, given all that it’s interesting to note that the textbooks shown in the Amazon ad I mention above rely on colour, are non-linear, and both of them would be really engaging if the diagrams were interactive or even just animated. Neither of them are being displayed on a Kindle.

[Aside: textbook rental might be an attractive idea for some, but pricing based on a typical rental of 30 days!?]