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1 Portal proliferation: Good, Bad, or just Confused? Paul Miller 17 June 2003

2 Overview What is a portal? The PORTAL project Understanding users Standards Conclusions

3 What is a portal?

4 Portal definition #1 a term, generally synonymous with gateway, for a World Wide Web site that is or proposes to be a major starting site for users when they get connected to the Web or that users tend to visit as an anchor site. (

5 See

6 See

7 Portal definition #2 A network service that provides a personalised, single point of access to a range of heterogeneous network services, local and remote, structured and unstructured. Portal functionality often includes resource discovery, email access and online discussion fora. Portals are intended for (human) end-users using common Web 'standards' such as HTTP, HTML, Java and JavaScript. In the context of the JISC IE, portals interact with brokers, aggregators, indexes, catalogues and content providers using Z39.50, SRW, the OAI-PMH and RSS/HTTP. (JISC Information Environment Architecture glossary)

8 Gateway definition #1 A network service based on a catalogue of Internet resources (JISC Information Environment Architecture glossary)

9 See

10 See

11 See

12 Portal definition #3 a [thin] layer which aggregates, integrates, personalises and presents information, transactions and applications to the user according to their role and preferences (JISC PORTAL Project)

13 See

14 So when is a portal not a portal? Everyone claims to have a portal –The value of the term is therefore diluted Can we identify whats important about a portal, and use other terms for other things? –Web site, gateway, thingummy, portal…

15 Web site Online content Defining Characteristics –On the Internet –Visible using a standard web browser –Principally HTML/XHTML text and associated images –Uses hyperlinks, but principal focus is itself, rather than other sites The Royal Mail!

16 Gateway Links and pointers to content of value –Mostly online, often within a single topic Defining characteristics –Primarily a collection of descriptions of resources, and pointers to those resources –The bulk of the resources belong to other people –Typically descriptions of web sites ARGE ?

17 Thingummy Links and pointers to content of value Defining characteristics –Not restricted to HTTP –May include search/cross-search capability Pixus, Go-Geo, HEIRPORT ?

18 Portal Personalisable aggregator of information and services Defining characteristics –Customisable –Personalisable –Aggregates and integrates Capable of Single Sign-On ? –Embedding of transactional services port.hull.

19 3 web sites, 2 gateways, 5 thingummies and a portal… …and Alice!

20 Customisation & Personalisation Customisation –Can I have red text, please? –Can I see departmental news, please? –Can I have the accessible version, please? –Get rid of that weather forecast! –Please tell me about new journal articles.

21 Customisation & Personalisation Personalisation –You asked for departmental news. Here is the news for your department… –I know youre visually impaired. Here is the accessible version of this site… –You asked for new journal articles. I know youre an archaeologist, so heres the Table of Contents for Antiquity… I wont bother telling you about Nature or The Economist, though, unless you tell me to –You have 273 new e-mails, owe the library £12 in fines, and are overdrawn at your bank by £1,362.40.

22 The PORTAL Project

23 PORTAL project Presenting natiOnal Resources To Audiences Locally –Funded by the JISCs FAIR Programme 18 Month project, from September 2002 University of Hull and UKOLN –Building upon Hulls development of an institutional portal –Surfacing external content and services –Addressing content provider issues –Understanding user needs See

24 Understanding Users

25 Current work Focus upon institutional portals in FE and HE –Online questionnaire 557 responses by 14 February –Focus groups 53 participants –Interviews 27 interviews See

26 See

27 Top Ten Features Search favourite resources Library administration Access or update teaching materials Personal information Library and quality Internet resources alerts Access your institutional email Handbook Deadline alerts Access or update reading lists Campus news

28 What users want… Postgraduate Students: Library admin Search your favourite resources Deadline alerts Library & Internet resource alert Access reading lists Higher Education Undergrad: Deadline alerts Review marks Library admin Access teaching materials Search your favourite resources Admin Staff: Staff development Personal information Forms & documentation Search your favourite resources Access your institutional email Campus news Academic Staff: Search your favourite resources Library & Internet resource alerts Library admin Personal information Update teaching materials

29 …and what they dont The Weather ! News Catering Bookings Salary Data Voting in Student Elections

30 Additional Features Single Sign On –Internal –External Accessible Targeted Announcements Remote Access Reliable!

31 …and elsewhere… The Cultural Content Forum is exploring audience requirements for the digitised cultural heritage. See June issue of D-Lib Magazine at See

32 Standards

33 RSS WSRP/WSDL/WSFL/UDDI Z39.50 OAI Liberty Alliance etc.

34 RSS Rich/RDF Site Summary –easy mechanism for syndicating content –Works especially well for news –Many versions JISC IE currently recommends version 1.0 See See

35 Web Services About making the Web transactional –Web Services for Remote Portals (WSRP) especially relevant Also Universal Description, Discovery & Integration (UDDI), Web Services Description Language (WSDL), Web Services Flow Language (WSFL) See See (pp. 21-23)

36 Z39.50 Grandaddy of distributed search standards –Ageing, but still deployed, especially in library sector –Current effort – under ZING umbrella – to make underlying semantics relevant to the web and web services environment See See See

37 OAI Open Archives Initiative –Not really about archives at all –Preprints, e-Prints, etc, but with relevance to this sector Demonstrated by CIMI, ADS CIE demonstrator, etc. See See See

38 Liberty Alliance Multi-organisational approach to understanding people, their rights and roles –Enabling interoperable exchange of access rights, etc., whilst protecting personal data For now, many educational portals using IMS LIP or EduPerson See See WP6

39 Conclusion A lot of people claim to be building portals –Some of them even are We need a better understanding of what users want from all of this –Build it and they will come is simply not true There may be nothing wrong with a multitude of ways in –Accessing a common pool of content in a standards- conformant and interoperable fashion.

40 PORTAL Presenting natiOnal Resources To Audiences Locally See

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