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Roger Clarke's 'BledSpace'

Report on a Workshop on eCollaboration within the Bled Community
at the 21st Bled Conference, 17 June 2008

Revision of 26 July 2008

Roger Clarke **

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A well-attended Workshop at the Bled eConference in June 2008 considered a variety of ways in which the Bled Community could be enhanced through the careful application of electronic tools.

The participants valued most highly measures to ensure that all Bled papers are readily available and discoverable on the Web, preferably through multiple channels for both discovery and access. This both enhances the conference's visibility and reputation and contributes to the cumulative tradition.

Another element that attracted support was means for discovering the contact-points and current activities of Bled community-members. This might take the form of a Bled-specific directory, or perhaps (by arrangement with AIS) a sub-set of the AIS Directory.

Other eCommunity tools that were discussed included a virtual photo-gallery, email-lists and additional conference web-pages. A Bled Community wiki could also be beneficial - not least to enable collaborative composition and editing of this document ...


1. Introduction

The Bled Conference has been held every June since 1988. Its primary disciplinary perspective is Information Systems, although participants comes from a range of other disciplines as well. From the very beginning, the Conference has involved participants from industry, academe and government, in about equal proportions.

The Conference focussed on EDI from 1988 until 1993, and on eCommerce more generally from 1994 until 2002. It subsequently widened its scope to encompass all aspects of eBusiness, eGovernment, eCommunity and eSociety. The wide-ranging scope is conveyed by the title 'eConference'.

Within this broad research domain, the Bled community is easily the longest-lived, and probably the world's largest. In addition to the many industry papers and panels each year, the Bled Conference Research Stream has produced over 600 refereed papers since 1995. Over 60 have later appeared in enhanced form in the leading journals International Journal of Electronic Markets (IJEC) and Electronic Markets (EM).

For over 20 years, the conference has taken the form of an annual pilgrimage to the lakeside of Bled. If the tools that are discussed each year are applied appropriately, the Bled Conference could be a nucleus for an eCommunity that transcends space and time constraints. On the other hand, participants are well aware of the pifalls of technology-driven change.

At the 2008 Conference, a Workshop investigated the possibilities. There were about 25 participants. This is a report on that Workshop, prepared by its convenor.

2. Technological Possibilities

Although it would be a mistake to rely on technology as the sole driver of business practices, there were benefits in first reviewing the kinds of tools that are available. Briefly, they can be classified into the following categories:

Additional possibilities may emerge as some of the more recent initiatives mature, such as 'social networking services', games and virtual realities such as Second Life.

3. Collaboration Opportunities

Participants in the Workshop were generally enthusiastic about the idea of using Internet tools to extend the scope of the Bled Community. However there was also considerable wariness about the likelihood of techno-enthusiasm leading down blind allies. It would be pointless, and perhaps even harmful, to launch a facility that attracted little use. The following specific possibilities were discussed.

3.1 e-Lists

Participants felt that the more senior members of the Bled Community already have well-established networks, spend a great deal of time supporting them, and would be unlikely to gain a great deal from yet another channel. They would therefore be unlikely to be major users of Bled-specific services.

Two opportunities were perceived, however:

  1. one or more e-lists for members of the Bled Community who are in their early careers, and/or newcomers to the Community. Key requirements include:
  2. one or more low-volume e-lists for senior members of the Bled Community, focussed in particular on announcements, and suggestions for future events. Key requirements include:

3.2 Web-Pages and Wikis

Participants felt that there were opportunities for additional services to be provided to Bled Community members.

One example that was discussed was FAQs relating to paper submissions.

Much of the discussion related to electronic access to the accumulated corpus of Bled papers and to citations of them. It was noted that there were three channels for discovering and accessing Bled papers:

  1. the Bled Conference Site. This is a valuable resource. However the following deficiencies were noted:
  2. the AIS Electronic Library. This is also a valuable resource, places the Bled Community within its natural disciplinary home, and is important as a long-term repository. However, the following deficiencies were noted:
  3. Google Scholar. This is also a valuable resource, with somewhat better search facilities and added capabilities especially citation-counts. However, the following deficiencies were noted:

Attention was drawn to a number of other locations in which catalogue-entries, abstracts and/or whole papers may be lodged, including:

Attention was also drawn to the Publish or Perish tool, on the site of Anne-Marie Harzing, which leverages off Google Scholar to produce citation analyses using various scientometric statistical tools.

There was discussion about how to facilitate greater citation (and, very importantly, use!) of prior Bled papers by future researchers.

Consideration was given to whether some specific encouragement should be provided to submitting authors to make appropriate reference to prior Bled papers. The suggestions were made that:

3.3 Member Profiles

There was a degree of interest in providing access to information about members of the Bled community. This might take the form of a directory that enables access to individuals' own pages, particularly those that identify topic-areas in which each individual is currently active. This would assist community-members in such contexts as the formation of international teams to conduct research and bid for research grants, and the identification of potential reviewers, panel members and session chairs.

The locations at which individuals record profile information and current activities vary widely, and include:

A 'BledSpace' web-site could store small amounts of key profile data, such as name, contact-points, affiliations, photo, primary research interests, and hotlink(s) to the person's home-page and current activities.

The question was raised as to whether a better alternative would be for the AIS Directory to be extended to provide such a service for sub-communities. That would have the great advantage of being a common service for far more groups than just the Bled Conference. On the other hand, the following difficulties are apparent:

3.4 Meta-Tagged Photographs

As a first step towards a Bled eCommunity facility, Petra Schubert and Michael Koch have tagged pictures of previous years' Bled conferences at They have used the following tags: <year>, bled, conference, econference.

Such informal, free-text metadata is commonly referred to as a 'folksonomy', to distinguish it from the kinds of formal taxonomies and defined meta-data vocabularies used by professional cataloguers. It has the advantage of being readily implemented. It depends on relevant images being placed on the Web and tagged in a manner reasonably consistent with that adopted by people who search for them. The semi-formalised tagging discipline proposed by Schubert and Koch appears to satisfy that need, i.e. everyone doing the tagging should use '<year>, bled, conference, econference'.

The disadvantages are firstly that the results are a heap rather than an ordered list; and that the flickr service is designed to support images rather than any object nomatter what format it is in. Although parallel developments have also occurred in the areas of bookmarks (e.g. and video (e.g. YouTube), no generic tool appears to have emerged for web-pages as a whole.

4. Conclusions

It was not intended that the Workshop give rise to formal conclusions or recommendations. The following are interpretations made by the convenor.

(1) The Top Priorities

Multiple participants saw the top priorities as being:

(2) Additional Community Services

Workshop participants saw benefits in the following categories of tool, in approximately descending order of importance:

Author Affiliations

Roger Clarke is Principal of Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd, Canberra. He is also a Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre at the University of N.S.W., a Visiting Professor in the E-Commerce Programme at the University of Hong Kong, and a Visiting Professor in the Department of Computer Science at the Australian National University.

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The content and infrastructure for these community service pages are provided by Roger Clarke through his consultancy company, Xamax.

From the site's beginnings in August 1994 until February 2009, the infrastructure was provided by the Australian National University. During that time, the site accumulated close to 30 million hits. It passed 65 million in early 2021.

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Created: 17 June 2008 - Last Amended: 20 July 2008 by Roger Clarke - Site Last Verified: 15 February 2009
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