Publishing only PDF and not your sources is like voluntary entropy

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This post originally appeared here on 10th March 2018 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

Many documents from aid programmes are never published. However, even if they were published, in all my efforts to surface documents, I’ve only come across one word document. In fact, some time ago the Open University of Nigeria was interested in a programme to mass convert PDF back to Word.

Now, of course, there is conversation software (some smarter than others). However, it strikes me that converting, for example, an OpenOffice or Word Document to PDF is like the willful destruction of metadata (i.e. formatting data). Whether done accidentally or deliberately, it makes it  unnecessarily harder to work with the document.

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TES goes to Creative Commons

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This post originally appeared here on 29th January 2015 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

TES goes to Creative Commons! The help page on “Which Creative Commons licences can I choose from?” (updated Jan 13, 2015) states

We will be asking that every free resource uploaded to the TES site is given a Creative Commons licence.

The licences on offer are CC BY, CC BY-SA, and CC BY-ND.

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OER Guidance for Schools

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This post originally appeared here on 28th October 2014 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

The Leicester City Council OER Permissions and Policy and OER Guidance for Schools have been released!

Open Education Resources. Open Educational Resources (OER) are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free. Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop – but many schools are not familiar with open licensing and OER.

At a time when schools increasingly work with and rely on digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of all available resources, is essential for staff and schools. Creating Open Educational Resources allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work school staff and schools are doing.

Leicester City Council has given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence. By default, the rights of work created in the line of employment are assigned to the employer, unless a specific agreement has been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone at these schools. All schools in the city have been provided with information about the permission. You can download a zip file containing the notification of the permission and an accompanying briefing note which provides more information about what the permission means for community and voluntary controlled schools in the city. Also included are two model school policies – one for community and voluntary controlled schools where the local authority has already provided permission and one for schools where the governing body, as the employer, provides the permission. All four documents are provided in Word and in PDF.

Workflows with InDesign and creating accessible PDFs

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This post originally appeared here on 20th October 2014 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

We’ve recently completed the OER Guidance for Schools. We worked with a designer, who used InDesign, while our text was in Google Documents. Ideally, one would finish the text first, and then do the design. In practice, this doesn’t quite work, because inevitably new suggestions and corrections arise once one has the finished PDF.

One question is this: how do you check the InDesign version against the Google document? We used the text export from Google documents, and the pdftotext tool to create text files. These have slightly different formatting, but with a bit of scripting can be made to look sufficiently similar. We then used the ‘diff’ command line tool to look at the differences. That really enabled a detailed comparison of the Google document and the InDesign document. A better way would have been to use InDesign’s ability to work with XML in templates. We would have marked up the Google Document with some pseudo-xml, and used a script to automatically translate the document to proper XML, suitable for use with InDesign.

Some links:

We also generated OO and Word documents from the Google documents, and for those we would have had to remove the pseudo-xml, but one could have done that with a Google Apps script to remove them all in one go and reinstate them (using ‘Undo’) after the export. That would have saved us a lot of effort!

It’s also possible to export all InDesign ‘stories’ as plain text, but for ordering those you’d have to look at the XML (see below), so the texttopdf option works more straightforwardly.

We also wanted to have a way of checking image alternate text. This can be done by opening up the IDML files. These are just zip files, so they can be unzipped, giving access to the XML. In this XML look for the XML-tag “CustomAltText”, which contains the text, which can then be checked against the text you intended to put in.

You may know that in order to export InDesign documents to PDF, you need to specifically enable hyperlinks and tags, otherwise URLs and alternate text don’t make it into the PDF. The PDFs created by default,alongside the indd files, don’t have URLs or tags.

We also produced some PDF documents directly from Google Documents. While it’s possible to add alternate text in Google documents, we discovered that PDFs exported by Google Documents don’t seem to be tagged, and thus don’t meet accessibility standards!

Open data – open references

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This post originally appeared here on 1st June 2014 under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.

In preparing some of our forthcoming papers, we’re obviously working on literature reviews. This includes books (which are not available digitally), but also papers (which are available digitally, albeit not freely). For such books, the list of references is on paper, which means that for looking those up, they have to be typed in (e.g. into a Google Scholar search). But even for the papers that are available digitally, we have to do cutting and pasting to locate references (unless the publisher has got ‘cites’/’cited by’ available via their website).

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