The CARET website is now an Archive

CARET was set up in 2000 in the heat of the dotCom boom and ‘global virtual universities’. Much has happened over the following 15 years and now CARET has been absorbed into the newly merged IT organisation: University Information Services

This site will be maintained as an archive for a few years, but don’t expect it to be available forever.

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Win £3000 in the University of Cambridge public data mapping Challenge

CoinsA prize of £3,000 is offered for the best collection of public data representing the academic profile of members of the University. Data will likely cover directory information like name and email, together with subjects taught or studied, publications, research interests, etc.

We are organising the competition to investigate what clues might be available to a person seeking to decode anonymised information that the University might from time to time release. We assume that the curious can assemble a reasonably complete profile of University members and we would like to know what information an attacker might have available from public sources. The reason for organising a competition is that we anticipate that you will be more innovative than us in thinking of ways of acquiring and assembling the data, and that there will be a wide range of possible approaches.

The project will run for 6 weeks from Monday August 1st, 2011 through to midnight on Monday September 12th, 2011. Submissions should be in the form of a web site with profile data pages for individuals, together with a ‘data manual’ addressing the judging criteria below and a zip file of the code necessary to collect and present the data in the web pages. Questions should be addressed to

Judging will necessarily be subjective, but we will use a panel of judges that will include respected members of the University and at least one external judge. Nevertheless, criteria will include:
–     Volume of data discovered. Duplicated data will be discounted and effort should be made to eliminate duplicate information from entries.
–    Academic relevance of the information. We are not interested in where a person dined on a given Sunday, but in data that can reasonably be said to be part of their academic profile.
–    Coverage of the University. The proportion of university members covered by the profile data assembled.
–    Verifiability of the data. Where/how was the data sourced so that we can respond to challenges concerning validity?
–    Accuracy of the data. If the data about an individual contains inaccuracies, it may reduce the utility of the rest of the information about that individual.
–    Maintainability of the data. How easy will it be to re-run the data collection to keep it up to date, should that be desirable?
–    Authority of data. Whether established by independent verification or citation of authoritative source (e.g. department web site) any analysis of likely authority of the information will enhance the value of the data.
–    Willingness to share approaches and techniques. There will be a strong preference for projects that either make their techniques and code available through an open licence, or make the techniques and code available to the University. Publishing of the techniques and code is also encouraged.

We are not interested in information at any cost; entries are expected to demonstrate ethical behaviour.

Although the sources should all be public, it is not our intention to publish the aggregated data ourselves. Rather, each person’s data will be made available to the person concerned through a Raven-protected page and comments will be collected. Such comments will not affect the judging.


This challenge is part of a JISC project to investigate the release of system log data in anonymised form. In analyzing the likelihood of identifying an individual from the anonymised data, it is thought valuable to understand what background information about a given individual might it be possible to assemble from public sources. This challenge will help us understand the scope and nature of such publicly available data.

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Bert Pareyn

Bert-website-mainBert, born and raised Belgian, first came to CARET in early 2010 as a student of HOWEST where he specialised in Flash, ActionScript and web related subjects. At CARET he got in touch with the Sakai team, who are creating an open academic environment for academic collaboration, and picked up his first experience in international project development. “As a Flash and ActionScript enthusiast I was already very interested in creating a memorable user experience by enhancing the application with animation and by thinking about usability. After working on Sakai for a while I quickly realised that creating and implementing user interfaces is my thing.”

A few of Bert’s pet peeves are unnecessary CSS and people who don’t pick their battles. He came back to Cambridge to start full time development for Sakai and still gets much joy and satisfaction out of developing.

Out of the office, Bert enjoys watching football and played it for about 15 years. “I was really competitive when I was young. Nowadays I still am but I prefer the social part to actually winning the match. Watching the game at home with a few friends is really all I need to relax after a week of work.” Aside from sports, Bert likes to play a game or enjoy a sunny day. He’s always open for conversation as long as you pick your battles (and don’t show CSS no-nos).

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JISC Steeple Benefits Realisation

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERABased on outputs of the Steeple project, this project explores specialised knowledge for supporting effective use of audio and video materials using new technologies. These emerging technologies streamline complex audio-visual encoding activities which will reduce the burden placed on departmental support services by demands for institution-wide podcasting services.

The Steeple project itself was conceived among a group of early adopters of institutional podcasting. Since the start of the Steeple project there have been very rapid developments within the UK HEI community, leading to widespread interest in the adoption of institutional podcasting. The Steeple project has therefore attracted strong interest within the wider UK HEI community, leading to request for support through workshops, further documentation, and for help in adoption of Steeple tools.  A number of HEIs asked for detailed advice on technology and policy, and visited the Steeple sites for workshops and consultations, and/or engaged in sustained email conversations.

Steeple BR will seek to address the issue of community support, making Steeple outputs available and working towards creating a sustainable community of interest in the UK. It is a key component of this project to engage with institutions (both those already in contact with Steeple, and new ones) through outreach visits and calls to understand their requirements, to explore the challenges, blockers and opportunities as regards institutional podcasting for them, and to determine the way in which the Steeple outputs can be of benefit to them.

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Happy Ada Lovelace Day


Today celebrates the achievements of Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer programme for Charles Babbage’s analytical engine.

To mark the day, bloggers around the world have pledged to write a post about a female heroine of science and technology. Though Ada’s programme never ran (the engine was never built) she remains an important figure in the development of computer programming. Perhaps just as importantly she is seen today as a role model for women working in science and technology.

Cambridge University has a tendency to change slower than other Universities and undoubtedly those outside may see us as antiquated or at best quaint, but inside we see things differently. While there are undoubtedly some areas of research which are still male dominated, women increasingly hold positions of importance and power in the University. We have a female vice chancellor and more recently, with the appointment of Anne Jarvis, a female head of the library.

In our office we are lucky to have a number of bright intelligent women working in programming and IT support. Sultan, Anne, Chris and Verity have very different roles but all have broken into what are unfortunately still male dominated areas of work. These talented women are central to so many of CARET’s projects and they inspire us all with their creativity and determination. Thank you ladies!

If you want to join in celebrating the day it’s not too late – you can pledge your support at

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New Cambridge Library Widget

Users of Facebook, iGoogle or CamTools can now add a Cambridge Libraries Widget to their pages. The Widget, which takes only seconds to install, allows you to search, view your library profile, view and renew loans, and view and cancel requests within the above three web applications.

This Widget is a product of the Arcadia Programme, and was developed by the University Library in collaboration with CARET. The Arcadia Project blog is worth reading if you are interested in web application projects and the creative ideas in this direction being developed for the University. (You can also get the latest updates on Harriet’s research here too)

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Chris Martin

Chris-website-large1Chris came to Computer programming from a non-traditional route as she has a Degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge where she specialised in Comparative linguistics. She then spent 15 years focusing on software development in the real world and has accumulated substantial experience in a large array of languages from Perl, C#, C++ and Java to Python, PHP, Javascript and even some SmallTalk.

She has furthered her study with university courses in Maths, Lexical Computing, Computational Linguistics, and Systems Analysis as well as courses in Medieval bookbinding.

Now based at the University of Cambridge, she works as a Senior developer at CARET mainly focusing on Digital Humanities projects such as Darwin Correspondence Project, Shahnama, Henslow Correspondence, and Chopin. She has also been a lead developer on the multinational collaboration project CollectionSpace, an open source museum collection management tool.

As a keen advocate of creating tools that empower experts to achieve their aims, rather than impose restrictions on them. Her research interests are around the use and development of reusable and extensible tools for data management in the humanities world, and their implications for aggregation and exposing data to a wider audience whilst allowing the academic to retain authority and control over the data.

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New Arcadia fellow

Some of these people may be eating a cheese scone

Some of these people may be eating a cheese scone

CARET’s famous cappuccino machine, or cheese scones amongst the iconic architecture of the University Library? The catering andthe architecture of the two institutions may be like chalk and cheese, but both CARET and the Library share a preoccupation with the ways in which new technologies can support the work of the University.

That’s why CARET was delighted when Harriet Truscott, who’s been working as Lead Researcher on the CourseTools project for the last year, was awarded an Arcadia Fellowship. She’s now leaving behind the cappuccino machine for a while, to take up residence amongst rare books and high-tech IT projects at the University Library.

The Arcadia Programme is a three-year programme exploring the role of academic libraries in a digital age, and creating new programmes and services, in particular

for our undergraduates. Talented people from across the UK were invited to apply for Fellowships at the University Library, with past Fellows researching topics from, the role of reading lists to the scholarly opportunities offered by digital ‘mash-ups’. Harriet will be researching the potential impact of storing past exam papers in an entirely digital format. This would allow college libraries to do away with the need to bind and store large numbers of exam papers each year, and allow students to access past exam papers easily for revision during vacations.

“It sounds like a ridiculously simple problem, but when you look into it, there’s been surprisingly little research into how students can best use past papers to revise,” Harriet explained. “I’m hoping to have a couple of prototypes of alternativesready by the Lent vacation, so that students can try them out and have their say on what’s most useful to them.”

However, thinking back to her student days, Harriet does have one concernover her new home: “I’m sure the cheese scones used to be twice the size.”

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Anne Clarke

Anne_website2Anne is ‘our man’ in Engineering. She’s working on the Modular e-administration project with Richard Prager. The first part of this was developing a small lightweight piece of software to help with the allocation of teaching duties to staff. This is now being implemented for other departments within the University. Anne’s first degree was in the Natural Sciences Tripos at Cambridge and she’s pleased to be back, contributing to teaching and learning at the University. It also helps that she’s familiar with the intricate and sometimes archaic academic systems of the University.

Anne is a talented and thoughtful developer. Her main goal is to make software which is easy to use and has a clear purpose. She came to CARET after a spell away from work raising her children, whilst volunteering at Aptivate – a non profit organisation which develops IT services to aid International development. In the past she’d worked in IT for Reuters on stock exchange feeds and also spent time in the USA building software for companies distributing baby clothes and for a wine warehouse. She’s also worked at Coutts bank, and spent time above a funeral parlour (spooky!) while working for a London based software company.

Anne enjoys visiting National Trust properties in her spare time, dabbling in a little watercolour painting and gardening. Most impressive is the amazing igloo she built in her back garden!

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Tennyson readings by the English Faculty

Tennyson by Millais

Tennyson by Millais

Following the success of the reading of Milton’s Paradise Lost last year, the English Faculty celebrated the bicentenary of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s birth with readings of his poems. CARET’s Pete Cook was on hand all day to record the performances of members of the English Faculty, which was streamed live on the 23rd of October.

If you missed the live event, or you’d like to listen again to your favourite poems you can find podcasts of all the performances at

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