Can different web app stores share usage data such as reviews, ratings, and stats on how often an app has been downloaded or embedded?
Thats the question that we investigated in the SPAWS project. And the answer is:
Building on the Learning Registry and Activity Streams we connected together several web app stores aimed at sharing web widgets and gadgets. Each time a user visits a store and writes a review about a particular widget/gadget, or rates it, or embeds it, that information is syndicated to other stores in the network.
This means that, even if a store is focussed on a niche market, the web apps in the store can include user reviews and information collected from a wider federation. It also means that web app developers can pull together all the reviews and download stats for their apps to display on their own site, even when they are sharing their work in multiple stores.
We created a software library that developers can use to add “paradata sharing” to web app stores, and integrated it into Edukapp, a “white label web app store”. Edukapp is being used by ITEC for sharing web apps between secondary school teachers, and now by SURFNet to share web apps used in research portals in higher education. Both of these stores should be in production use in 2013, and several other web app stores, both educational and commercial, have also shown strong interest in adopting it.
SPAWS isn’t limited to web apps and app stores – the same approach can be used for all types of resources and repositories, for example to share reviews and usage stats about learning materials, books, 3D printer models or whatever you like.
The SPAWS software library itself is open source and can be readily added to any Java project using Maven or Ivy. You can also fork it on Github.
Thanks go to the JISC/HEA OER Programme for funding this work, and to Amber Thomas for being a great programme manager!