This year the tenth in the series of UKOLN’s annual Institutional Web Management Workshops was held here at the University of Bath. This was also the year in which I stepped down as chair of the Programme Committee and handed responsibility to my colleague Marieke Guy. The event, which took place on 14-16 June 2006 was also the largest we’ve held and, judging by the comments and scores on the evaluation forms, the best ever!
The timetable for the workshop took a similar structure to previous years: a number of plenary talks which covered institutional case studies, related to the workshop’s theme of “Quality Matters” and talks which addressed broader issues of interest to participants (this year, those topics were Web 2.0 and, very much related to Web 2.0, openness). In addition, the tenth anniversary also featured a talk which gave Reflections on 10 years of the Institutional Web).
The interactive and participative nature of IWMW events continued, with 18 parallel sessions, from which participants could attend two sessions. These sessions, lasting for 90 minutes, provided an opportunity for more open discussion and debate on the topics covered in the sessions (although the timings for the second workshop sessions was cut short, in several instances, by the unfortunate clash with a England World Cup game!).
The event also provided an opportunity for UKOLN to continue to evaluate a range of new technologies. The workshop provides a very valuable opportunity to do this, as it can maximise knowledge and awareness of new technologies and allows for discussion about the benefits of such technologies. A good example of this can be seen with Brian The Chatbot.
This animated avatar allows users to users to provide text input (such as “When will the workshop be held?” or “Are there any good pubs in Bath?”); the response is given in synthesised speech and an equivalent textual display. A workshop on the potential of chatbots within HE institutions was held, which provided a valuable opportunity for participants with an interest in this technology to discuss the application, and also for the vendor to meet personnel for several institutions and to hear about issues and concerns shared across the community (which are likely to be different to many providers of commercial Web sites).
Other technologies which featured this year included use of the Access Grid which enabled remote participants at Oxford and Manchester University to engage with one of the plenary talks, and use of streaming video technologies, which, at one point, reached out to 18 remote participants.
The numbers of participants possessing laptops of PDAs grew this year, so it was pleasing Bath University Computing Service was able to provide a reliable WiFi network. Access to networked services during events such as IWMW is becoming more generally accepted as a norm.
The acceptance of networked applications as the norm is complemented by a realisation of the importance of the Institutional Web Management Workshop as a major event for the Institutional Web Management Community (complemented by the web-support and website-info-mgt JISCMail lists). My growing understanding of the term Community of Practice (CoP) and how this term relates to the social networking aspect of Web 2.0 is helping me appreciate the strengths of our community and the potential we have to build on this in the future. So I’m very much looking forward to IWMW 2007, which will be held at the University of York on 16-19 July 2007 – especially as the workshop theme is “Next Steps for the Web Management Community“