This, my tenth year at UKOLN, has been the busiest year ever for giving presentations, with a total of 42 presentations given at conferences, seminars and workshops – I was invited to give another talk recently, but, like all fans of Douglas Adams, I knew when it was a good time to stop :-).

Many of the invitations to give talks were based on the excitement generated this year by Web 2.0 (although, as many readers of this Blog will be aware, Web 2.0 is an evolution of the Web and not a radically new thing and I have given similar talks on social networks and read-write technologies, including a talk to senior IT managers on What Can Internet Technologies Offer? at the UCISA Management Conference in March 2004 and a day’s joint UKOLN/UCISA workshop on Beyond Email: Strategies For Collaborative Working In The 21st Century in November 2004.

The initial major presentation of the year was given at King’s College London. This seminar on Web Futures: Implications For HE attracted well over 100 participants from many colleges around London. Similar numbers attended a follow up seminar on Web 2.0: Implications For HE held (this time I realised that use of the Web 2.0 term would help people to understand what was to be covered) at the University of Leeds. These two particularly well-attended seminars were followed by a number of other events which provided a valuable opportunity for spreading the message across a variety of UKOLN’s stakeholder community, including publishers, libraries and the cultural heritage sector.

These talks featured not only a description of Blogs, Wikis, RSS and related technologies, but also providing a user-context to their use (i.e. why it can be particularly appropriate for the HE and cultural heritage sectors) and a discussion of barriers to their deployment and strategies for addressing such barriers. It was also very useful to be able to engage with senior managers and policy makers (as well as Web developers and practitioners) at a talk on IT Services: Help Or Hindrance? at the UCISA Managers Conference in February 2006 and be facilitating an EMUIT meeting for IT Services senior managers and Librarians of Universities in the East Midlands at a meeting in which we discussed Web 2.0: How Should IT Services and the Library Respond?

Other areas which have been addressed include standards and accessibility. In both of these areas peer-reviewed papers were given at events hosted alongside the International World Wide Web conference, held in Edinburgh in May.

It should be noted that the events are no longer a simple matter of using PowerPoint, perhaps complemented by occasional demonstrations. Rather the events provide an opportunity to engage with Web 2.0 technologies and approaches. For example, this year all the presentations have had a Creative Commons licence on the title slide and the URL of the slides has also been included, enabling users to have access to the source material if they wish to subsequently make use of the slides. This also enables the slides to be downloaded during a presentation, which can provide accessibility benefits. In addition links to a variety of resources are embedded in the slides, enabling interested participants to follow up on areas of interest.

Another innovation this year has been to provide a chat channel which could be used as a ‘back channel’ (for questions, comments to the speaker) or to support discussion by participants at an event (including, on a number of occasions, remote participants).

One growth area I expect to see in 2007 is in location-based services. In order to gain experiences in this area I now have started to provide location details for the events I attend. This data can be processed by FireFox extensions such as Greasemap and by mashup services, such as the map of my presentations in 2006.

My final major event of 2006 was a talk on Let’s Do It Now: Mainstream Uses Of Collaborative Technologies which I gave at an event organised by the Stargazing group at the University of Edinburgh. This large event (which was full with over 100 participants) provided a forum at which Web 2.0 enthusiasts (including two undergraduate students) and senior managers at the University could have an open discussion about the strengths and weaknesses of Web 2.0, as part of an ongoing process to develop the University’s strategy in this area. I was particularly pleased that the discussions I’d had during the summer with Jean Ritchie (one of the event’s organisers) had resulted in a Web 2.0 event, with a live chat channel (see archive) to support the Webcasting of the talks.

Although this was probably the most high profile event which I contributed to, the most pleasing was the From Bits to Blogs – Taking the IT Revolution into Museums, Libraries and Archives” seminar organised by MLA North East and held at Teesside University in October 2006. My talk on Web 2.0: Implications For The Cultural Heritage Sector was well-received and it complemented the hands-on session nicely. Most valuable, though, was the feedback received about the event. Comments such as:

I was a bit nervous before the day as I am quite low tech and I was worried it would all go over my head, but I found it to be a very useful and enlightening day. It was good to have the technical terms explained as IT can have lots of jargon, and I felt inspired to go away and have a go at exploring some of these new ideas! It was good to be able to have a go at the different technologies there and then rather than just listening to someone explain them – nice lunch too!!

All presentations were very interesting and the venue was first class. Has changed my views regarding the potential of web 2.0 technologies, and how we can use it in public libraries, rather than blocking access to it!

..I really enjoyed it and its given me so many ideas of things to do – I even changed something on Wikipedia the day after! 

make one’s work seem worthwhile!

The last two events I’ve mentioned helped to reinforce my belief that the community is well-positioned to maximise the benefits of Web 2.0 in 2007, through the development of deployment strategies, which ensure that a user-focussed approach to development work is taken, which is informed by a risk management strategy and a process of engagement and discussions with the wide range of key stakeholders.

This is an area I am looking forward to being engaging in during 2007.