Background

On Monday 12 March 2007 I gave a seminar on Deployment Strategies For Web 2.0 at the University of Nottingham, following an invitation from Stephen Pinfield, Deputy Chief Information Officer at the University I received the invitation from Stephen following a similar presentation (entitled Web 2.0: How Should IT Services and the Library Respond?) I gave in November to senior managers in library and IT service department at East Midlands Universities.

The aim of this presentation was to engage with a wider range of staff responsible for the delivery of services in support service departments. About 100 people signed up for the seminar, which included staff from several of the local universities.

I was particularly pleased when I arrived at the University to discover that the talk was being videoed to China! Apparently the University of Nottingham Ningbo Web site. So a video link was set up to enable IT support staff at the Ningbo campus to attend the seminar.

The Talk

The talk gave an introduction to a variety of aspects of Web 2.0, with a particular emphasis of its applications within a higher education context. A new development to this talk was the addition of links to relevant postings published in this blog. This aims to provide access to additional reading materials, but, more importantly I would argue, access to comments about the posting and the ability to engage in those discussions. In particular I updated one of my slides which suggested that encouraging take-up of the FireFox and various FireFox plugins can provide a simple means of engaging with various Web 2.0 services. Following the comments made by Mark Sammons and Phil Wilson to my posting on FireFox – The Researchers Favourite Application I now describe the difficulties in managing FireFox across a large organisation and invited the participants at the seminar to engage with the issues made in the comments.

Another new aspect of the talk was in extending the discussion on strategies for deployment of Web 2.0 technologies within an organisation. A set of new slides suggest the need to develop a risk assessment and risk management approach to using Web 2.0, with the advice that this approach should also be applied to defending the status quo (there are risks associated with doing nothing) and in sticking with the traditional approach of use of licensed software from well-established software vendors (we have seen company takeovers which can affect published roadmaps and, of course, companies may also go out-of-business).

Reflections

In my talk I argued that some of the traditional assumptions that made have been made are no longer necessarily true. In particular I suggested that in a Web 2.0 context, we no longer need to own the applications which are used to provide services to our user communities. I summarised this view by suggesting that “Ideology is dead; pragmatism rules“. Rob Kirkwood, a former colleague of mine at Loughborough University, responded by suggesting that “Ideology may not be dead, but a greater emphasis need to be placed on pragmatic approaches to the provision of IT services” – a less snappy conclusion, but one which is more accurate, I would feel.

Opening slide for talk (hosted on Slideshare,net)

The other interesting aspect to this talk was the video-conferencing link to China. I was very pleased that this worked so well ()and one aspect that I introduced shortly before that talk started was use of a Gabbly chat facility to allow that participants in China to have a mechanism for providing comments and feedback). It helped that the opening slide for my presentation explicitly stated that I granted permission for my presentation to be broadcast, as illustrated (and can be seen from the slides which are available on Slideshare). It would have been unfortunate if I had not given permission for my talk to be made available to a remote audience (which I would legally be allowed to do) or for the talk to be recorded (which I would have been happy with, although, in this case, the talk was not recorded).

We are likely to see much greater take-up of communications technologies to allow users at various locations to participate in meetings, seminars, etc. so there will be a need to address the technical issues and also, and more importantly, I feel, the non-technical issues associated with maximising the benefits to a distributed audience. UKOLN has published a briefing document on “Guidelines For Exploiting WiFi Networks At Events” which covers some of these higher-level issues. One additional area that should be added to this document, based on my experiences at Nottingham, are ways of engaging effectively with both the local and remote audiences: at the start of my talk I mentioned that remote audience and received feedback from them (using Gabbly) on who they were and what they hoped to get from the session); however at the end of the talk, I moved nearer to the audience for the questions and discussions session, forgetting (until I was reminded by the AV technicians) that the remote audience then couldn’t see anything and couldn’t hear the questions and my responses.

Feedback

I would welcome feedback from participants at the seminar on any of the issues raised during the talk, or more general issues related to deployment strategies for Web 2.0, engagement with remote audiences, etc.