I’d like to followup on my “Initial Reflections on IWMW 2010” with some further thoughts, focussing this time on the innovative aspects of the event and the sustainability challenges.

Supporting Innovation

One of the aims of the IWMW series of events is to “ensure generic medication that institutions are well-positioned to exploit innovative developments which can enhance their services“. We seek to achieve this goal by (a) providing a forum for JISC-funded development activities to describe their activities and receive feedback from a key stake-holder community; (b) providing updates on significant new technical developments which will have an impact on institutional Web services and (c)  encouraging innovative developments centred around the event itself.

Damian Steer’s plenary talk on “Mobile Web and Campus Assistant” provided a good example of how the visibility of, in this case, a six month project  funded by the JISC at part of its Rapid Innovation programme, can be raised across the sector.

In addition there were a number of workshop sessions based on JISC-funded work which provided an opportunity for more in-depth discussions, including sessions on RDFa from Theory to Practice, Location Based Services Without the Cocoa, Mobile Apps vs Mobile Web, WordPress beyond Blogging, Course advertising and XCRI and Engagement, Impact, Value: Measuring and Maximising Impact Using the Social Web.

Geo-located tweets for the #iwmw10 tagAs well as the talks various examples of innovation were demonstrated at the event itself.  The JISC-funded developments to the Twapper Keeper Twitter archiving service have resulted in a number of developments to the service, the most recent of which have been developments to the RSS feeds from the service such as the inclusion of geo-location information. As described previously the Summarizr service, developed by Andy Powell at Eduserv, has exploited these recent developments and you can see how Twitter users had configured their clients to provide geo-location information for approximately 9% of the tweets.

Another example of a Twitter application which illustrates rapid development which took place around the event was the Twitter Buzzword Bingo application developed by Rich Pitkin.  This succeeded in its intention of providing some fun for the final session, with a tune being played whenever one of the event buzzwords was mentioned in a tweet. In order to add some level of interest to the game we negotiated a small prize (initially £10 for the person tweeting the final buzzword, to which Headscape and Statistics into Decisions agreed, during the game, to also donate an additional £20 to a charity).  As we had expected the 16 buzzwords (which myself, Marieke Guy and Kirsty Pitkin had selected) were spotted during normal Twittering activity in the final session – until only two buzzwords remained.  This triggered a flurry of random tweets containing a whole range of words associated with the event.  In order to ensure we had a winner before the event finished I initially gave a clue (“something to do with money”) and finally had to reveal the final buzzword (“economy’) which Adrian Tribe was quickest to retweet. Many thanks to Rich Pitkin for developing the game and to Headscape and Statistics into Decisions for their sponsorship.

Another game which was developed for the event was the QR quiz. As described by Mike Ellis, the developer, in the final session the PullTag game provided an opportunity for participants to gain a better understanding  of how QR codes work and make use of QR scanning software on their mobile phones in a fun and collaborative way.  It was appropriate that the team which won (the NERCs) very much worked in a collaborative fashion. Amazon vouchers will be sent to members of the winning team.

Information about Sheffield University and IWMW eventsThe final example of innovative development came from Thom Bunting, a colleague of mine at UKOLN.  Thom had taken the RSS feeds of the structured information (speaker biographies and session abstracts) for the 14 years of IWMW events and made this available as a Linked Data resource.  A particular feature of this demonstrator was the use of DBpedia to extract information about the host institution for the speakers and facilitators over the 14 years.  From DBpedia we could find, for example, groups which institutions were members of  (e.g. Association of Commonwealth Universities, Russell Group, etc.), information about students numbers, etc.  Linking this information with details of speakers and workshop facilitators can help to provide a valuable understanding of institutional involvement in the IWMW events and could potentially be used if an FOI request were to be submitted.

Addressing Sustainability Challenges

Maximising the Benefits of the Learning

How do we ensure that institutional Web teams are best-positioned to support their institutional objectives at a time of cuts?  The need to ensure that members of Web teams are aware of new developments which can enrich their services in a cost-effective way will be critical and a well-established national event such as IWMW should have an important role in supporting such objectives.

The event amplification also helps to ensure that such benefits can be gained not only by those physically present at the events but also those who are participating remotely.  These benefits are enhanced not only by the streaming videos of the talks and the Twitter back channel but also by the availability of slides on the IWMW 2010 Slideshare group. In addition the blog posts about the talks and the interviews with a number of the speakers and facilitators on the IWMW 2010 blog also helps participants to gain a deeper understanding of the contents of the sessions.

Maximise benefits of the event by the event amplification (described previously) and ensuring the resources can be accessed after the event. This includes summaries of the talks and workshop sessions on the blog, videos interviews with speakers and facilitators and provision of access to the slides provided by the speakers and workshop facilitators.

Providing a Cost-Effective Solution For the Sector

Does the event provide a cost-effective solution for building capacity across the sector? It is interesting to make comparisons with similar events in other parts of the public sector. The Building Perfect Council Websites ’10 event, for example, costs £225+VAT for a one-day event in comparison with the £350 for the 3-day IWMW 2010 event which included 2 night’s accommodation.

Meanwhile over in the US the HigherEdWeb conference, “the national conference for all higher education Web professionals—from programmers to marketers to designers to all team members in-between—who want to explore the unique Web issues facing colleges and universities”  costs $650 (although an early bird discount is also available). This main conference runs over three days although, unlike recent IWMW events, it includes the morning session of the first day. There is also a day of workshops which are held on the opening day – a Sunday! – which cost an additional $120 for one workshop or $200 for two.  Also note that the fee does not cover the accommodation, with discounted accommodation currently available at $119 per night.

The 2010 Eduweb Conference, which takes place in Chicago on 26-28 July, has a similar pricing structure – $695 registration fee (though down to $550 or $595 for early subscribers) though again with an additional fee of $250 for attendance at workshop sessions. Once again the event runs for 3 days with the workshops being held on the opening morning. Again one should note that the fee does not cover accommodation, with a rate or $179 + tax per night being quoted.

Engaging With the Commercial Sector

For a number of years the IWMW event has benefitted from sponsorship from commercial suppliers who have helped to support the costs of running the event. This year, once again Jadu and TerminalFour helped to support the infrastructure costs, with their sponsorship covering the costs of the  conference drinks reception and bags and badges and lanyards respectively. Statistics into Decisions (SiD) are a new sponsor for the event and they supported the costs of the sponsored places for five participants who did not have institutional funding to attend. Eduserv, a not-for-profit organisation based in Bath once again provided support for the event through their sponsorship of the pre-dinner drinks. Finally I should thank Site Confidence, a web performance testing company donated a prize of use of their software which was won by Helen Sargan of the University of Cambridge.

Final Words

Interview with Martin HamiltonI think it would be appropriate to leave the final words of my reflections on IWMW 2010 to Martin Hamilton, a first-time at an IWMW 2010.  As he describes in a video interviewI’ve gotten tens of thousands of pounds worth of free consultancy” from various discussions during his 3 days in Sheffield.

It would be fascinating to explore the financial benefits to the sector which have been gained by the event if Martin’s experiences are shared by others! I wonder how one would determine the return on investment the sector gains from the event?

Do you have any comments to make on the sustainability aspects of the event or suggestions as to how to measure the ROI?