Networking at Our Dynamic Earth at the IWMW 2012 event.

We are currently in the process of finalising a venue for UKOLN’s IWMW 2013 event. Next year’s event will be the 17th in the series of annual events which, as described in the newcomer’s session at IWMW 2012, aims to “keep web managers up-to-date with developments and best practices in order that institutions can exploit the Web to its full potential“.

But before becoming too immersed in the detailed planning it would be useful to look back at the IWMW 2012 event which took place in June at the University of Edinburgh. I have previously summarised the participants’ feedback from the event. When I received an email from the Scottish Web Folk mailing list about a regional meeting taking place which would review the IWMW 2012 event I realised that this would provide an opportunity for further feedback. After the meeting the following summary was sent to the list:

All agreed that it was a great conference.

  • All happy with the range of subjects covered. Many felt that the quality and relevance of talks were excellent. Trends around responsive websites and content as data and data as content appealed.
  • Some were pleasantly surprised that there was little on social media.
  • XCRI-CAP information very useful and all agreed that it would be important to monitor progress on this in England to prepare for impact on Scotland

Some ideas for next year’s conference:

More on content strategy, responsive design, multi-platform strategies.

We also agreed that it might be interesting to consider trying to get a big international name from the Web industry to provide a keynote and possibly controversial talk.

It was very pleasing to hear how well the event was received by Web managers across Scottish Universities. It was also good to see that the two main content areas – addressing the challenges of supporting mobile devices and understanding the opportunities provided by the growth in importance of data – were relevant to the sector.

In addition to the feedback provided from a meeting of Scottish Web Folk during the event itself we asked a small number of participants for their thoughts on the event. This feedback was provided as brief video interviews. There were a total of nine interviews, each of which lasted from 1.5 to 3 minutes. Four of the interviews, from Marieke Guy, David Sloan, John Kelly and Claire Gibbons, were given by workshop facilitators and typically summarised their sessions. The other five interviews were given by participants, three of whom were attending an IWMW event for the first time. These five interviews are available below.

Tracey Milnes
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In this interview, lasting 2 minutes, Tracey Milnes, Website Officer at York St John University explains the reasons why she decided to attend an IWMW event for the first time. Tracey works for a small university with a small team Web team. Her main interest is content management and she was looking forward to meeting other people with similar interests – this was the most valuable aspect of the event. She has a particular interest in designing a responsive web site suitable for access to mobile devices. Tracey concluded by telling the interviewer that she’ll be looking forward to attending further IWMW events.
Jess Hobbs
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In this interview, lasting 1 minute 55 seconds, Jess Hobbs, Content Manager at the Quality Assurance Agency, summarises her reasons for attending IWMW 2012 for the first time and describes how she learnt about the importance of data, the importance of openness and the importance of applying policies and processes to enhance web accessibility. Every talk and workshop has provided Jess with useful links and resources to investigate when she returns to work.
Sarah Williams
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In this interview, lasting 1 minute 50 seconds, Sarah Williams, University of Exeter describes her reasons for attending IWMW 2012 for the first time. Her colleagues had attended previous IWMW event and had said how valuable the event was. She described it as “inspiring”, especially for learning from others and appreciated the willingness of her peers to share their approaches and solutions. She was particularly inspired by the session on Web accessibility and will be looking to apply the approaches used at the University of Southampton at her institution.
Kevin Mears
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In this interview, lasting 1 minute 55 seconds, Kevin Mears, Web developer at the University of Glamorgan, describes his doodling activities at the IWMW 2012 event which he shared with other delegates. He highlighted Responsive Design and Data as the two key topics areas of interest and described his intentions to make use of Google Refine for data cleaning purposes.
Tom Knight-Markiegi
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In this interview, lasting 1 minute 34 seconds, Tom Knight-Markiegi, Sheffield Hallam order topamax cheap University, describes the importance of the networking opportunities provided by the IWMW 2012 event. He has a particular interest in the mobile sessions at the IWMW 2012 event. He has picked up lots of useful resources and tips at the event. He will be suggesting approaches to use of the mobile web to his colleagues and will be sharing details of resources he found, especially a number of relevant JISC resources.

What are the key messages from these interviews? It seems clear that networking opportunities provided at the event is particularly important as is the willingness of participants to share their experiences and share tips and resources. It was also interesting to note how the event can inspire participants. In recent years we have sought to invite inspirational speakers in order to provide such inspiration. Judging by the feedback received for IWMW 2010 and IWMW 2011, Paul Boag and Ranjit Sidhu successfully fulfilled this role in recent years. In light of the suggestion from the Scottish Web Folk that we should “consider trying to get a big international name from the Web industry to provide a keynote and possibly controversial talk” it seems that we should be looking to find an inspirational speaker for next year’s event. Whether the speaker should be encouraged to be controversial is an interesting question; Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski in his talk which asked “Going Online – Do Universities Really Understand the Internet?” was certainly controversial in his views of the limitations of the home page design for a number of prestigious UK Universities. The reaction to the talk was very mixed with feedback ranging from:

  • “I didn’t agree with everything he said but it was by far the most entertaining and lively talk we saw. Controversy is good“,
  • “He was excellent, even though most of what he said was complete rubbish! Very entertaining.
  • Very useful to get the executive perspective – really helped to understand why the execs don’t get it.

through to:

  • Really shouldn’t have been let in. Waste of a session. Ill informed at best. I can point to user research that contradicts some of his ‘facts’.
  • Abysmal, and to think the day was 30mins longer because of this…

Beyond the style of presenting to the content itself, it seemed that the decision to address the mobile environment and data in a number of sessions was appropriate. It was also pleasing that two of the video interviews highlighted the value of the plenary talk and workshop session on Web accessibility. These sessions, which highlighted the BS 8878 Code of Practice and its relevance in higher education, reflected work I have been involved with over the years with the two speakers, EA Draffan and David Sloan. It does seem that the sector is interested in hearing more about approaches to Web accessibility which go beyond advocacy for WCAG guidelines.

Finally it was interesting to note the value which was given in a number of the video interviews to sharing resources. We have encouraged workshop facilitators to make their slides available on Slideshare using the IWMW12 tag so that the slides can be more easily found by others and the IWMW 2012 Slideshare Presentation Pack currently contains 20 slideshows, including those given in plenary talks and workshop sessions. But beyond the slides we should look at additional approaches we can take to facilitate such sharing of resources. Since one of the interviews mentioned the value of JISC resources to support institutional Web development activities it will, I think, be useful to explore ways in which the range of resources developed through JISC funding can be highlighted across this community. The Scottish Web Folk report also pointed out that the “XCRI-CAP information very useful“. Since the session on “The Xcri-cap Files” given by Claire Gibbons and Rob Englebright was based on the JISC Coursedata programme it would appear desirable to ensure that relevant JISC-funded projects make use of engagement and dissemination opportunities at future IWMW events.

In brief, therefore, these reflections have led me to conclude:

  • IWMW attendees place great importance on the networking and sharing opportunities provided at the event. We should therefore ensure that presentation time (e.g. the plenary talks) does not intrude on networking events. In addition since live video streaming of plenary talks does not encourage such networking opportunities, we should not be concerned that live streaming will significantly reduce the numbers of attendees at the event.
  • We should ensure that relevant JISC programmes and projects are made aware of the opportunities for engagement and dissemination which IWMW events can provide.
  • We should explore additional ways in which resources can be shared.

I’d welcome comments on these reflections.

Acknowledgement: Photograph of Networking at Our Dynamic Earth at the IWMW 2012 event taken by Sharon Steeples and available on Flickr under a CC BY-NC-SA licence.