Reflections on Technologies Used at IWMW 2011
Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 16 August 2011
The Need to Reflect on Changes to Working Practices
UKOLN’s annual IWMW event provides a useful opportunity to evaluate new technologies with participants from across the UK HE sector being able to identify successes which may be of valuable for use in their own institutions. In addition there will be a need to reflect on technologies which have failed to live up to their expectation since this will help to minimise others making similar mistakes. This post provides a summary of our experiences, in part to ensure that the experiences can inform future UKOLN events and, in addition, so that others can learn from our experiences.
Technologies Now Embedded
Certain technologies are now embedded at IWMW events. Twitter, for example, is well-established and is used in conjunction with TwapperKepper which provides an archive of the #iwmw11 tweets. The Summarizr service for the week of 23-29 July shows that there were a total of 1,514 tweets from 185 users. This compares with 3,080 tweets from 282 users for a similar 7-day period for the IWMW 2010 event which probably reflects the reduction in the length of the event from 3 to 2 days.
The number of geo-located tweets has also decreased slightly since last year, with the 100 such tweets representing 6% of the total number of tweets. The Summarizr service, developed by Andy Powell, Eduserv, allows you to zoom in on the location of the tweets. From the map we can see the locations of the main lecture theatre, the halls of residence and the bar, together with the pub I visited on the night before the event.
From the list of the top 10 tweeted hashtags we can see how the use of a clearly defined hashtag for the plenary talks is being used to associate tweets with a specific talk. We might also speculate whether the number of tweets has a relationship with the interest generated in the talks, as suggested by the evidence that the most highly rated talk was the opening talk on “ OK, we know what you do, so how much is it worth?” given by Ranjit Sudhu also generated the largest number of tweets:
Note also that a Scoot.it summary of tweets, blog posts and photos about the event was also published.
Slideshare is another mature technology which has been used for the past 5 years at IWMW events. As mentioned in a post which described Evidence of Slideshare’s Impact Slideshare has proved successful in enhancing access to plenary talks given at the events. This year we have encouraged facilitators of the parallel sessions to make their slides available in the IWMW 2011 event group. We have also provided a Slideshare pack of all of the presentations (as illustrated). This resource is available on the IWMW 2011 Web site and can also be embedded elsewhere.
Note that we noticed that the event group for previous years had attract spam comments and spam presentations (which have now been deleted). We will shortly change the access permissions so that no new presentations can be added in order to ensure that this group contains appropriate content.
The IWMW 2011 Blog
For the third year running a blog was used to support the event. The IWMW 2011 blog was launched on 8 June 2011. It was used before the event to promote the event and highlight key features. During the event interviews with speakers and participants were published on the blog and after the event various summaries of the event were published.
For the IWMW 2010 blog we used the BuddyPress plugin to provide social networking capabilities. However this was little used and we have come to realise that people tend not to make use of a social networking service dedicated to an event; rather they prefer to use existing social networking tools, such as Twitter. We therefore decided not to use BuddyPress this year.
As might be expected the blog attracted the largest number of visits during the event, as can be seen below.
Note that the image also shows the traffic from mobile devices. On Monday 25 July there were a total of 157 visits, which included 31 from mobile devices (this high proportion probably due to participants being away from their office and therefore using a mobile device). In total there have been 1,306 visits to date, with 162 from mobile devices. Google Analytics provides the following summary of browser usage: FireFox (38.9%), Chrome (25%); Safari (30% including 4.3% from mobile device); Internet Explorer (12.9%) and a Mozilla-compatible browser (5.7%). This year ~10% of the visits to the blog have been from a mobile device. It will be interesting to see how next year’s statistics will compare with this.
This Year’s Experimentation
Live video streaming
Whilst we have provided live streaming of the plenary talks for a number of years this has normally been provided by the host institution. At this year’s event the host institution did not provide a video streaming service. We therefore had to select a service for ourselves and take responsibility for delivering the video streaming.
Following a suggestion from the eDevelopments Team in the Division for Lifelong Learning we decided to make use of the Adobe Connect tool. A Summer Update post on the eDevelopments Team blog described how the team are planning to ”Us[e] collaborative web-conferencing technology to enhance participation by prospective students from widening participation backgrounds“. We were happy to support the team by carrying out an evaluation and sharing our experiences.
My colleague Marieke Guy has already posted her summary of Event Amplifying With Adobe Connect and concluded “I would thoroughly recommend Adobe Connect for any event amplification, it was slick, fully customisable and easy to use“. I would agree with Marieke. As shown in the accompanying image (click for larger view) the tool provided the integration of the video-streaming, speaker’s slide and Twitter discussions which meant that the remote audience did not have to switch between different applications as has been the case for several of our previous amplified events. It should also be noted that although the tool does use a Fl;ash interface a dedicated Adobe Connect client for iPhone/iPod Touch and iPad devices is also available.
A recent post described Shhmoozing at Metrics and Social Web Workshop. Following this initial pilot we encouraged participants at IWMW 2011 who had an iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad to install this app and use it to be able to communicate with other users whilst at the event.
A total of 35 participants used the app at the event. Whilst I am not aware of any significant use being made of the tool I did receive a message saying that six people couldn’t find their way to the bar on the first evening of the event. This suggested a potentially valuable use for Shhmooze: being able to contact event organisers without having to post publicly (as would be the case with Twitter unless the organisers followed all the participants’ Twitter accounts) or having to divulge mobile phones numbers.
For the IWMW 2011 event I suspect that most participants would be happy to make use of Twitter as a communications channel and so did not feel the need to use Shhmmooze to support their interactions with others at the event. However for events in which use of Twitter isn’t the norm I do feel that a service such as Shhmooze could have a useful role to play.
As part of our explorations of services to support the management of the content related to events we made use of the Eventstreamsapp service. This hosted information about the programme and speakers. However the service did not allow us to manage other aspects of the event Web site and from the blog we found that there appears to have been no development work since January. We therefore decided to stop using the service and hosted the content on the main IWMW 2011 Web site which was used in conjunction with the Lanyrd service as described below.
Following our decision to stop using Eventstreams we decided to make greater use of the Lanyrd site for the IWMW 2011 event. Lanyrd was launched after the IWMW 2010 event had been held last year. However we were aware of significant interest in the service and so created a Lanyrd site for IWMW 2010 in order to provide details of the Twitter accounts for speakers at the event which could be linked to other events which the speakers had participated in. We subsequently updated the Lanyrd site with information about the various session at the event, included embedded videos and slides.
This year we provided the abstracts and timings of the sessions in advance, and included the slides and video recordings when they became available. It should be noted that our use of Lanyrd should help to enhance exposure to the content provided at the event in ways that would not be the case if the content was hosted only on the IWMW 2011 Web site.
This service is easy to use and does seem to be improving in functionality. Initially we felt that its strength was in providing social networking capabilities around speakers and participants at events (as can be seen from my Lanyrd profile page). However Lanyrd now seems to have developing into providing a richer hosting environment for event content. It will be interesting to see how the service may have developed by the time IWMW 2012 arrives.
Using new technologies is not without an element of risk. We therefore publish a risk assessment page for the event which summarises the services used and our assessment of the associated risks. In addition we hope that these reflections on the use of the services will be beneficial to others who may be considering making use of similar technologies at their events.