UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

IWMW and Innovation

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28 May 2008

UKOLN is now one of JISC’s Innovations Centres. But how does UKOLN participate in innovation? An approach we have taken during my time at UKOLN has been to make use of our annual Institutional Web Management Workshops (the IWMW series of events which have been running since 1997) to deploy a variety of innovative approaches. Doing this at a popular annual event (which is often fully-subscribed, attracting from 150-200 participants from throughout the HE sector) can help to maximise awareness of and, potentially, the impact of such innovation.

A number of examples of innovations were made available for the IWMW 2005 event, held at the University of Manchester:

The use of RSS for news alerts has become embedded at subsequent IWMW events, as has pro-active use of the venue’s WiFi network. At IWMW 2006 we introduced use of wikis to support note-taking and sharing at the discussion group sessions – again an approach which has become standard at IWMW events. IWMW 2006 was also the year in which tagging (using the IWMW2006) tag became popular, allowing bookmarks and photographs to be easily pulled together. And our initial experiments with the use of social networking services to support an event began that year, with the establishment of a Frappr community.

As might be expected innovation does not always necessarily lead to the deployment of a sustainable service. At IWMW 2006 we also tested use of a chatbot and provided access to a remote audience for a number of the plenary talks using the Access Grid. And as well as the ACcess Grid we also had a live Web stream of the plenary talks, with Michael Webb’s talk on Developing a Web 2.0 Strategy subsequently being made available on Google Video. We also experimented with another approach to use of a chat facility at the event – this year using the Gabbly service, instead of an IRC service we had used at IWMW 2005.

At last year’s event, IWMW 2007, we continued to provide an RSS feed (not only of news, but also syndication of the key content areas of the Web site – details of the sessions and the speakers) and a wiki service. And in addition we launched IWMW’s first innovation competition– which provided the participants with an opportunity to demonstrate to their peers examples of their approaches to innovation. Again the plenary talks were streamed on the Web and this time all of the talks were subsequently made available on Google Video.

We have evaluated the innovations – and we’re pleased to see that other services, such as JISC with its use of Crowdvine at this year’s JISC 2008 conference on Enabling Innovation, are now beginning to implement similar ideas.

But what do you feel we should do next? Should we seek to consolidate on these experiments? Or, alternatively, are there other areas in which the community would encourage UKOLN to continue innovation – so that if we encounter problems, institutions will benefit from knowing what not to do :-)

10 Responses to “IWMW and Innovation”

  1. For consideration: create and (especially) use, and find uses for, a UKOLN area within a virtual environment such as Second Life. I say “such as” as there are emerging alternatives to Second Life. You’ll only really know what works, and what doesn’t, by trying stuff. Virtual environments aren’t going to go away anyway, as e.g. broadband takeup increases, PCs get more powerful and the software improves, so ignore them at your peril :)

    Related to this; it’s been interesting seeing the comments on Twitter, Facebook et al from people who will be making the trip to Aberdeen. Expensive for some; time-consuming (especially by train) for others. 11 hours on a train next to mobile-phone shouting chavs, just to reach an event; no thanks. Perhaps at events like this there should be – by default – a parallel virtual world option so people can sit at home/office and participate?

    We have been promised this kind of thing by futurists for several decades now, but it’s still more the exception than the rule. Tho’ if I can sit here on this remote Outer Hebrides island, with often significant technical hurdles, and happily attend and participate in virtual world events, probably anyone else can.

    Anyway, this issue – and possibility of doing more event “attending” online – is only going to become more acute as oil prices rise anyway. Diesel is 1.45 a litre here as of this morning, and it costs several hundred pounds just to fly to the mainland. That’s coming to the rest of you soon…

  2. Hi John – Thanks for your comments. UKOLN has already experimented with use of Second Life to complement a workshop – one on Exploiting The Potential Of Blogs and Social Networks. That was a useful experiment, but didn’t really provide a satisfactory alternative to attending the event in the flesh. And I feel that we should recogonise the value of face-to-face meetings, especially for events such as IWMW which provide a valuable social role for members of institutional Web management teams. And I think we should also acknowledge the importance of such face-to-face meetings for members of the community in far-flung places such as Aberdeen (and Northern Ireland and Wales), who are normally expected to travel to places south of the border.

  3. Brian – granted, VWs are unlikely to be a totally satisfying alternative. For example, conference dinners (especially when someone else is paying!) are a more edible and sociable option than sitting in front of a PC in a dressing gown nibbling on salted guga (don’t ask). Hence the parallel option.

    I recently “attended” a parallel event in SL that was useful and informative (and I captured a copy of the open text chat), leading to more contacts. Note: there were several hundred “virtual” attendees, far more than in the real world event. Although I missed the “real” lunch, which from Twitter comments sounded good, doing it virtually had the advantage that even with a 10am UK start, I was able to sleep in (in my own home) until 9:30, “attend”, and still do some work later that day.

    Travel time: 15-20 seconds. Expense: nil. Carbon footprint: less than a mouse.

  4. I’m not entirely convinced that VWs for this purpose are such a massive improvement over live streaming+IRC.

    For me, the weakness isn’t in the number of services used or which ones are used, but in how they’re pulled together on the IWMW site. The more distributed services you use, the better your local information management and information architecture needs to be.

    Looking at last year’s page here: there is a link to the videos at the bottom of the page but it would be better to have them at the top, and use embedded videos instead.

    Basically, I think you should capitalise more on the services you’re using. Just linking to them in the header menus is doing yourselves a disservice, particularly during and post-event.

  5. “and use embedded videos instead.” – as well as linking to them as well of course.

  6. Hi Phil – Good points. In the example of the videos of last year’s event, this came together at the last minute, and we weren’t sure that it would work (in fact it worked well). And I think you’re right that we need to give more thought to the navigation after the event has finished. However I should add that, as you suggested, the videos have been embedded on the pages for the individual plenary talks, as can be seen from the example of Alison Wildish’s talk.

  7. Sure, if I ever scroll down far enough to see it.

    Whilst the talk is on it’d be nice if there was a big highlighted section at the top of the 2008 page saying “chat here, wiki here”. Or even better: “What’s on right now: Jon’s talk about Web 8.2 (watch live stream), Sarah’s talk about CSS (watch live stream)”.

  8. Also, it’s easy to be a critic ;)

  9. Hi Phil – your comments are appreciated. We did consider looking into using an application which would manage this process, as opposed to the current setup of using a variety of services – however we ran out of time to do this for IWMW 2008. Your comments are useful in identifying what we should be doing for IWMW 2009.

  10. Looking at this thread again now, it would be great if the IWMW2008 homepage had the plenary videos embedded on it slideshare-style (once they’re available of course) as well as the normal place. It would make it way more obvious what the event was about and give a nice entry point for anyone coming to the site fresh.

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