UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 12 Feb 2009

Background to IWMW

The Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW) series was launched in July 1997 and has been held every year since, with the 3 day format being used since 1998. This event is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams and has been attracting an audience of 150-200 for some time now.

The eduWeb Conference

But what, I’ve wondered, is the equivalent in the US?  I recently came across the eduWeb conference Web site, which appears to be similar to IWMW. Reading the history of the eduWeb conference page I find that the original conference started in 2000 although it previously had a different name and location. The event, which is privately owned, was relaunched in 2005.  I found it interesting to read about how it perceives its target audiences:

The conference continues to focus on “both sides f the fence” (front end and back end) regarding a website’s development.

  • The “front end” includes marketing, communications, advancement, admissions – it includes any non-IT office that now has a website and knows that part of its strategy is to communicate to internal and external audiences.
  • The “back end” includes information technology, database development, applications, instructional design, mobile technology, RSS and more.

The core to having a conference like this was to bring these sides together…to learn from the other side, to learn to talk each other’s language and hopefully bring a better working relationship among the personnel that now create the Web.

It was also interesting to view the call for papers, which has three strands: (1) Marketing Communications; (2) Design & Development and (3) a Guest Track on Getting It Done!. An accompanying page provides suggestions for possible topics. A draft timetable is also available which, although it doesn’t yet provide details of the individual sessions,  does show how the conference is themed into the three strands.


The IWMW event, like eduWeb, has sought to engage with the marketing, design and management communities as well as those involvement in development work.   And I have to admit that I find eduWeb’s terms ‘front end’ and ‘back end’ quite useful – although I’m unsure how those involved in RSS, XML and other TLA and XTLA work will take to the ‘back end’ term. I wonder if developers in the UK, with the pantomime tradition which is probably not significant in the US (“oh no it’s not”),  would resent being relegated to the back end of the pantomime horse?

Unlike eduWeb, plenary talks at IWMW are intended for all participants. We have wondered whether we should provide streamed plenary talks, but feel that having a small number of plenary talks (ideally by charismatic speakers, such as Ewan Mcinosh’s closing talk at IWMW 2008) can provide a unifying theme which we can all talk about during the conference and afterwards. But is it time for a change?

As all twelve IWMW events have been organised by UKOLN with myself, initially and my colleague Marieke Guy having responsibility for the events, we have been able to ensure continuity of access to the event Web sites.  This enables myself and Marieke to be able to review the content over the years and to  spot trends and themes – and as this Web site are publicly available, others can do the same.  In the past few years we have also provided RSS feeds for various data sources, which enables us to, for example, provide a Google Map of the locationof the events and locations of the plenary speakers.

Trying to find out what had happened at previous eduWeb conferences has proved somewhat difficult. The best I could find were the Google results for searches for “eduWeb 2008“, “eduWeb 2007“, etc. which typically take me to individual blog posts about the event. I could find an official Web site or even a page which aggregates content from blogs of the event.

In the bar at the recent dev8D event I did, however, learn that a number of developers from the UK repository community had attended the eduWeb 2008 event. The developers, who attended several events in the US thanks to funding from the JISC CRIG project, have provided a video in which Dave Flanders (who, despite his American accent is based at Bloomsbury Colleges consortium and will shortly be starting work at the JISC) describes how the University of Chicago winning web site could be made even more effective. As described in the accompanying description of the video:

The EduWeb Awards had the University of Chicago as the winning web site (CMS). It was acclaimed for its minamalistic design, but we thought it could even take it a step further by utilising the Google minamalist search approach. We also thought it might be worth looking into Google SiteMaps to provide a common way of presenting University web sites to the user which could be optimised via the kinds of searches that took place on the local search engine.Point being that better search facilities (analytics) should be put into the institutional search engine so as to guarantee that the user is getting back what they want

It seems that valuable links have already been established with eduWeb. What other links could be made, I wonder? And has anyone attended both the eduWeb and IWMW events? If so, it would be useful to hear about the similarities, differences and things we can learn from each other.

Note that eduWeb 2009 will be held in Chicago on 20-23 July and IWMW 2009 in the University of Essex on the following week (28-30 July). An enthusiastic University Web developer could therefore attend both!

3 Responses to “What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference?”

  1. eduWeb has been around for some time with great success. For the past couple of years, the higher ed community really took up on sharing the content made available at eduWeb via blog posts, video streams and twitter.

    At, I blogged or invited guest bloggers to report about the sessions they attended – always with great sucess. Last year, I asked speakers to provide the gist of their presentation in 140 words or less.

    eduWeb 2008
    eduWeb 2007

    Salisbury Conference 2005 (pre-eduWeb

    There are usually 2 plenary talks: an opening keynote and a closing keynote. I gave the closing keynote last year at eduWeb.

    Another conference of interest for Web folks in North America is HighEdWeb, usually scheduled in October.

  2. Laura said

    More conferences are listed at:

  3. […] in February 2009 I asked What Can We Learn From The eduWeb Conference? It’s timely, I feel, to revisit that question but with a broader focus.  The question for […]

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