Web Focus: Report on the Fifth Institutional Web Management Workshop
The fifth Institutional Web Management Workshop was held at Queen's University Belfast on 25-27 June 2001. This year's workshop, which had the theme "Organising Chaos", was the largest to date with 150 delegates. It was also the longest workshop, lasting from Monday morning until Wednesday lunchtime. The extra half-day compared with the previous three workshops allowed us to run a full day of interactive parallel sessions.
The workshop is aimed primarily at members of institutional Web management teams within UK HE and FE institutions, although participants from related communities are also welcome. This year we had a small number of participants from FE colleges and other public sector organisations as well as, it is pleasing to report, several Web managers from institutions in the Republic of Ireland.
The evaluation forms completed by the workshop participants plays an important part in reviewing the success of the workshop and making plan's for next year's event. This year the average mark for the overall workshop content (on a scale of 1 for poor and 5 for excellent) was 3.7 (with 13 5s, 29 4s, 23 3s and 4 2s). The average mark for the overall workshop organisation was 4.3 (with 32 5s, 25 4s, 11 3s and 1 2).
These scores were very pleasing, but what can happened behind these figures?
It is probably true to say that this year's event reflected a period of maturity and consolidation within the Web management community. Previous workshops have provided an opportunity for participants to meet their peers within the community - many of whom often pleased to find that they were not working in isolation and that the problems and difficulties they had encountered were common across institutions. For many participants at previous workshops the event provided an insight into important new areas, such as use of databases on the Web and the potential for Content Management Systems, as well as resourcing, management and strategic issues.
This year's event did not provide significant insights into new opportunities or solutions. This is probably to be welcomed, as it is an indication the profession of Web management is maturing. It should be said, however, that not everyone welcomed this, and several participants expressed disappointment at not being given simple solutions to their problems!
This year the event lasted for 2.5 days - half a day longer than the previous three events. The extra time appeared to be appreciated, although many still commented that the parallel sessions were too short!
It is probably true to say that the format of the 2.5 days could be improved for next year's event. The format of a day's plenary talks followed by a day of parallel sessions, was, in retrospect, a mistake. Next year we will ensure that there is a mixture of talks and group sessions.
There was also a feeling that some of the talks were rather bland, giving general truisms rather than describing practical difficulties in real projects. It was interesting to note that the two speakers with the highest scores (Alan Collins from Queen's University Belfast with a score of 4.4 and Paul Helm from Sheffield Hallam University with a score of 3.9) both gave talks on work carried out within their institution and described problems they'd experienced as well as their successes.
The highlight of this year's workshop seemed to be the social programme. Many of the participants commented favourably on Belfast's most well-known Pub, the Crown  and on the conference meal, which took place in the University's Great Hall. But the highlight for most was the bus tour of the trouble spots of Belfast.
Figure 1: Workshop delegates relaxing in The Crown
Many of the speaker's slides are available online, so a brief summary of the talks is given with a link to the slides.
Peter Flynn began the workshop with a talk entitled Now You See It ... Now You Don't . Peter, who works in the Computer Centre at University College Cork (UCC) was Ireland's first Webmaster (and, incidentally, the person who was responsible for the world's first broken link, back in 1991!) reviewed the growth of Web services at UCC, describing some of problems they had experienced as the Web grew in importance within his institution. He concluded by describing how XML can help as a facilitating technology.
Paul Helm of Sheffield Hallam University gave a very entertaining and well-received talk on elearning@SHU - A Case Study .
The most technical presentation of the day was given by Ed Bristow of the Australian Tax Office. Ed's talk on PKI: The View From Down Under  was acronym-heavy, but provided a useful overview of the approaches taken by a Government department in the development of a Public Key Infrastructure to support its e-Government activities.
Another talk from outside the HE sector was given by Andrew Savory and Mark Ray, currently of Luminas, but previously members of the University of East Anglia. Their talk on What Students Want  looked to provide a user focus on the requirements of our Web services. The talk could have been provocative, by giving an insight from a small commercial Web development company, which is not constrained by the inevitable politics which many Web teams will face within universities and colleges. However this angle was not really addressed in the talk.
After lunch Peter Scott, Head of the Centre for New Media in the Knowledge Media Institute of the Open University, showed that he was prepared to be controversial in his talk on Will The Virtual University Kill The Physical University? .
Diane McDonald, University of Strathclyde gave a report on a JISC-funded study on Advertising On Web Sites . A number of delegates commented that they had hope to be told what they could and could not do. However at the time JISC had not provided an official response to the report, and so it was not possible to give any simple advice - which in any case may vary from institution to institution.
Grainne Conole, director of ILRT, University of Bristol, in her talk on Linking Development & Innovation With Mainstream Activities  looked at how institutions can address the balance between project development work and mainstream deployment of services - an area in which there can often be tensions. This is clearly an important area for institutional Web managers, as not only are there likely to be project work being carried out locally, but also JISC have several programmes of work which are expected to develop applications which are intended to provide important services for Universities and Colleges.
Alan Collins of Queen's University Belfast gave the final talk of the day on Webcasting In An Institutional Context . This proved to be the most highly-rated talk, in which Alan described Queen's University experiences in Webcasting its degree ceremonies. In Alan's talk he described many of the problems they had experienced - and this honesty was very much appreciated by the delegates. Interestingly the day's talks were Webcast live. It was intended to subsequently edit the recordings and to make them available on the workshop Web sites. At the end of the day it was discovered that the file had not been saved correctly, and the recordings were lost :-(
Day 2 of the workshop was dedicated to parallel sessions. The morning consisted of half-day sessions on (A1) E-Learning - Barriers and Enablers , (A2) Users Of Our Services (Suits You Sir!) , (A3) Practical Web Strategies: Conflict, Ethics and Your Web Site , (A4) CMS Case Studies , (A5) Intranets , (A6) Web Site Redevelopment , (A7) E-Business  and (A8) Update Your Web Skills .
In the afternoon delegates could choose 2 of the 90 minutes parallel sessions. The first set of parallel sessions were (B1) FE & HE in the UK - 'Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful' , (B3) CMS - Buy Or Build? , (B4) XML and XSLT , (B5) Automated News Feeds , (B6) Hands-On Webcasting  and (B7) Addressing Usability Issues in HE Websites . (Note that the B2 session was merged with session A3).
The second set of parallel sessions were (C1) Income Generation Options For Your Web Site , (C2) Providing Information To Third Parties , (C3) Promoting Your Web Site: Getting Your Site to the Top of the Search Engine Hitlists , (C4) Zope From Absolute Zero , (C5) Approaches To Personalisation  and (C6) Benchmarking Web Sites .
Figure 2: Participants at one of the parallel sessions
The parallel sessions were much appreciated by delegates. The evaluation forms included several comments on the importance of these sessions, with a number of delegates wishing that the sessions had been longer or that sessions could be repated.
A show of hands on the final day showed that most of the delegates intended to attend next year's event. Plans for next year's event are already in progress. The workshop will take place during the week beginning 17th June 2002 at the University of Strathclyde.
On the final morning of the workshop, the report backing from the parallel sessions was followed by a discussion on plan's for next year's event. It was pointed out that a valuable community spirit had been built amongst institutional Web managers. The Institutional Web Management Workshop provides a very valuable opportunity for face-to-face meetings and for building networks, as well as being updated on best practices, new technologies, etc. Before next year's workshop we should we looking to make greater use of Web facilities to provide support for the Web managers and develop further this community. It was also pointed out that there was a danger that we could be repeating topics and making suggestions for further work which had been made previously. It would be useful to review the outcomes of previous events.
There was also some discussion about the content areas and whether the workshop should be more concerned with the management or the technical aspects of institutional Web services. This year the majority of the programme committee felty that the workshop should continue to cover technical and management and strategic issues, and not exclude either of these areas. However we welcome feedback on this.
In order to provide a forum for discussions on next year's workshop, and to review previous workshops, we will be making use of the Yahoo!Groups mailing list and Web site. We invite interested parties to join the iwmw-2001 list . We will be looking to make use of the realtime chat and voting services which are provided by this service.
To finish this trip report, some of the comments provided by participants are listed below:
Overall Views On Workshop
- This being my first visit to the Web Management workshop I was pleased overall with the content although coming from a small college the scale of many institutions was much larger.
- 1st time I've attended; overall it was well organised. The guided tour was worthwhile; informative and humerous and offered the chance to see areas of Belfast I otherwise wouldn't have seen.
- It has been very good (as usual) with an interesting range of subjects. I would like to have seen more talks on case studies/real experiences. Could include more to bring - marketing, design and IT people together to discuss different and common issues relating to the production of web-based material. All have a lot to offer each other but they rarely get together to capitalise on all strengths
- Programme well paced. Appropriate length and size (number of delegates). Plenty of scope for people networking'.
- Generally, it was great to meet people with similar interests and problems - the meeting people was more useful than the listening bit!
- Yet again, the best conference I have attended this year. Parallel sessions particularly good. Organisation both before and during excellent. Staff at Queen's particularly catering staff, charming and helpful.
Most Valuable Aspects Of Workshop
- (a) Networking with colleagues from other colleges (b) Webcasting demo & talk (c) parallel session feedback
- Workshops - too many good ones so difficult to choose. Could be longer so major workshops be repeated
- a) Looking at my website with outsiders b) Benchmarking exercise c) Kent case study.
- a) Going down the pub and talk to others b) the parallel sessions c) chance to re-affirm that we are all going the right way
- Communication with other institutions, the XML workshop, and of course the need to talk with others in similar situations
- Having the chance to meet other webmasters; gaining an overall impression of the way internet development is heading
Aspects Of Workshop Which Could be Improved
- Report back from parallel sessions too short. Possibly arrange for 1/2 day talks and 1/2 day sessions. More focussed strands
- a) The first day talks were somehow too condescend on ourselves, we need more controversy and self-criticism b) we need to involve more people from outside our 'gang' c) the afternoon session on Monday seemed too long
- More time - parallel sessions especially. Maybe accommodation closer to city centre/venue would have been better
- Often feel like we are preaching to the converted, often feel that I want someone to say 'do it like this!' rather than saying 'you could try this or this'
- Some of the talks on Monday could have been meatier
- a) Talks weren't very inspirational (wanted more new innovations) b) case studies would have been useful - more like Alan Collins' talk c) timing - workshops should have been first
- I was disappointed not to have the parallel sessions of my choice especially the XML one
- The Crown Liquor Saloon,
- Now You See It, Now You Don't - Policies and Practices for Updating a Web Server, Peter Flynn, University College Cork
- elearning@SHU - a case study, Paul Helm, Sheffield Hallam University
- What Students Want, Mark Ray and Andrew Savory, Luminas
- PKI: The View from Down Under, Ed Bristow, Australian Taxation Office
- Will The Virtual University Kill The Physical University?, Peter Scott, Open University
- Advertising On Web Sites, Diane McDonald, University of Strathclyde
- Linking Development & Innovation With Mainstream Activities, Grainne Conole, ILRT, University of Bristol (and Paul Browning, University of Bristol)
- Webcasting In An Institutional Context, Alan Collins, Queen's University Belfast
- A1: E-Learning - Barriers and Enablers,
- A2: Users Of Our Services (Suits You Sir!), Colin Work, University of Southampton
- A3 Practical Web Strategies: Conflict, Ethics and Your Web Site, Amber Thomas, BECTA and David Lomas, University of Salford
- A4 CMS Case Studies, Paul Browning, University of Bristol and Mike Lowndes, Natural History Museum
- A5 Intranets, James Currall, University of Glasgow
- A6 Web Site Redevelopment, Miles Banbery, University of Kent at Canterbury
- A7 E-Business, Andrew Aird, King's College London
- A8 Update Your Web Skills, Helen Sargan, University of Cambridge, Brian Kelly, UKOLN and Ingrid Evans, University of Manchester
- B1 FE & HE in the UK - 'Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful', Ralph Weedon, JISC Legal Information Service and University of Strathclyde
- B3 CMS - Buy Or Build?, Paul Browning, University of Bristol and Mike Lowndes, Natural History Museum
- B4 XML and XSLT, Mark Ray and Andrew Savory, Luminas
- B5 Automated News Feeds, Brian Kelly, UKOLN
- B6 Hands-On Webcasting, Alan Collins and Kenneth McCartan, Queen's University Belfast
- B7 Addressing Usability Issues in HE Websites, Grace de la Flor, University of Bristol
- C1 Income Generation Options For Your Web Site, Diane McDonald, University of Strathclyde
- C2 Providing Information To Third Parties, Brian Kelly, UKOLN
- C3 Promoting Your Web Site: Getting Your Site to the Top of the Search Engine Hitlists, Dave Hartland, Netskills
- C4 Zope From Absolute Zero, Paul Browning, University of Bristol
- C5 Approaches To Personalisation, Gareth McAleese, University of Ulster
- C6 Benchmarking Web Sites, Marieke Napier, UKOLN
- iwmw-2001, Yahoo!Groups
UK Web Focus
University of Bath