IWMW 2005

Miles Banbery reports on the 9th Institutional Web Management Workshop held at the University of Manchester, UK, over 6-8 July 2005.

The 9th Institutional Web Management Workshop [1], a three-day event held at the Manchester Conference Centre [2], Manchester University [3], UK, 6-8 July 2005 had as its theme this year 'Whose web is it anyway?'. How apt at a time when we are all continuing to attempt delivery of systems and services to meet users' needs and requirements within institutional demands and pressures on resource. The format this year was six plenary sessions, two parallel workshop slots, two sessions for regional groups to discuss Content Management Systems (CMS), two panel sessions and one slot for delegates to attend an extra discussion session or look round the poster displays/vendor stalls.

The Plenaries

Our Users

In an excellent opening plenary entitled 'University blogging: what happens when everyone can publish?' [4], John Dale (Head of Development at e-lab, University of Warwick) talked about Warwick Blogs [5]. His presentation was extremely interesting as it covered everything from why they released a student blogging service and allowed it be published on the Internet, to how they did it and what happened after it went live. Especially good value were the video clips of students commenting on the service. It also raised the issue of agile development, a subject IWMW 2006 could hopefully return to.

Stephen Emmott of LSE then followed with a fascinating presentation on 'Customers, Suppliers, and the Need for Partnerships' [6]. Using his knowledge of business and management theory, excellent materials from the Office of Government Commerce [7] and his own experience at LSE, Stephen outlined the importance of customer focus, the identification of customer chains and the re-working of processes to allow better customer-targeted service delivery. Though initially hard-going, my bet is that this subject will be returned to by more than a few delegates over the next year or two.

photo (71KB): Scenes from IWMW 2005, originals courtesy of Patrick Lauke, University of Salford.

Scenes from IWMW 2005, originals courtesy of Patrick Lauke, University of Salford.

Big Picture

Day two opened with a characteristically confident presentation on 'Challenges at the University of Manchester arising from Project UNITY' [8] by Professor Mark Clark, Director of Information Systems. Following the merger of UMIST with the Victoria University of Manchester to form Manchester University, Professor Clark explained that the intention was not to just merge but improve to become world-class. To this end, one of the major factors under consideration at Manchester was being technologically smart and Mark unwrapped a complicated path of data warehousing, ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) and using Web services to make the Web cheaper, more dynamic and more user focussed.

Just as the delegates were picking their collective jaws up from off the floor, imagine their reaction to David Sweeney (Vice-Principal, Communications, Enterprise & Research at Royal Holloway, University of London) with his talk entitled 'Sky High or Free Fall - All Aboard the Web Rollercoaster' [9]. Within only a few sides he was straight in on the attack against the host institution and showing Royal Holloway's position as 9th in the Research league table! David went on to articulate how important information technologists and marketing experts are to each other and to the future of UK HE institutions in the 21st Century.

Institutional Case Studies

Tom Franklin (Franklin Consulting) opened after tea with 'There Is No Such Thing as a Silver Bullet: CMS and Portals Will Not Solve Your Problems' [10]. Tom unravelled the possible problems and issues surrounding implementation of CMS and portals to make it clear that they are in no way a quick or simple solution. Delegates benefited from many questions they should now be asking themselves as they prepare to introduce and maintain these services.

After lunch, 'Publish and Be Damned: Re-purposing in the Real World' [11] was the title of an excellent step-by-step demonstration talk by Jeremy Speller and Ian Bartlett of UCL. These detailed explanations of 'how we did it at our place' are notoriously difficult to do and get away with, especially including live Internet demonstrations and this went very well indeed - full marks to Jeremy and Ian! Their talk demonstrated parallel print and Web publication in the context of Web content management systems and collaborative authorship.

The Parallel Workshops

Two ninety-minute sessions were provided over the three days for a selection of sessions to run concurrently. The first session consisted of: A1: Hey! You! Get Offa My Web! Hidden Desires and Unforeseen Circumstances in Web Management [12], A2: Conducting User Needs Analysis [13], A3: How to Find a Needle in the Haystack [14], A4: Future-proofing for Collaborative Tools [15], A5: Community Building - Open Source and Open Content [16], A6: Whose Work Is It Anyway? [17], A7: Embedding Third-Party Services in Web Sites and Portals [18], A8: Managing Stakeholders with PRINCE2 [19], A9: Lies, Damn Lies, and Web Statistics [20].

The second session offered: B1: Whose Web Do You Think It Is? Considering Web Accessibility and Usability from the Perspective of Different User Groups [21], B2: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from Implementing a Corporate CMS at the University of Southampton [22], B3: Democratising the Web: The Revenge of the Non-Techie [23], B4: Folksonomies: Metadata or Mess [24], B5: Inter-institutional Authorisation Using Shibboleth: Myths, Lies and the Truth [25], B6: Avoiding the Legal Obstacles in Web Management [26], B7: WHS WEB S IT NEWY? - Including Mobile Phone Users in the Loop [27], B8: JISC Service and Vendor Presentations [28], B9: RSS: Let's Clear the Confusion and Start Using! [29].

The Discussion Groups and Second Panel Session

The discussion groups [30] were regional this year and each was asked to address the key challenges of implementing CMS across an institution. On day one the groups each identified three key challenges and day two was spent addressing each with suggestions on how to address them.

The groups seemed to work well on the whole and many of their thoughts and two groups' presentations are available on the IWMW discussion sessions page either straight or via Wikalong [31].

The most pressing questions from the groups were then put to the second panel session on the final day [32]. The panel consisted of Mike Lowndes (Natural History Museum), Tom Franklin (Franklin Consulting) and Piero Tintori (Terminal 4). The key points to the panel were:

  • How to decide when CMS is the answer - what are the key features?
  • How to get support for CMS from the information providers on one hand, but also from management and financial backers on the other?
  • How can we avoid institutional paralysis linked to fear of change and big projects?
  • How can we best find out what vendors and products there are, how much they cost and what other people use?
  • How would the panel tackle seamless content in multiple places without authentication problems?
  • How would project management or a study of methodologies help the community?

By the sounds of pins dropping, pens scribbling and keyboards tapping, the discussion proved extraordinarily good value for the delegates and thanks should go to all the panellists for this. Key suggestions from the panellists and the resources they referred to will, it is hoped, be published on the IWMW 2005 site soon.

The Technologies in Use

This year, much was made of using technologies for private and collaborative work during the workshop [31]. These had been previously advertised in advance on the IWMW2005 News page [33] and its accompanying RSS feed [34]. On day 1 Brian Kelly ran a session for early arrivals on how to set up their laptops and PDAs to take advantage of these tools [35].

RSS

RSS news feeds, whilst not new, are still under-used in the sector and the Workshop feed coupled with the parallel session on RSS given by Brian will perhaps have encouraged more of us to go and implement some of these within our institutions. Podcasting also uses RSS mechanisms and Adrian Stevenson had helpfully prepared some example podcasts for delegates to learn about the workshop and the social programme [36].

IRC

Several collaborative working technologies were tried during the Workshop. An Internet Relay Chat channel was used by some of the participants during the plenary sessions. The chat often started off being related to the plenary, but quickly digressed in many cases. Sometimes it was used to pull up examples of what was being discussed. Other times it was clearly a 'boys whispering and joking at the back' activity. Many expressed difficulty in being able to listen and IRC simultaneously - though if really interested in the plenary most would have stopped 'chatting' I would have thought! A collection of geeks by the power socket caused some amusement; while there were some expressions of annoyance at the noise of some people's keyboards! Perhaps using laptops in public should be licensed only to those with soft keypads?

Wikis

Using Wikalong [31], any user can comment on any page on the Web. We used this on the IWMW 2005 Web site within the SE regional discussion group to collect suggestions before the event and many groups then used it to publish their thoughts on CMS after each discussion session. Some of the pages on technologies and individual plenaries have also been commented on since. This facility could be very useful, but once multiple users try annotating the same page - oh dear! Maybe more comments will appear on the Workshop site as time goes by, but some slightly more sophisticated client could help a lot!

Blogs, Phones and Browsers

One official blogger was also present offering a commentary and interpretation of the event as it happened (as well as at least one unofficial one it transpired!) [37]. Peer-to- peer voice over IP (using Skype) was being used by one remote user to keep in touch with what was happening and a collaborative Web browsing service (using the Jybe plugin for Firefox) was suggested but went unused to my knowledge.

Social Programme and Local Organisation

The social programme [38] this year consisted of the usual mix of organised events and well facilitated networking opportunities (or pubs and bars as some people still like to call them). The first night saw the workshop dinner in the Barnes Wallis building at the University, the second involving a drinks reception and guided tour of Baby (the first 'real' computer) at the Museum of Science and Industry [39]. Excellent local restaurants, pubs, Canal Street and the late-night bar at the Conference Centre helped the workshop along nicely.

The general feeling at the workshop this year was that the local organisation was extremely smooth, in fact so smooth you could hardly tell it was happening! Backed up by early indications from the feedback forms, it appears this year's delegates thought this was the most well organised workshop so far. Ben Plumpton and her colleagues from the University of Manchester along with the rest of the Organising Committee from UKOLN [40] deserve a huge vote of thanks.

London, 7 July 2005

While we were settling down to the morning session on 7 July, news was coming through of the London bombings of bus and tube [41]. Some delegates caught it on the TV news, others picked up on it whilst IRC'ing in the main lecture hall. Even though the London regional group for the discussion sessions appeared to be the most affected, it was clear that nearly everyone knew someone who might be caught up in the trouble or who could have been had matters turned out slightly differently. Naturally we thought of those who had lost their lives or were injured, as well as their families and friends.

Conclusion - IWMW Past, Present and Future

A couple of sessions at this year's event sought to consider the impact of previous events and the future of the IWMW events, mailing lists and the UK HE and FE Web community, partly no doubt inspired by the handing over of the main organisational reins from Brian Kelly after nine years to his colleague at UKOLN, Marieke Guy.

Brian's presentation in the first panel session [42] highlighted how we have come to desire answers and grails to various problems which, each year, we admit to not finding! Undoubtedly though we have a stronger community and work together better.

As we move forward, we should look at building on the success of previous IWMW events and the JISC mailing lists and look further at new technologies (finding out what students do), regional activities (local groups, national surveys), openness (QA focus) and professionalism (meeting with WOW at IWMW 2006). Duncan Ireland (Strathclyde), who organises the successful Scottish regional group then gave a presentation on their work. And Andrew Cox (Loughborough) gave a short presentation on the popularity and use of the web-support and website-info-mgt lists at JISCMAIL [43].

In addition, Philip Hunter (also from UKOLN) and Marieke ran two sessions on the final morning entitled 'IWMW Impact Analysis and Evaluation' [44], during which they collected comments from delegates on where the strengths and weaknesses of IWMW had been and how to improve it in the future.

As he wore his 'Ancient Monument' T-shirt on the final day (a gift from Canterbury Cathedral at IWMW 2003), he introduced a special prize for the delegate who, apart from himself, had attended the most workshops. Kriss Fearon from York and Stephen Emmott from LSE were tied at eight out of nine with Stephen winning after a tense coin-toss.

On a more serious note, I would like to add that Brian has contributed a substantial part of his UKOLN working life to these events which have brought so much help, fun, solace and encouragement to those who have attended. Who can forget the early workshops full of scared newly appointed Web bunnies blinded by the headlights? Many thanks must go to Brian for his dedication and hard work on our behalf.

So - how will we best collaborate, communicate and educate within our community in the years to come? What will be the structure of our events or the contentious hot topics over the next ten years? Best wishes to Marieke as we head into a new phase of workshops beginning with IWMW 2006 (the tenth anniversary) at the University of Bath next year [45]. I very much hope to see you all there.

References

  1. IWMW 2005 http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/
  2. Manchester Conference Centre http://www.conference.manchester.ac.uk/manchesterconferencecentre/
  3. Manchester University http://www.manchester.ac.uk/
  4. Dale, J., "University Blogging: What Happens When Everyone Can Publish?"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/dale/
  5. Warwick Blogs http://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/
  6. Emmott, S, "Customers, Suppliers, and the Need for Partnerships"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/emmott/
  7. Office of Government Commerce http://www.ogc.gov.uk/
  8. Clark, M., "Challenges at the University of Manchester arising from Project UNITY"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/clark/
  9. Sweeney, D., "Sky High or Free Fall - All Aboard the Web Rollercoaster"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/sweeney/
  10. Franklin, T., "There Is No Such Thing As A Silver Bullet: CMS And Portals Will Not Solve Your Problems!"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/franklin/
  11. Speller, J., Bartlett, I., "Publish and Be Damned: Re-purposing in the Real World"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/speller/
  12. A1: Hey! You! Get Offa My Web! Hidden Desires and Unforeseen Circumstances in Web Management
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/middleton/
  13. A2: Conducting User Needs Analysis: Tips On Gathering Requirements People May Have For The Systems You're Developing http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/de-la-flor/
  14. A3: How to Find a Needle in the Haystack http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/stevenson/
  15. A4: Future-proofing for Collaborative Tools http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/tonkin/
  16. A5: Community Building - Open Source and Open Content
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/metcalfe/
  17. A6: Whose Work Is It Anyway? http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/savory/
  18. A7: Embedding Third Party Services in Web Sites and Portals - From Links To WSRP the Pros and Cons
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/franklin/
  19. A8: Managing Stakeholders with PRINCE2 http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/emmott/
  20. A9: Lies, Damn Lies, and Web Statistics http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/lowndes/
  21. B1: Whose Web Do You Think It Is? Considering Web Accessibility And Usability From The Perspective Of Different User Groups http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/craven/
  22. B2: From the Ridiculous to the Sublime? Lessons from Implementing a Corporate CMS at the University of Southampton http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/work/
  23. B3: Democratising the Web: The Revenge of The Non-Techie
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/couzin/
  24. B4: Folksonomies: Metadata or Mess? http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/guy-tonkin/
  25. B5: Inter-institutional Authorisation using Shibboleth: Myths, Lies and the Truth
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/dowland/
  26. B6: Avoiding the Legal Obstacles in Web Management
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/kelly-j/
  27. B7: WHS WEB S IT NEWY? - Including Mobile Phone Users in the Loop
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/tribe/
  28. B8: JISC Service and Vendor Presentations
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/vendor-slot/
  29. B9: RSS: Let's Clear The Confusion And Start Using!
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/kelly-b/
  30. IWMW 2005 Discussion groups http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/discussion-groups/
  31. Information On Technologies Available At IWMW 2005 http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/technologies/
  32. Lowndes, M., Franklin, T., Tintori, P., "Addressing The CMS Challenge"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/panel-2/
  33. IWMW 2005 News page http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/news/
  34. IWMW 2005 News RSS feed http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/news.xml
  35. Introductory Talk: Using The Technologies At IWMW 2005
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/technologies/
  36. IWMW 2005 Podcasts http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/podcasts/
  37. IWMW 2005 Blogs http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/workshop-blog/
  38. IWMW 2005 Social programme http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/social/
  39. The Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester http://www.msim.org.uk/
  40. Workshop Committee members http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/committee/
  41. BBC News - London Bombings http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/in_depth/uk/2005/london_explosions/default.stm
  42. Cox, A., Ireland, D., Kelly, B., "The Web Management Community: Present and Future"
    http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/talks/panel-1/
  43. JISCMAIL http://www.jiscmail.ac.uk/
  44. IWMW impact analysis and evaluation http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2005/sessions/impact-analysis/
  45. IWMW 2006, University of Bath http://www.ukoln.ac.uk/web-focus/events/workshops/webmaster-2006/

Author Details

Miles Banbery
Web Editor
University of Kent

Email: M.E.C.Banbery@kent.ac.uk
Web site: http://www.kent.ac.uk/cdo/web/

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Date published: 
Saturday, 30 July 2005
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