UKOLN "Institutional Web Management Workshop 2002: The Pervasive Web"

Workshop Conclusions

This page provides access to Brian Kelly's concluding remarks at the Institutional Web Management 2002 workshop held at the University of Strathclyde on 18-20 June 2002.


This year's workshop was the biggest we're ever running, attracting over 170 delegates. But was it the best? I can't really answer that until the evaluation forms have been analysed (and can I ask those of you who haven't already done so to complete the forms during my talk and hand them in before you leave). However I think I can safely safe that there has been a very positive buzz to the event.

This is partly due, I think, to the location. What a great place for a conference Glasgow is.

More importantly, though, is the content of the workshop. This year's format is better - you didn't have to listen to talks for the entire first day as you did at Belfast (my fault I'm afraid). This year we also gave more thought to the purpose of the plenary talks. We aimed to open the first two days with inspired visions of the future, which would set the tone for the day. I think in this we succeeded. What can you say about Derek Law? You will have noticed that the two opening plenaries were videoed. The talks will shortly be made available on the Web. I am sure that there will be much interest in the video from academics at Strathclyde University and everyone at the University of Glasgow - and that University in the Northern steeling-making city with two football teams, one named after a management consultancy!

The second morning's sessions started with Bill Nisen. I must admit that I enjoyed listening to a speaker outlining a vision for the future. I think many of us, when we listen to speakers such as Paul Browning are secretly terrified - as we hear of more areas which we must address when we return to work. Bill's presentation had slightly more distant horizon's so that we could sit back and enjoy the presentation and not worry about how we go about implementing knowledge-based Web sites on Monday morning!

The remaining plenary speakers were asked to provide case studies on areas related to the workshop themes. Speakers were asked to avoid giving "motherhood and apple pie" talks, but to highlight the difficulties and challenges they had faced within their institutions, and to encourage questions from the audience.

As James mentioned when awarding Andrew his prize, Andrew Aird certainly succeeded in generating debate and encouraging questions from the floor!

Following Andrew, Lawrie Phipps gave an update on disability legislation. It has always been pleasing that this topic has been of interest to Web managers since the early days of the Web Management workshop series. I hope the forthcoming legislation won't be too frightening for you.

We were then given a talk by Stephen Tanner who described the development of a portal for staff which has been developed using licensed software within an FE college. This was followed by Mark Simpson's talk on the usability aspects of a home-grown student-based portal developed within a University. I think these two talk complemented each other nicely. Incidentally when Mark failed to advance his Powerpoint slide from the title slide, how many people thought that this was deliberate - and that he was making a point about users not providing feedback unless there is motivation for them!

The Men In Black then described how they have zapped maverick alien servers in Aberdeen. The final talk was given by Paul Browning - and I'd like to thank Paul for stepping in at the last moment to give this talk.

As well as the plenary talks, we introduced a number of innovations this year, including a panel session, two debates and a vendor slot. Did they work? Could they be improved? Please let us know on your evaluation form.

The parallel sessions were not new - but we did respond to comments from previous years events by providing more parallel sessions. So we do listen to your comments and seek to address them.

I would like to give thanks to the speakers, workshop facilitators, panelists, and everyone who provided the content for the workshop.

Ideas for the themes for the workshop, suggestions for speakers, etc. were provided by members of the Programme Committee. I would like to express my thanks to James Currall, Diane McDonald, Kriss Fearon, Duncan Smeed and Claire Rogers for their work.

I should mention that I will be considering the processes for membership of the Programme Committee. If you would be interested in joining the committee for next year's event, please let me know, especially if you can represent an overlooked sector of our community (the FE sector, researchers, etc.). I should point out, though, that membership of the Programme Committee can be hard work, as you'll be expected to chair sessions and debates, facilitate workshops, etc. But I hope this year's committee have found it a worthwhile experience.

As I mentioned in my introduction on the first day, and as was raised in questions yesterday, it is not just a question of organising an event which is enjoyable and informative for the participants. There is also a need to review the impact of events - have they succeeded in making significant developments and facilitating cultural change?

In previous workshops we have asked participants to identify the key issues which need to be addressed. Certain areas, such as authentication and single sign-on are on JISC's agenda, and continue to be addressed at this workshop, with James Currall, Colin Farrow and John Byrne facilitating a workshop session on this topic. However, as was discussed at the discussion group session on Technical Issues, there are no simple solutions in this area.

Another important area which we identified a few years ago was CMS - Content Management Systems. Although we haven't identified a clear winner in this area, we can safely say that CMSs are on the agenda of all institutional Web managers. We have seen several case studies over the past 3 days, including those mentioned in the case studies and the parallel sessions - and a brief glimpse of LSE's personalised portal which I know generated interest amongst several delegates. I think it is safe to say that CMS is no longer an acronym known to a small group. The workshop, and the contributions made in this area by people such as Paul Browning have helped facilitate this culture change and provided the scope for Web managers to openly float the idea of banning HTML authoring tools and mandating information providers to make use of a CMS.

However it is probably true that there is still a need to make people aware of work and resources in this area, and once I get back to work I will ensure that I provide links to documents such as the CMS report written by Paul Browning and Mike Lowndes and funded by JISC, the camworld CMS mailing list, and other appropriate resources.

Time is pressing, and I know many of you will have trains and planes to catch. So I would like to conclude by giving my thank to members of the Organising Committee. Behind the scenes support was provided by my colleagues at UKOLN, Sara Hassen and Jo Stone (who was on the registration desk on the first day). Most of the work was provided here at Strathclyde. David Miller, whom I'm sure you will have all met, did much of the work behind the scenes in advance of the workshop - and I know he was putting handouts into the delegate packs till 10pm on Sunday night. Let us show our thanks to David and I would like to present David with this bottle of whisky (but before you get too excited David, I should mention the expression on Derek law's face when he saw the University of Strathclyde logo on the label!)

Most importantly I would like to thank Diane McDonald - for being such a wonderful person, being so well-organised and so calm and understanding when things started to go wrong behind the scenes. Again can we show our appreciation to Diane. Here is a bottle of whisky for you Diane (and my previous remark was a joke!).

Before finishing, you may be wondering about next year's event. We're thinking that it will have the same format and timing as this year - so let us know on your evaluation form if you disagree. We'd had expressions of interesting in hosting next year's workshop from three institutions. It would be wrong of me to name locations until the proposals have been discussed more fully, but I can say that one is in the south of England, and two in the North, one of which is in an northern steel city, with two football teams, one named after a management consultancy!

Finally I would like to thank you all for helping to make the event so successful. As you've all worked so hard, I'd like to suggest that when you return home, you don't go straight to work. Instead spend some quality time with your family, or even go to your local pub before going in to work!

Goodbye, and hope to see you next year.

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