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IWMW 2017 conference write-up

This July we were joined by colleagues from the ECA and CAHSS web teams at this year’s IWMW conference at the University of Kent. In this post, colleagues share their thoughts on the event.

Stratos Filalithis

Why did you decide to attend the conference?

I was actually one of the speakers! Apart from that, having attended IWMW 2015, I was already aware of the conference value. Exposure to updates in other UK Higher Education institutions, while networking with other peers in the digital and web areas, is helpful to understand developments, challenges and solutions.

What was the best presentation or session?

Andrew Millar’s plenary session about ‘Having a good crisis… and not wasting it!’ was very interesting, summarising how the University of Dundee managed to reach the other end of a crisis having emerged stronger in digital governance and operations.

Andrew explained how an institutional reorganisational led to rethinking how a university addresses the web and adopting a digital mentality. I believe that it is a very well-recognised challenge in both large and smaller organisations, and learning from existing examples is always helpful.

‘Having a good crisis’ talk information on IWMW site

What was the big trend or takeaway point you took from the conference?

Collaboration and sharing of knowledge in IWMW is unprecedented, especially since it happens in a highly competitive and shifting environment, like higher education. I was really happy to discuss with fellow peers about challenges and share ideas, and very keen to follow up using other channels, like the newly created Slack chat groups or the regular Scottish Web Folk meetings.

A key trend I picked up from the conference was the idea of the end of the Web CMS era, moving to front-end-agnostic re-usable content management platforms. Content can be managed within these platforms, to be used in different outputs, contexts or formats, for example a website, social media or press outputs. This is a recognised trend in technology as well through ‘headless’ CMS implementations and integration via APIs (Application Programming Interface).

Having to manage services in a very devolved environment, it makes total sense to pursue content versatility, flexibility and reusability, so I am excited to follow up developments on this front.

Duncan MacGruer

Why did you decide to attend the conference?

I wanted to understand and compare the challenges the University of Edinburgh face to the experiences of other institutions. I was also interested in learning from the solutions other HEIs had put in place, to see if there was anything we could put in place to help our web editing community. And I also wanted to network with other people in the same job to further my skills.

What was the best presentation or session?

I think I took the most from Gareth Edwards (University of Greenwich). I’ve already watched his talk back twice, and each time something extra has chimed with me and given me something else to think about.

He presented on governance in digitally devolved institutions, and how to set strategies and policies that work for everyone, including:

  • how best to manage information (not systems or technical solutions)
  • controlling strategy and roles centrally and providing the right tools and information
  • allowing local innovation that furthers quality and best practice for all

How often have we looked at policies or a dozen dense pages and thought – ‘that’s not for me’? So why do we produce these documents for our users?

‘Designing governance for devolved institutions’ talk information on IWMW site

What was the big trend or takeaway point you took from the conference?

All HEIs (and digital teams in them) are facing similar challenges: being asked to do more with less; the fast pace of digital change; new modes of accessing our content. But if we can work collaboratively to commonly understand, define and quantify problems, then we can also work towards common solutions that will work for all.

Ardie Collins – ECA

Why did you decide to attend the conference?

I’d heard good things about last year’s conference from colleagues, and I’d never attended an event like this before. It seemed like a good chance to see how people in similar roles in other universities approach their work, and perhaps borrow a few ideas.

What was the best presentation or session?

The one that has stuck most in mind is the presentation from Christopher Gutteridge from the University of Southampton. The talk was specifically about how an academic progresses through their career from a PhD student through to a postdoctoral fellowship, researcher, lecturer and so on. But that was the backdrop to a broader call for collegiate work between academics and professional services staff.

‘The life academic’ talk information on IWMW site

What was the big trend or takeaway point you took from the conference?

Something that came up in a few different talks was the idea of ‘device agnosticism’. At ECA, having a mobile-responsive website was one of the top priorities of our recent website redesign, but in any future development should we be thinking about how it appears on a watch, or how parts of it are spoken by a voice assistant? Personally, voice assistants give me the creeps, but if they end up being adopted more widely, it might become a necessity.

My experience

My primary reason for attending the conference was to lead a workshop on pair writing.

Read my blog post recap of my IWMW pair writing workshop

It was also a great opportunity to learn about other uni web teams across the country. While we all seem to experience similar challenges (as Duncan notes above), I was amazed to see the variability of where web teams sit within a university and how they operate – whether they are part of Communications & Marketing or IT, devolve their editing or are more centralised. Edinburgh does seem to be in the minority for how devolved we are.

As someone who works in content, I was especially impressed with Richard Prowse’s (University of Bath) presentation ‘Building a digital publishing platform’. Richard talked through Publisher, their new publishing platform that seems well prepared to meet the death of the web CMS.

He stressed the need to design content and not web pages, and the idea of creating content once to publish in multiple places. It’s a requirement in Publisher that you create a user story for each piece of content, so you have to actually specify who it’s for and why it’s needed – something we should all be doing instinctively when creating content!

‘Building a digital publishing platform’ talk information on IWMW site

Conference slide decks

You can see slide decks and more information on the IMWM 2017 talks on their Lanyrd site.

IWMW 2017 Lanyrd site

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