This post will take around 206 seconds to read.
Sneaking out a very overdue second post on IWMW 2010, the annual conference for UK university Web teams which took place in July. My first post, Eavesdropping on the conversation, looked at the experience of attending the conference remotely, while this one reflects a little on the conference content. Next time I’ll make sure to follow Fit to Print’s advice on remote conference preparation!
Sharing the learning
First a quick pointer to the IWMW 2010 key resources page – I’m particularly taken wth the embedded Slideshare presentation pack. Materials from the parallel sessions are linked at the foot of each page, and you can follow the backchannel for the sessions via the #IWMW10 TwapperKeeper archive (Jan 11: TwapperKeeper now closed). For the plenaries I found the best way to follow up on a session was to have browser tabs open for the talk on the main conference site, to get an overview and see the embedded slides, and then do a Twitter search for the hashtag.
In his post “I want to attend all the parallel sessions” Brian Kelly makes the point that rather than expecting event organisers to take an ever more active role in post-conference resource production participants could take greater responsibility for sharing the learning themselves – he has set up a Google CSE for Web team blogs to enable this, but what about Twitter?
Justifying the Web team
The title of one of the plenaries, Are Web managers still needed, started me thinking about who the ‘Web team’ actually is. In the IWMW context Web managers seem to be drawn largely from the technical end of the spectrum. In some sessions mention was made of ‘editors’ – which seems to be what I delight in calling an SME, a subject matter expert. There does not often appear to be a content manager (for want of a better name) in this food chain.
It seemed to be viewed as innovative that someone might actually take ownership of all the content on the website – to me that is a key part of website management. The in vogue terms of content strategy and curation are helpful in highlighting the importance of this role, but I’m sure there are loads of us who have been doing this all along. This recognition for content is great, but it’s hardly a revolution, it’s more a matter of joining things up.
I’m increasingly disturbed by the trend for ‘this is what I am’ – it’s more about ‘this is what I do’. It’s not helpful to put people into a ‘technical’ or ‘marketing’ box – everyone has a range of skills, and saying ‘I do content strategy, you don’t’ creates barriers. I’ll look more at this issue in a future post.
Anyway, ‘doing websites’ has certainly evolved from being a solely technical preserve to one where everyone could conceivably be involved – which means that the role of the Web team has to change as well. For more on this one see two posts – Neil Williams’ Death of the Web team?, from the digigov context, concludes that the future of the Web team involves a simultaneous strengthening of control by the centre and a transfer of trust and skills to the wider organisation. Picking up on this theme in “When the axe man cometh”, that man Brian Kelly looks specfically at the academic Web team and how it can meet the challenge.
Let’s just get on with it
Refreshingly, the final IWMW plenary was particularly practical, focusing on doing the day job. Taken together with Paul Boag’s session on No money, no matter, the way forward becomes rather clearer. The days of the portal and the one stop shop are long over – your website does not have to be all singing and dancing. As the ‘manager’ of a 1,000 page website I struggled to keep up all the content up to date. It’s time to stop trying to be a glorified publisher and instead to focus on doing less but better.