A couple of weeks ago I attended my fourth Institutional Web Management Workshop (IWMW 2010), which this year took place at the University of Sheffield. (Twitter tag: #iwmw10)
The event provides an opportunity for those involved in institutional Web management (mostly universities and colleges) to hear about case studies, share best practices, find out about new, emerging technologies and develop professional networks (mostly around coffee, in the pub, or sitting around a table in Pizza Hut with a handful of Welsh blokes looking very damp and hungry … it’s a long story!).
The theme of the event this year was ‘The Web in turbulent times‘ and as you might expect the message at times wasn’t entirely encouraging, particularly when one plenary speaker invited us to look around the hall and told us that a lot of us won’t have our current jobs this time next year. Cue nervous laughter.
I’m fairly confident that the magical St Andrews bubble that we inhabit in this small corner of Fife will hold out, particularly since we’re currently advertising for a new post: Website Migration Project Officer, but I certainly wouldn’t want to become complacent and I welcome anything that can help us to become more efficient and effective.
Mobile and Agile
It was encouraging throughout the conference to see both mobile Web and Agile practices popping up in a few plenary (keynote) presentations, as well as in workshops and barCamps.
The mobile Web is something that is clearly going to grow and grow, and it was both encouraging and inspirational to see how universities are addressing it. It was equally encouraging to hear the debate between device-specific apps (e.g. iPhone apps) vs open-standards (e.g. HTML5-based apps). I don’t have an iPhone, and love my Opera Mobile browser on my Windows Mobile-based device, so no guesses on which side of the debate I sit on.
One of the presentations that I was most eagerly looking forward to was HTML5 (and friends) from Patrick A. Lauke from Opera and he didn’t disappoint; you can view his slides here …
… except that I could have listened to him for another 45 minutes. And probably the 45 minutes after that too. HTML5 is one technology that I’m really looking forward to exploring more of this year.
Agile project management
When I signed up for the conference I chose to attend a workshop entitled “A little project management can save a lot of fan cleaning … or (Agile) project management for the Web” because we’ve begun to employ Agile methods in our project management and developments and I wanted to hear more about what an experienced Web team is doing.
The workshop abstract promised:
- Common misapprehensions about project management.
- Nightmare situations when dev work goes pear shaped.
- How project management can save your sorry ass.
- The ‘light’ project management approach.
- Is agile a better model for the fast paced work of the Web?
- Are agile and traditional project management complimentary or mutually exclusive?
- Sexy web based tools to avoid the dreaded MS Project.
- 100% death by PowerPoint free, guaranteed!
Unfortunately, the workshop also appeared to be largely Agile-free. I was disappointed to discover when I turned up that about 50% of the workshop was looking at PRINCE2 project management, which follows a more ‘waterfall’ project management approach, rather than Agile.
I got the feeling that the person who was presenting the Agile aspect of the workshop had been thrown in at the last minute (which I guess fits in with the Agile Manifesto: “We … welcome changing requirements, even late in the development”!) but I’m not sure that it really did Agile, and SCRUM in particular, justice, unfortunately, and didn’t go into the depth that I was either hoping for or the abstract suggested that it might. Unfortunately, the workshop didn’t do as it said on the tin.
The other workshop that I attended, WordPress beyond blogging, was really encouraging.
There can be a tendency in some sectors to dismiss WordPress as not robust because it runs on PHP and MySQL (rather than, say, Java and Oracle database), but it was great to hear how WordPress is being used in other institutions (and for some pretty key services) and gave me a courage to return to St Andrews and explore how we might be able to use it in a number of projects that we’re working on. Besides, there are currently 11.4 million blogs hosted on WordPress.com which is running their own software, so I guess they must be doing something right.
What I bought back
From most other IWMW conferences I’ve returned with something practical to try out: in previous years it’s been microformats, RSS auto-discovery, OpenSearch, etc. but there wasn’t so much of that this time. Maybe I just attended the wrong workshops and barCamps, but what I did bring back was:
- A desire to start exploring HTML5 now.
- Encouragement to blog more, and encourage the Web team to blog more (which is why we moved our 3 post WordPress blog from a self-hosted installation to WordPress.com!) Brian Kelly will be so proud of us!
- Keep exploring Agile/SCRUM and build on the progress that we’ve already made.
- Explore how we can use WordPress.
And of course, one of the most valuable aspects of IWMW was that I returned with existing friendships strengthened and new ones made.