IWMW 2010: day two

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The second day was very exciting, with talks by Paul Boag, Ranjit Sidhu and Patrick Lauke being the highlights for me. Paul Boag and Ranjit Sidhu both focused on how to demonstrate the value of the web in straitened circumstances.

Other talks included Jeremy Speller on Disaster Communications in a Crisis. The University of Bath's Twitter feed got a mention in this talk, because we used it to get news out to people during February 2010 about whether the campus was open or closed due to the heavy snowfall. There was also a talk by Damian Steer on Mobile Web and Campus Assistant, which was very useful.

Patrick Lauke: HTML5 and friends

Patrick Lauke talked about using HTML5 and its associated technologies now, and went through a bit about the history of HTML5, what functionality it offers, and whether we can use it right now - Yes We Can!

He also looked at the differences between HTML4 and HTML5, and said that HTML 5 is like HTML4, but with more bling.

Paul Boag: No Money, No Matter

Paul Boag talked about how to simplify your website. He proposed three ways to do this, illustrated by a drawing of a Dalek:

  • Exterminate! - get rid of content
  • Activate cloaking device - hide stuff (push it deeper in the information architecture); you can even completely orphan a page if it's really bad
  • Fire reduction ray - Shrink stuff

He then proposed three key policies to make this happen:

  1. the link on the homepage that gets the fewest number of clickthroughs will be replaced
  2. pages that do not meet the minimum number of views and dwell-time (i.e. users are not using them) will be unpublished
  3. pages that are not regularly updated will be unpublished until reviewed

Also, when people ask to put new stuff online, calculate what the return on investment (ROI) will be of doing it.

He also advocated Agile ways of working, which we are already doing.

Ranjit Sidhu: So what is you do exactly?

Ranjit Sidhu's talk was also excellent, and was about turning statistics into decisions. Basically it was the idea that we need to talk about value in terms of actual monetary value, and compare the cost of doing things online to the cost of doing things offline. For example, you can work out the cost of applying online and downloading a PDF of the prospectus (or browsing the prospectus online) compared with the cost of sending out hard copies of brochures and the prospectus, and online is cheaper. You can also display these metrics on a dynamic dashboard, showing increased traffic, number of applications generated, and so on.

Kelham Island Museum

Sword dancing by Robin Byles
Sword dancing by Robin Byles

The conference reception was at the Kelham Island Museum, which explores Sheffield's industrial past. Sheffield is famous for making cutlery and other metalworking, and accordingly the museum had an enormous Bessemer Converter outside it. The entertainment for the reception was a group of rapper sword dancers.

The value of IWMW

All in all, IWMW was a very good event, both in terms of attending the talks and learning about new ideas and forthcoming changes and challenges, and in terms of meeting other HE web professionals and learning about how they work with other departments, what projects they are involved in, what tools they are using, and so on. Long may it continue!

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