by m.guy

5 Minute Interview: Alexander Dutton

1:27 pm in interviews by m.guy

Alex Dutton presenting on Molly

Who are you?
I’m Alexander Dutton, a recent computer science graduate and software

Where do you work and what do you do?
I work within the Information Services team at the Oxford University
Computing Services. I’m mostly a Python/Django mobile web developer,
but dabble in data modelling and wrangling, and Java-based web services.

What are your main areas of interest?
I enjoy taking inelegant data sources and implementing a more user-friendly interface over the top. Indeed; this is one of the key ideas behind Mobile Oxford (, our mobile-friendly information portal for staff and students of the University.

I’m also greatly interested in the semantic web and linked data, and am encouraged by how these concepts are being used by governments and other institutions to publish data efficiently.

Are you working on anything exciting?
We’ve recently open-sourced Mobile Oxford as the Molly Project (, and would love other institutions to get involved and join the community.

On the semantic web theme, I’m also involved in an initiative to open up some of the University’s data as open linked data at It’s still a work in progress, but watch this space!

Have you been to IWMW before?
First time, I’m afraid. Though I must admit to watching the webcast of some colleagues talking last year (

What has been the best bit of IWMW so far?
I’ve particularly enjoyed the most technical aspects of the talks – especially Patrick Lauke’s talk about HTML 5 and Opera. I also really appreciated Chris Sexton’s talk and her figures for how much some sites have cost to develop!

What will you take away from attending IWMW?
I’ve already had some ideas from people about improving our services. In particularly, the event has made me realise that we really need to think hard about our unique selling points for Mobile Oxford, which I presented this morning in the plenary about the mobile web. There is still another day to go, and I’m hoping I am going to be able to find and get assimilated into a linked data community, as I know there are some people here. That would be really useful for me personally and professionally.

Getting awesome results from data visualisation: Rich Kirk

12:34 pm in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Rich Kirk, Head of Online Marketing at Chameleon Net, discusses issues from his parallel session with Billy Fallows in this video interview…

If you cannot see this video, please click here.

Flash Mash: Owen Stephens

11:43 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Owen Stephens summarises his parallel session: Flash Mash in this short video interview with Kirsty Pitkin…

If you cannot see this video, please click here.

Parallel Session Summary: Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring

8:57 am in workshops by kirsty-pitkin

Lynda Bewley gives us her summary of the parallel session “Usability and User Experience on a Shoestring” presented by Stuart Church…

This parallel session explored ways in which user experience methods could be made more cost-effective yet still provide tangible benefits.
Stuart started by asking the 18 delegates around the table for real-life examples of situations in which guerrilla usability testing methods would help their work. Common issues arising were that many web projects tended to be deadline-driven, leaving little time for user testing; usability decisions tended to be based on the knowledge of internal ‘experts,’ without any reference to a strong external evidence base. Some delegates found that design decisions were dictated by marketing teams as the ‘gatekeepers’ of the university’s external profile.

Stuart outlined some ways to adopt a more user-centred philosophy within an organisation, which included:

1.      User-Centred Design (UCD), which involves:

  • Understanding the business and organisation
  • Understanding the context of use – what are the success metrics of the site?
  • Designing on the basis of this knowledge
  • Evaluating the design
  • Modifying based on evaluation/repeating the process

2.      Behaviour first. Design second.  If you understand people then design will naturally fall out of that. If you start with the technology then your site will be not be usable. This approach is ‘outside-in, not inside-out.’

3.      ‘The user is always right’, by Steve Mulder outlines the following five ideas:

  • What are the business results for making your users happy?
  • You are not your users
  • Learn about your users by interacting with them
  • Make the findings of your research understandable and actionable
  • Design your site based on this knowledge

4.      ‘Emotional Design’ by Don Norman says that design is ‘Visceral’, ‘Behavioural’ and ‘Reflective’.

5.      ‘Rework’ by 37 signals. This book recommends creating a clear epicentre for design.

  • Design the right thing
  • Avoid feature creep
  • Create a clear epicentre for design
  • Focus on simplicity
  • Deliver better return on investment

Stuart went on to outline some low-cost ‘guerrilla’ methods for user research and evaluation, which included:

1.      Usabilla: online ‘Micro usability tests’; low cost (free-$950); useful for preference and attitude testing, and analysis of simple tasks. Tests are based on screenshots and outputs include heat map overlays. Stuart performed a live demo which proved that setup time was less than 15 minutes.

2.       Loop11: remote task-oriented testing that runs on your live site. User self-reports on any difficulties they experience.

3.      Google Website Optimizer: A/B and multivariate testing that is free, simple and powerful; used to run ‘experiments’ to test specific hypotheses about designs. Requires well-defined goals/conversions; goes one step beyond analytics.

4.      Bipolar Emotional Response Tests (BERTS) or ‘semantic differential method’:  using a grid of ‘descriptors’ which users mark up to generate a quantifiable ‘emotional fingerprint’ of your site. Useful for benchmarking user perceptions against how stakeholders want a site to be perceived.

5.      System Usability Scale (SUS): a method of fast data collection, simple analysis, robust method, produces an overall score out of 100 for your site, useful for benchmarking.

6.      Websort: an online card sorting tool, $79 per study, used to inform or validate information architecture of site. This remote method is very useful for getting high numbers of responses and therefore meaningful results.  Can be used with an ‘open sort’ (no pre-defined categories) or a ‘closed sort’ where the categories are already defined.

7.      Skype: a free, large user base, great for remote research, audio/video and screen sharing.

8.      Ethnio: a user recruitment and management tool for setting up remote panels, $400 for the first 200 users, built-in screener. It can appear on your site as a pop-up or a direct link.

My superpower is content curation. What’s yours?: Relly Annett-Baker

8:21 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Relly Annett-Baker, Content Strategist at Headscape, discusses her parallel session on content strategy with Billy Fallow in this video interview…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

A Little Project Management Can Save a Lot of Fan Cleaning: Peter Barnes

8:16 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Peter Barnes of the University of Reading summarises his parallel session: “A Little Project Management Can Save A Lot Of Fan Cleaning” in this short video interview with Kirsty Pitkin…

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

‘Follow Us On Twitter’…’Join Our Facebook Group’: Joanna Blackburn

8:15 am in interviews by kirsty-pitkin

Joanna Blackburn of the University of Salford summarises her parallel session: ‘Follow Us On Twitter’…’Join Our Facebook Group’, in this short interview with Kirsty Pitkin….

If you are unable to see this video, please click here.

by guest

P1: The Web in Turbulent Times: Chris Sexton

7:25 am in plenaries by guest

Chris Sexton giving her opening plenary

In the opening Plenary of IWMW 2010, Chris Sexton, Director of Corporate Information and Computing Services at the University of Sheffield, explored the challenges that web and information services teams are facing. Chris’s talk looked at the challenges from the perspective of an IT Director and explained how they may lead to changes in the way IT departments operate.

The challenges:

1. Cuts to funding and financial uncertainty. The one certainty is that IT/web departments will receive less funding. Savings will have to be made and that there will be an increased focus on shared services. The Government will look increasingly towards open source and shared services to deliver value. There is a case for universities sharing back office systems (such as Finance, HR and Payroll). Existing good examples in Higher Education include JANET, UCAS and HESA.

Commonality of function is what makes a good shared service: the example of in the charity sector is a good one. This is the kind of service universities should be looking to develop.

2. Support and control. IT departments are no longer the ‘gatekeepers’ of technology. They no longer own the hardware or software, they don’t control access to services or how they are accessed (browsers, devices, operating systems) and they don’t control ‘where’ data is kept.

A number of factors are causing user expectations to rise. For students these include the prospect of paying higher fees, rapid changes in technology, high quality commercial services, remote and mobile access to services and sector-leading user interfaces. The ‘net generation’ or ‘digital natives’ grew up with the internet, 98% own a mobile, 95% own a laptop.
The challenge is to meet these expectations on the same or smaller budgets. Students often describe in-house interfaces/software as ‘clunky’ as their expectations of a VLE, for example, would be the same as they would be for a consumer-driven commercial website.

3. Overlapping technologies. With so many applications and web services offering the same functions, the purpose of IT/Web departments is increasingly to help people to know the best way to use them.

4. Round-the-clock access.
24/7 access means 24/7 support. Sheffield offers 24/7 support to staff and students around the world. Challenges arising from this include staffing 24/7 services, resilience of systems, SLAs, cost, energy usage and maintenance windows (i.e. when can we turn services off?).

5. Mobility. The biggest challenge of increasing mobility is the diversity of operating systems and devices. Application developers say to hit 70% of the mobile market, an application would need to be tested on 300 devices. Collaboration has to be the key for mobile application development in higher education.

6. Data security. Increased access and mobility bring greater challenges in terms of data security, in particular for information security (confidentiality, availability, integrity). Considerable risk is involved (data being lost or accidentally made public). IT/Web teams need to play a key role in education – telling people how to protect data.

7. Legislation Chris has blogged extensively about the Digital Economy act 2010 and believes that unless some of the definitions are clarified it could cause major problems for the HE sector. Is a university classified as an ISP? Or a ‘subscriber’? How a university is classified will determine significantly how it responds to alleged copyright infringements and complaints.

8. Reducing carbon footprints. Web/IT departments need to identify and implement energy saving measures in areas such as green IT, printing, efficient data centres, improving video conferencing (particularly individual-to-group), reducing power usage, virtualisation (using fewer, bigger servers).

What does it all mean?

We need to be more flexible/agile, which means changing the way we do things. The days of the two-year development projects have gone. We should now be asking:”If it can’t be done in six months then should we do it at all?”
We need to make things simpler. Complexity is one of the reasons why shared services don’t happen. There are many examples of departments reinventing the wheel (such as devolved support, data centres and procurement in departments).

We should aim for business processes improvement, without seeing technology as the ‘silver bullet’ that will solve every problem.

Different delivery models are needed. We should encourage more self-service (e.g. online helpdesk/diagnostics, remote access helpdesk) and look to managed services, outsourcing, out-hosting and the cloud.
Hard decisions will need to be made. For example, cloud services may not be as good but allow IT providers to focus efforts on teaching and research (e.g. improving VLE rather than in-house email system).

The future

In future, IT services will no longer be the gatekeepers, but the facilitators and educators. Innovation is a must: we can’t afford to just ‘keep the lights on’. It is important to get the balance right. It would be tempting in this climate to cut back on innovation, but failure to innovate carries a greater risk

You can follow Chris on Twitter on @cloggingchris and read her her blog: From a Distance.

Written by Lynda Bewley

Opening Comments: Brian Kelly

7:14 pm in plenaries by kirsty-pitkin

Brian Kelly

Brian looking relaxed prior to his opening presentation

Brian Kelly opened IWMW10 by taking us back in time to 1997, when the new labour government came to power, the mantra was “education, education, education” and the Institutional Web Management Workshop was born. Kelly emphasised that we have seen 13 years of “good times” in higher education since then, with a lot of investment across the public sector and higher education, followed closely by technical innovation. He also noted the move toward the web becoming mission critical for many of our institutions, becoming embedded into the way we do things. Kelly also noted the amount of JISC investment in IT within the sector.

As part of our journey back in time, Kelly demonstrated the Memento plugin, which enables users to browse the web of the past using a slider to move backwards in time. He showed us a University of Sheffield webpage created not long after the first IWMW event, illustrating what we were doing back then, and how far we have moved on since then.

Much of the innovation that we have seen has been supported by funding from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), which included many of the national services such as Mimas and JISCMail. JISC has been around since 1993, but Kelly challenged us to think about how it might need to be described and justified if it were to be invented today. He highlighted the key language features that would be likely to be included, defining it as “…an example of a centralised shared service which provides economies of scale and is pro-active in promoting and delivering innovation across the higher and further education sector. Kelly emphasised that these are this is the type of language we need to be using to reflect the new political agenda.

Kelly introduced another JISC funded project, the Guide to Web Preservation (#jiscpowr), which was officially launched today. He drew particular attenion to the way that this report is being made available: through PDF, JISCPress (therefore enabling comment) and for purchase via The use of services like interested him, as it shows a possible route for the use of commercial services to compliment our own services as funding gets cut.

Kelly then reminded us of some of the themes IWMW has addressed in previous years, noting that last year was the only year when an appropriate theme was not really clear, following consecutive themes about growth. However, this year the theme was obvious because the times they are a-changing. In particular, the importance of the social web with the focus on the individual has surprised many institutions since those early days and we have only started to explore this issue in the last few years. This has also affected the community surrounding IWMW, with the traditional community sharing and supporting space of JISCMail falling out of popular use. We need to think about where the online community is now to help support each other and share both successes and failures.

Today we are in turbulent times. It is no longer “education, education, education”, it is now “cuts, cuts, cuts”, with concerns about the global recession and climate change impacting what we do. Cabinet ministers have been told to expect 40% cuts in their respective budgets, so Kelly warned us to look at the people around us and question who will still be here next year, and how we are are going to respond to these cuts.

Kelly feels that the key for web managers is to focus on innovation, explaining that IWMW represents a safe area for experimentation and a forum for seeing innovation demonstrated in practice, particularly in the area of the mobile web. He challenged us to tag any #eureka moments we may experience throughout the event to share in each other’s insights. He also outlined some of the mobile web applications that would be use throughout the event – including geo-tagging and a QR code team game devised by Mike Ellis.

Next, Kelly outlined some of the questions he hoped the event would cover. As the government expects shared services, community becomes an important issue. We need to consider this community and how we might work together better. There is also the question of openness: not just of our experiences, but also our data. There will also be questions about digital preservation and the future role of remote and amplified events. Specific to IWMW as an event, Kelly outlined how he and Marieke Guy see this event, but asked what is the future of IWMW? Should the commercial sector take responsibility for professional development? Will new models evolve? He discussed how the role of the IWMW sponsors currently fits into this issue.

Finally, with a slide stating: “There will be no miracles here”, Brian declared IWMW10 open.

Brian Kelly’s slides are available at Slideshare here

A recording of Brian’s presentation is available here.

Remote Audience BarCamp

11:43 am in barcamps by kirsty-pitkin

BarCamp signup sheetThis year we plan to help our remote audience get more actively involved by running their own online BarCamp.

There are 2 x 30 min BarCamp sessions, which are scheduled to take place between 14:15 and 15:30 on Tuesday 13th July. Physical delegates will be suggesting their own topics and gathering in like-minded groups to discuss and learn from each other. Now our online delegates can do the same by gathering in the event Live Blog for their very own BarCamp.

We are looking for volunteers to run sessions, so if you are a remote participant and have something to share, please leave a comment on this post, or send a tweet to @iwmwlive.