Thursday, 15 July 2010

The backchannel

One of the things in common about the talks I've given in the last couple of days was the the backchannel - the on-line discussion that goes on during the conference on Twitter. The IWMW had a very extensive back-channel - there were over 3,400 tweets from 314 twitterers with the IWMW10 hashtag, most from the UK, but some from further afield including Spain. There was a twitterwall prominently displayed on plasma screens around the conference venue. The plenary talks were streamed live and there was a big remote audience - I think the maximum number of connections to the live stream was 93. The Oxford conference yesterday also had its own hashtag, and although the audience was larger it was only for one day, and there were 168 tweets from 30 twitterers. That's not surprising - the web people are early adopters of new technology and have sought to amplify their conference as much as possible

For a speaker, this can be interesting! I'm not in favour of being able to see tweets during my talk - unless for a specific reason such as asking for feedback or questions - and this practice does seem to have faded. However, it is very useful during the Q and A at the end to have someone monitoring them and making sure the remote people get a chance to have their questions put to the speaker. It's also fascinating reading them later. What did the audience pick up on? What did I say that was interesting? What did they agree/disagree with? A quick analysis of the stats shows that there were about 300 tweets while I was speaking on Monday. Most were positive but some questioned what I was proposing - which is good, if everyone agrees then maybe I'm not being provocative enough :-). The biggest surprise seemed to be the cost of some government web sites (£105m for business link), and the most debate was over shared services and cloud provision and whether they could deliver benefits. I was pleased that the most positive comments were about my conclusion that IT departments have to change and become facilitators, advising and educating customers.

You do wonder sometimes, what you've said to provoke this, halfway through the talk:

"Odd feeling. In one moment inspired. Then, deflated"


So, I'm all in favour of the backchannel, - if you're in the room it provides an insight into what others are thinking and allows you to discuss and explore ideas, if you're following a conference remotely you can join in with the discussion, and if you're a speaker you can get immediate and honest feedback on your presentation. I was pleased to see that one of the presenters has already responded to the feedback he received in a blogpost.

However, I am still hugely disappointed at the low take up of these technologies by most of the HE IT managers - how many senior IT staff blog, or are on Twitter? They are missing out on such a good way to communicate to their staff, with each other and to keep up with what's going on in the world. Sigh. Tiny rant over....

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Agree Chris - read your blog everyday and just wish other people in the department had the same commitment to communication that you do. Other exec members take note - what's stopping them writing a blog or telling us what they do? Would be interested to hear. Or maybe they don't read this either :-0

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GK said...

[One of the reasons for fewer tweets in Oxford was the lack of decent network connectivity :( ]

To the talk:

I agree the need for greater resource sharing, but I think there are some massive hurdles to overcome. Some are social - effective sharing requires openness, and that's hard for some people. Some are cost-allocation related, like the relative costs of self-installed vs shared storage facilities (I mentioned in brief post-talk chat). So where to start?

Another point you raised, the days of 1-2 year (?) projects are over. While I agree at one level, I'm also concerned about quality issues: is one insists on new developments completed in shorter timescales, does QA suffer? (One might claim that the levels of QA in support systems aren't always that high anyway.) Maybe if we can learn to focus on small steps rather than grand visions, both rapid deployment *and* quality are possible, but that too can be hard.

You also made much reference to using outsourced facilities. One of the problems we've noted is problems of legal jursidiction re. data protection, etc., if content is offshored. We couldn't sell that to our users at the present time.

Chris Sexton said...

GK - Thanks for comments. Just on the final one, the issues of legal jurisdiction of outsourced data are often misunderstood. All data is kept under the safe harbour agreement- so there are no real legal issues.

Matthrew said...

I came across another interesting perspective on this type of thing here - http://www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2009/11/24/spectacle_at_we.html

The lady in question had a rather unsettling experience at the hands of the twitter feed, and she raises some interesting points about its use.

Chris Sexton said...

Hi Matthew - this got tweeted a lot at the time, and involved the twitterwall being projected onto screens behind the speaker. So she couldn't see them, but the audience could. As I said, this practice has mainly died out know - as it should.

ukwebfocus said...

Regarded your question as to why someone tweeted that they were 'deflated' during your talk we have provided captioning based on the Twitter posts during during talk, which used software developed by Martin Hawksey, RSC Scotland North and East. If you go to:

http://iwmw.ukoln.ac.uk/iwmw2010/talks/sexton/#twitter-caption

you can search for 'deflated' and the video should jump to the correct point )although I'm not sure if I've got the correct start point).