A CASE in point

A week and a bit on from the CASE Europe Annual Conference 2008 in Brighton and I thought I’d give a summary of some of my thoughts both of the conference itself and my reflections on some of the issues raised.  First a round-up of CEAC08 activity from across the web:

It’s worth noting that the above people represent just five six out of around three hundred organisations present!

Where’s the technology?

I was genuinely surprised by how little certain technologies had been adopted.  Twitter was bring used by four or five people –  a few more if you include social uses – that’s around 1% of delegates.  I know microblogging is still in the “early adopter” phase, but still.

I saw no one using a laptop during a session.  This may be because it is often seen as rude, possibly because of the lack of power sockets in most rooms, or maybe because of the lack of wifi (more about that in a second!) but I’d have liked to have seen more people with them out.

The entire conference venue was covered by two commercial wifi providers – BT Openzone and iBHAN – charging between £10 and £15 per day for access.  I have a FON router at home (thanks to Paul Cheeseman!) and so in return for sharing my internet access, I get access to other users’ connections, and more importantly, I get free access to BT Openzone hotspots!  That’s the theory at least – in reality I was able to connect fine on Tuesday and Wednesday morning and then it stopped working without explanation.

This isn’t the solution though – I don’t expect everyone to go and buy FONs – what is needed is for the conference to arrange for free (or very cheap) wifi direct with the conference venue.  This would be a great thing to get sponsored by one of the exhibitors – far more useful than the four laptops someone had set up as the “internet cafe”!

There’s a place for web managers

One thing that came apparent when chatting to Alison Wildish was how few “web” people there were with a more traditional background.  While there were a number in areas like digital marketing and digital media there was an almost complete absence of the IWMW-crowd.  I’m not saying CEAC is for everyone – it’s not going to lead the way with new technologies – but that’s not the point. This conference can inform web managers about how the “advancement” professions can make use of new technologies and make sure they’re prepared for the demands on their services which are sure to come.

Web skills for mar-comms professionals

There were a few things that came up again and again in the sessions I attended.  Everyone running a web-related session felt obliged to give their recommendations for web tools to use:

  • Google Trends
  • Google Alerts
  • RSS Readers
  • AideRSS
  • Twitter: Not one that I heard anyone recommend really, in fact there were some slightly snide comments about it from some people, but I believe microblogging has a place in communications both many-to-many and institution-to-many.
  • “Web 2.0”: blogs, wikis, podcasts and all that jazz

I agree with Robyn’s sentiments from their podcast that some of this is stuff we already know, but certainly at Edge Hill we’ve still got a long way to go.  In Web Services we need to not just do it ourselves, but help other teams across the University to make the best use of web technologies.

Viadeo or Viadeon’t?

Viadeo was CEAC’s online social network presence.  Viadeo was one of the exhibitors and they provided n online community area as part of their site.  The process went something like this:

  1. Sign up for an account with Viadeo
  2. Go through complex profile setup procedure involving several unconnected pages
  3. Waste 10 minutes attempting to find CEAC community
  4. Eventually find group and sign up
  5. Search for a few people you suspect might be using the site
  6. Never go back again

Okay, maybe this is a little harsh, but I’m not sure Viadeo offers anything particularly exciting, the range of services which CEAC attendees are likely to use, or fits in well with anything that people are doing on the ground already.

Here’s three better ideas:

  1. Create a Facebook group for the more informal side of the conference.  People can post pictures, links, messages.  Heck, Ellie Lovell will even run it for you.
  2. Use LinkedIn for the serious stuff.  While I was writing my previous blog posts I searched for speakers to see what online presence they had.  Very few had blogs (disappointing, but that’s a post for another time!) but most had LinkedIn profiles.  People are happy to share these because it’s all about what they do professionally and not pictures of them down at the roller-disco on Friday night.  Perhaps more importantly, it’s also what’s happening in the real world.  Alumni teams are already looking at LinkedIn as a way to engage with the University so why not use it here as well?
  3. Finally, promote a microblogging system.  Twitter will do, or whatever else is popular this time next year!   The important part isn’t the name, but to encourage an active back-channel.

And on to 2009…

Next year’s CASE Europe Annual Conference is coming to Liverpool at the brand new BT Convention Centre. Details of the venue look fantastic and it’s certainly handier for me – no 6 hour train journeys!  Would I go again?  Yes, I think I would.  As far as we’ve come, in many ways we’re just beginning to realise the potential of the web for marketing the University, communicating with our stakeholders and improving the student experience and it’s important to stay in touch with what Corporate Marketing colleagues are
doing on the front line.

That’s all for my series of posts about CASE Europe Annual Conference 2008.  Thank you for reading (you have been reading, right?!) and maybe I’ll be back next time…

3 thoughts on “A CASE in point

  1. Thank you – I have enjoyed your blogs and tweets from the conference. It is the first time I have followed a conference just though blogs and twitter and found the process educational and enjoyable – so maybe a different view from yours – but it introduced me to a new network and gave me a useful overview of the conference, although of course more would be better.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Sounds like social media adoption is still a bit of a missionary sell in that sphere. 🙂

    That said, always good to see awareness of us pop up in new places. Here’s to adding to the community!

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