I participated in the annual JISC conference at Birmingham International Convention Centre on 15 April. The event was well-organised (good catering and good facility) and well-attended (the organiser estimated more than 700 delegates attending plus online participants). And it was a great opportunity to meet old friends and make new contacts.
I paid particular attention to three themes at this conference: Free/Open Source Software, Web 2.0, and user/community engagement.
In his opening speech, Sir Ron Cooke, Chair of JISC, spoke highly of free/open source software and its cultural (open access, open content), educational, economic, technical, and (most interestingly) environmental implications. And JISC has been invested a lot in promoting free/open source software through funding services (e.g., OSS-Watch and JISC-Legal) and projects (e.g., MyExperiment).
The Hub’s current research on understanding the development process of MyExperiment is parallel to JISC’s focus on free/open source software in that MyExperiment is an open source software project. After my presentation at the OeRC Project Management Workshop, Gabriel Hanganu and Ross Gardler from OSS-Watch have shown interest in knowing more about how we do analysis of the qualitative instant messaging data as most of the free/open source software projects use instant messaging tools (e.g., IRC, Jabber, ICQ, Skype) to communicate with distributed members.
User engagement/community building is another important item on JISC’s roadmap. Both Sir Cooke and Lord Puttnam have emphasised the importance of engaging users and harnessing the growing user-generated content on the web. Web 2.0, in this case, is ‘the’ critical means. This JISC conference, for the first time, allowed those unable to attend to follow the conference online through a number of web activities, including live streaming of keynote sessions, micro-blogging (via ‘Twitter’), shared images of the conference, live blogging, and podcasts of interviews and sessions. Angela Beesley‘s closing keynote on Wikipedia provided insight about how a good Web 2.0 project works. And in the afternoon parallel session that I participated on ‘VRE – Into the future’, the advantages of Web 2.0 such as harnessing collective intelligence and engaging the public/citizen have again been strengthened.
However, there are concerns about the Web 2.0 phenomenon – Sir Cooke mentioned of students lack of analytical skills for selecting good online contents, David De Roure spoke of his approach of balancing Grid and Web 2 technologies, IPRs and copyright issues, technical standards issue, etc. These all await us to explore in more details. I shall also mention that the Hub’s reputation of delivering quality user/usability studies has been spreading (thanks to David De Roure).
Apart from hearing a range of speakers give presentations, I also watched the demonstrations from CREW, NaCTeM and the ASSERT project, and visited some stands in the exhibition hall (e.g., NGS, Intute, NaCTeM, OSS-Watch).
To sum up, I think the JISC conference is a great opportunity to meet people. In terms of conference organisation, one thing worth learning is to enable people to fllow our NCeSS conference online through live video streaming, live feeds and networking sites.
I look forward to the JISC 2009 conference which will take place at Edinburgh in March 2009.