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November 27, 2007

On the road again

Both Pete and I have been on the road a lot over the last few days, hence the lower than usual number of blog entries... for which, apologies.

My travels started last week with the JISC CETIS conference in Birmingham and my somewhat abortive attempt at a video blog entry (see previous blog entry).  My original plan was to video blog both days, but the blunt realisation that some people would rather not have their photos made available online (even without any association with their name) and the ensuing gap since the conference finished means I won't bother.  I don't think you are missing much to be honest (and even I have to confess that I'm already bored by the photo transitions available on Animoto!).

The conference was very enjoyable and it was particularly good to meet Sarah Robbins and Mark Bell who had come over from the US to speak at the event, both of whom I had only previously met in Second Life.  It was very nice to be able to meet with virtual friends in a real-life pub and warm beer kind of way.  Both gave very interesting presentations in the virtual worlds session at the event (as did Dan Livingstone, who spoke in the same session), my only major comment being that it was a shame that the audience for both was relatively small.  It is also worth noting that, as far as I could tell, the network at the conference venue did not support Second Life connections, so no live demoing was possible.

My other lasting thought (I confess that I only brought away a few scrappy notes, so any kind of detailed blog is out of the question) was the apparent gulf between the somewhat conservative computing services view of the world, as presented by Iain Stinson (University of Liverpool), and what I perceived to be the rather more cutting edge view of the conference more generally.  I don't mean that in a derogatory way to either viewpoint, since we probably need some of both... but the gap between the two struck me as pretty startling and I think that ultimately we have to find ways of bringing them together to take any kind of sensible path forward.

The following day I traveled to London to speak at the UKSG event, Caught up in Web 2.0? I had been asked to speak about Second Life, something I'm always happy to do, though in this particular case I spent some time explaining what I saw as the similarities and differences between SL and Web 2.0.  It is also worth noting that I'd arrived armed only with a very thin presentation, expecting to be able to demo Second Life live to the assembled masses.  Unfortunately, the venue's firewall prevented this from happening, meaning that I had to spend the first two talks re-purposing a previous set of slides :-(.  Despite that distraction, I found the other presentations on the day very interesting.

There's a small theme emerging here... Second Life is technically advanced enough that being able to use it in any given venue is not guaranteed.  It was therefore with some trepidation that I went back to Birmingham yesterday for UKOLN's workshop on blogs and social networks which I had, somewhat madly, agreed to try streaming into Second Life with no real knowledge of what kind of network was going to be available.

I'll blog the event separately on the grounds that there are some useful lessons to be learned, but suffice to say that things went less smoothly than they might have, though not necessarily for the reasons I was concerned about before I went!


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"... the apparent gulf between the somewhat conservative computing services view of the world [... and ...] the rather more cutting edge view..."

This clash seems relatively (and perhaps increasingly?) common in UK HE. As someone who works on the 'service' side of the HE sector (currently Libraries, in the past Libraries and IT) it seems an inevitable consequence of the 'service' side of University IT. The IT service is trying to provide a bulk, quality, service within a fixed budget. This seems to mitigate against innovative, cutting edge, work.

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