Data and the Web Manager

21 June, 2012

At this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop, data emerged as one of the surprising key themes. Although Web managers are familiar with data (for example in the form of analytics and log data) the three days showed showed that there is stll much more they could be doing with it. 

The event, which is aimed at members of institutional Web management teams in the UK's higher and further education communities, was held in Edinburgh from 18 - 20 June 2012.

On day 1 Kevin Ashley from the DCC gave the opening plenary looking at data and the Web manager. Kevin pointed out that the big challenge for the event delegates is that small data can easily be aggregated to make big data. He also advocated the need for data visualization: “data can be beautiful and useful”, Tag Galaxy being a good example. Kevin explained that as Web managers the focus should be on making data searchable and accessible: “Don't put your data in boxes! Data needs to be blended in the future”.

The morning of day 2 also had a data focus. Sally Kerr from Edinburgh City Council gave an overview of the state of open data development across Scotland, the funding streams driving this forward and the aspiration they have for future hyperlocal open data projects. Suraj Kika from Jadu went on to provided a quick demonstration of the API on Edinburgh City Council website and how this can be used with app building tool Weejot.  

In the data visualization taster talk Tony Hirst from the Open University showed a range of visualisations to identify trends, emphasising that visualisations can be a powerful way of helping to spot patterns. Martin Hawksey from CETIS provided a case study to illustrate the value of this type of work for the sector by walking us through his recent work to visualise OER  resources in Jorum using tools such as Google Refine, Gourse, and NodeXL.

One talk of particular interest to those attending was Andrew Oakley’ overview of the implications of the requirements for HEIs to publish standardised information for all their undergraduate courses in the form of a Key Information Set (KIS). This data will be delivered as a widget on each course page on their website and is designed to meet the needs of prospective students and allow for informed decision making when choosing a university course. KIS poses many challenges regarding data collation, reuse and analysis.

Other sessions looking at data use included the DCC’s Marieke Guy on big and small web data, Phil Barker from CETIS talking about and structured web data, Stephen Emmot from LSE's talk on measuring impact which looked at analytics and the impact of social science work and Alex Bilbie from University of Lincoln presenting on the JISC-funded Linking You toolkit.  

By the end of the event Web managers appeared a lot more comfortable with the concept of data and it’s use. Sharon Steeples summed up feelings with the following tweet: “I’m getting this theme now... Content is data. Store it. Catalog it. Share it. Present it visually. And re-use it.”


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