About This Guest Post
In 2006 Ian St John had no idea what the ‘IWMW’ was and didn’t give it a thought. Ten years later Ian feels that “IWMW is about the people you meet and network with on the social nights and who you become friends” – friends who, in Ian case, have helped him through a personal tragedy.
IWMW – More Than Just a Community
In 2006 a number of important things happened in my life that was to shape my future. My daughter (Emily) was born and I started a shiny new job working at the then named ‘College of St Mark & St John’ as the ‘Web Co-ordinator’ – I’m still not sure what they meant with that job title. Although I had worked for over ten years as a senior research programmer at the University of Plymouth, I was new to the world of web management. At that time, the College website updates were all actioned manually by one person (which would have been me) and the designs created by ‘a friend of the Principal’. Something had to be done.
My first action was to look at what other Universities were doing and try to aspire to that level. I emailed or phoned a whole host of webmasters at a number of Universities (yes the old webmaster@***.ac.uk trick) and arranged to meet up for a chat to research (1) what content management systems they were using (I had no intention of just coding other people’s content all day) and (2) to ask what advice they could give to a person new to this new exciting community that I found myself in. The first few months of the job involved a lot of travelling up and down the country and drinking lots of coffee. Plymouth, if you are not aware, is set in a wonderful part of the country. We are right next to the sea and have Dartmoor and Cornwall right on our doorstep. The big problem – its miles away from anywhere else. Looking back now I think that those first few months were worth the effort. We chose a CMS package which has always worked for us and we are still using…and I met up with Rob Mitchell and Bill Edmunds at Exeter University. There was one small piece of advice Rob gave me as I was leaving our meeting that has forever helped me and assisted my ability to function as I do in web management in higher education….”you need to go to the IWMW at Bath University“. At the time I had no idea what the ‘IWMW’ was and didn’t give it a thought.
A few days later, I remembered what Rob said and decided to research ‘IWMW’ and came across the ‘Institutional Web Management Workshop 2006: Quality Matters’ website. I managed to convince my employers to fund attending and later that month I drove myself to Bath for my first IWMW. There I was, suited and booted all ready to meet my peers see what Brian promised on the website – ‘The event provides an opportunity for those involved in the provision of institutional Web services to hear about institutional case studies, national initiatives and emerging technologies and to actively participate in a number of parallel sessions‘. As I walked towards the registration desk I heard a voice shout out to me – “Hello Ian. Glad you were able to come“. I turned to see Bill Edmunds from Exeter walking towards me dressed not dressed as I expected but in an Exeter City shirt (no accounting for taste Bill).
Roll the clock forward ten years and the College has now become the ‘University of St Mark & St John’, my job title is now ‘Web Services Manager’ but I am still doing the job as a team of one all by myself.
That is due in no short part to my attendance at the IWMW in 2006 and the people I met and befriended during those days in Bath and at other IWMW events since then. Although the sessions are always thought provoking, it is not always about them. To me, the IWMW is about the people you meet and network with on the social nights and who you become friends with. Without them I’m not sure I could have managed all of these years alone. Over the past few years I have had to endure personal tragedy that has tested me to the limits – losing my wonderful son Callum. The support I have had from those who I met via the IWMW has been immense. The IWMW is more than a community … it is about the people you meet and the friendships that you form as a result of attending. That is what the IWMW means to me.
Thank you IWMW.
Ian St John
Ian St John is responsible for the technical support and maintenance of the University website, managing the University CMS and advising on website accessibility and usability. He manages the University Google Analytics account, University Enterprise Search Solution and University Federated Access Management system. For 10 years Ian has ploughed a lone furrow at the University, not managing a team of people but a service – Ian is the web team. Ian is particularly interested in meeting and forming discussions with those who manage web services for small institutions which may have small web teams (including web teams with only one team member) – looking at how we can collaborate to improve our day to day lives. Ian is also facilitating a workshop session on “10 Years of a Web Team of One: the Lessons Learnt” at the forthcoming IWMW 2016 event.