The IWMW 2016 event is now over. From the comments I’ve received so far the event was a great success, attracting 139 delegates from across the UK’s higher education community, related HE agencies and other public sector bodies, from commercial companies which work with the HE sector – and one attendee from another EU country (the Republic of Ireland!)

Today I will begin the post-event work – thanking speakers; updating web sites; adding links to reports about the event; encouraging participants to share photos using the #IWMW16 hashtag; reminding participants about the importance of completing the event evaluation form; etc. But in this post I’ll give some initial reflections, including some personal thoughts on the huge comedown I experienced on Friday morning along, I’m pretty certain, with many other delegates.

This year, unlike IWMW 2014 when Ross Fergusson made such a strong impression, I didn’t feel there was any single outstanding talk; rather the speakers for the 13 plenary talks and one panel session provided a high level of consistency in sharing their experiences and suggestions on approaches for providing large-scale institutional web services. Similarly there were eight workshop sessions and eight master classes which provided opportunities for participants to explore areas of particular interest in more depth.

IWMW 2016 delegates at the Merseyside Maritime MuseumBut for me the important aspect of the IWMW 2016 event was the opportunities the event provided for building and developing professional networks with one’s peers from other institutions, for sharing stories of successes as well as the difficulties being experienced in managing digital services in today’s environment. The event meal at the Merseyside Maritime Museum provided an ideal opportunity for such networking, especially for the 52 delegates who were attending an IWMW event for the first time.

Titanic exhibition 'having a beautiful trip'After the meal was over delegates had an opportunity to visit the Titanic exhibition in the museum. I remember being amused by the contents of the letter which was written by one of the passengers on the Titanic:

We are having a delightful trip, the weather is beautiful and the shop magnificent

That, I felt, summed up the first day: the talks on the opening day got the event off to a great start, the weather was fine and there was a great buzz. But from a number of conversations I had had I was aware that a number of people were expecting to have difficult meetings about their future and the future of the teams; painful restructuring was expected.

Over the next couple of days things got even better. There were two further drinks receptions, at the Revolution de Cuba and Philharmonic Dining Rooms which provided further opportunities for socialising. And then Ireland’s unexpected victory over Italy brought a smile to many including mine as, with a name of Kelly, an Irish mother and an Irish passport, I’ve always had a soft spot for Ireland.

In my concluding remarks I finished on an upbeat note:

The 20th IWMW event has been brilliant :
  • This lecture theatre; this building; the balcony and the view.
  • The maritime museum.
  • The Philharmonic and the Revolution de Cuba bar
  • The talks; the workshops; Mike McConnell and the free-form jazz panel session; the company; the craic.
You’ve made this possible – the web management community.
A community of people with shared interests, shared passions and a willingness to share and support each other – we don’t regard each other as competitors. As one person said to me earlier: “thank you for organising another fantastic event. I love this community and the friendships and support it offers. 

Little did I know then of the disaster which was awaiting us the following morning: Brexit. That was out communal WTF moment.

Titanic Exhibition 'things are as bad ...'My friends who have painful restructuring interviews this weeks probably felt that “Things are as bad as they can be, and the outlook gloomy in the extreme“. And then we hit the iceberg!

On Friday a number of friends on my Facebook stream were sharing how they will be attending emergency planning meetings today. The Brexit news is bad for the country and bad for the higher education sector.

All I can say in concluding this post (to return to the BBC News and Guardian web sites and my Facebook stream) is that they can’t take the community away from you!

Normal service will be resumed when I’m in less of a state of shock.