Reflections on HighEdWeb Conference

the red stapler Reflections on HighEdWeb ConferenceWhat an absolutely incredible, all consuming, information packed, community ran, communication filled conference.  The crew in charge of HighEdWeb put together an absolutely incredible conference with a wonderful group of people and you can tell in the atmosphere that it’s kind of like a gigantic family.  Winning “Best in Track” honors for my Hello is anyone out there? presentation was an incredible humbling experience.  I’m so glad that this topic is so important to everyone and they are ready to use it to help drive their marketing efforts online.

Once again thank you for your wonderful reviews and excellent feedback.  I’ve put months into creating that presentation and it really feels good to see the community be so excepting and even excited to run with my advice and tips.  If you missed the presentation it was record for a soon to be released podcast and all the slides are already posted on this site.  If you are a visual learner who would prefer to experience hearing my southern accent which comes across as a drunken Scott, as I’ve been told, then I’m also presenting and expanding on this subject at STAMATS in November and CASE V in December.  As Web Analytics rule #1 says, “Always Be Testing”, I’ll be using the results from slide links to optimize the presentation for the next go around.

So while I’m at the airport without internet seems like just as good of time as any to spend some time to reflect.  (Ok so I didn’t publish it until after I got home)

eduWEB vs HighEdWeb Conferences

I have been asked by many people to compare the two conferences as which one is best.  Let me just start out by saying they are both completely different and it really depends on what you want to get out of a conference experience.   I guess after having the opportunity to present at each I can share a little of my personal opinion.

eduWEB first of all was not as big nor did it have as many sessions and tracks.  There is good and bad in this.  Good because it’s much easier to not get overwhelmed, but bad because there isn’t as much information.  To me eduWEB felt a little more comfortable with making connections.  This wasn’t because the people weren’t awesome at both, but more because there just aren’t as many people and you feel like you can spend more time getting to know individuals.  eduWEB is more marketing oriented.  It did have some technical tracks, but I have a hard time seeing something like Cross Site Scripting, which won best of conference at HighEdWeb, even fitting into that conference schedule.

While I’m on it just a shout out to , you are the man and I’m so glad I got to sit in your presentation, truly awesome, scary, mind-blowing ramifications from your presentation.

in all his glory before his “Best of Conference” presentation

HighEdWeb is a larger conference and the committee does a great job of putting together a wonderful conference.  This conference does a great job of being very vendor light and letting the community decide the direction of the conference and present.  Personally I’m the type person that if I need a vendor for something I’m going to seek them out not be sold by them at a conference, remember guys figure out what you want to do then find the tool that does it best.  There was always someone new to meet and it was nice to really get into some technical discussions for people.

So bottom line the difference in the conference has to depend on your level of technical knowledge.  If you’re a real tech geek than HighEdWeb is probably you’re fit.  If you’re more on the marketing and strategy of a campus website then eduWEB fits for you.  If you do both or run a department and need to see the whole picture then you should probably check out both.

Diversity of CMS but Mac Rules

Just in some of the talks I had with people about content management systems it was very easy to see the wide array of tools that people use to manage and run their site.  We use Ektron and I seriously did not talk to another institution at this conference who uses that to manage their site.  It did seem like a whole heck of a lot of people had Macs and iPhones.  That would be a great survey question to ask attendees next year, hint hint Steve.

There is also a whole lot of different ways that users attack various other issues like social networks.  Do you build your own, build on something like Facebook, or do something in between by going with a network on Ning.  I personally really enjoyed listening to the range as it shows how different people have different needs and find various solutions to solve their problems.

These people are SMART

Wow there was a whole ton of brilliant bright people that knows their shit.  Coming from a small school in the south there isn’t a lot of interaction with other bright, innovative, technology people and this conference was loaded with them.    Honestly the “propeller heads” track sessions that I sat in were basically above my head.  It was great exposure and always fun to learn tidbits in a void of confusion, but wow some bright people doing some really creative things.

The Competition Makes us Better

My favorite quote of the conference was in the Web managers roundtable when one of the panelist, Bob Crisler, made a comment that his biggest challenge was “everyone in this room”.  Even as we compete against each other we learn from each other and are glad to share our experiences with each other.  That is awesome!  There are very few, if any other industries that would so freely share successes and failures with each other.

Until Next Year

This was my first HighEdWeb and hopefully I’ll get to attend another one next year.  Watch out Milwaukee.  I’m absolutely exhausted and just need some downtime.  So as a final tip of advice:

Don’t stick your wallet in the Ice Bucket!

7 Responses to “Reflections on HighEdWeb Conference 2008”

  1. Says:

    Founder- I think you make some excellent points on the quality of the conference and I agree it would be *very* interesting to know who is using what CMS - I asked in my session and immediately had something in common with them . . . . I agree that the level of the presentations was exceptionally high and I came away with “pages” of new information as I was making notes to review with my boss. And everyone you passed had a smile. Being one of the old farts, it was nice to be accepted into this very talented fraternity of young folks.

  2. Says:

    PS. you promised to send me the title of that book you were recommending . . . .

  3. Says:

    Hey Kyle!
    Thanks for your posting about the differences of High Ed Web and eduWeb … it’s great that the two of us exist because we do serve mostly distinctly different audiences. Yes, we are more marketing oriented, but we do hope to offer the technical in a way so when a marketing or admissions person comes into that presentation, they will come to understand that area, not get lost and yet, can take that knowledge back to campus and know what is going on and can converse about it. Glad to see you enjoyed both of our conferences and 2009′s location will be revealed after October 16th!

  4. Says:

    @George - Here’s the book Web Analytics: An Hour A Day. Also here is the author’s blog Occam’s Razor which I also HIGHLY recommend.

    @Shelley - Totally agree. Can’t wait to hear the location for eduWEB next year!

  5. Says:

    First, thanks for the shout out. I’ve been a long-time reader of your blog and was pretty stoked that you were in attendance for my presentation.

    I think the above photo was the moment I realized that I needed to use the restroom but only had a minute left before I was supposed to start. LOL!

    I noticed the same thing about the Macs. I’m a late convert to the Mac. I have a couple of Graphical Designers that I have to support so basically forced myself to use a mac so that I would be at least a little familiar with them when they need help. But now that I have used it for a bit, I am absolutely in love. After having used Windows for the last 20 years (Windows 2.0), I have decided my next machine will be a mac, with Linux and Windows in a VM. And with each conference I attend, it appears that there are more and more windows users making the same decision as myself.

    This was my first HighEdWeb conference as well, and I was VERY impressed. It is one of the few conferences where I have come home and told my boss that our entire web team should have gone. I’ll definitely be there next year, and will *make sure* I sit in on your presentation.

    ps - there are no xss attacks in this message. promise! =D

  6. Says:

    @Paul - That’s hilarious and to think I thought it was your “superman about to save the world” pose because you saw I was snapping a picture.

  7. Says:

    Noted. :)

    You’ve convinced this curmudgeon that I need to convince my College to update our privacy policy and start using cookies / Google Analytics.