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NERCOMP Event: Edu Wordcamp: Small Group Discussion March 24, 2009

Posted by ficial in Blogroll.

This is a continuation of my report on the NERCOMP WordPress gathering on Feb 02. Yes, I’m a little behind…

After the keynote the organizer had us break into small groups (6-8 people, basically 1 table), with the constraint that we try to get into a group with out people we came with. Then we were to introduce ourselves and talk about our experience with wordpress (or lack thereof), and generally to get to know each other a bit. Then we were presented with a specific topic to consider: what would be a good framework / system for a higher ed WP community.

The group I was in spent a lot of time talking with each other and asking about institutions and situations during the intro phase, so we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about the specific question, However, I think that was fine. It was really nice to have time explicitly devoted to getting to know other attendees, and to have something of a framework to get discussion going. Making that connection with people was more useful than any specific info we’d exchange. I’m not going to go through who was in my group, but there were some common threads that came up in the course of our introductions and discussion: .

  • there’s not much demand for blogs as such
  • there is a lot of demand for small, easy-to-maintain web sites
  • as much or more demand in communications offices as in academics
  • lots of people tie it to Active Directory or LDAP
    • wpmu-ldap – plugin for LDAP auth for wpmu install
  • some interest academically among early adopter instructors
    • especially those looking for more communication / interaction with / among students
    • some interest in WP as a communication channel to and from the larger world
  • ease and speed of implementation is a key point to adoption
    • low initial investment makes it possible to deploy for otherwise marginal projects
  • great internal communications / publicity tool
    • RSS feeds especially nice
    • saves a lot of money on printing
    • good viral marketing tool; URLS spread easily

One interesting thing about our group (and about attendance in general, as best as I could tell) was the groups represented. We had an even mix of academics, IT, communications / public affairs, and libraries. WordPress is a product with broad appeal and acceptance.

In terms of the what would be good for the higher ed WP community, there were a few relevant points:

  • There’s a significant functional divide between WP and WPMU implementers. Generally trying to do different things and they have different support challenges.
  • Face-to-face meetings are important because they force interaction. On-line communication can be dominated by the most active people, with less active people being largely passive. In live gatherings, especially small ones, more people participate more fully.
  • General open source community listservs can be intimidating; a list serv with participation limited to higher ed people would be more readily adopted / used. There may be such a list already, but if so it’s not well publicized as no one in our group had heard of it.
  • The content looked for falls into 2 main camps:
    • technical info / support
    • lots ideas, examples, and evidence of pedagogical use
      • demonstrated / supported effectiveness
    • examples of how far you can push the tool (themes and plugins)


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