As the project manager for Enrich I attended the JISC inf11 Programme start-up meeting at the University of Leicester’s John Foster Hall on Tuesday and Wednesday this week – a heady medley of dance cards, minute madness, breakout sessions and excellent networking opportunities with both the Programme Managers and other project managers.
I didn’t attend the Tuesday afternoon session for new project managers but heard that it was a lively and useful session. I did arrive in time for the excellent keynote by David De Roure from the University of Southampton about MyExperiment on Tuesday afternoon.
Upon registration we were issued with our inf11 badges but these weren’t just standard badges, these were [M&S advert theme] JISC inf11 richly tagged, playing card filled, fully programme enabled badges which were like mini mission briefing packs. They were well done and the use of the tag clouds and the playing cards for the Minute Madness session gave a fresh dynamism to the event.
The tag clouds were based on our projects (courtesy of Wordle) and I was relieved to see that Enlighten, Research and Repository were some of Enrich’s most prominent tags.
Enrich as a Wordle Tag Cloud
The playing card designated the session of the minute madness based on suit [I was clubs, the final session] and the number  which indicated the order, aces were low and all credit should go to Stephen Grace from the Readiness for REF (R4R) project who was the Ace of Hearts and the first presenter of the first session. There were no Jokers…
The Dance Cards
The badges also contained dance cards which listed the projects we should talk to, I got round most of them but have some follow-ups to do especially with Allaboutmeprints. For those projects I didn’t meet or talk with I will be contacting you by e-mail. This was my full list:
It was good to meet up with various colleagues including James Toon who is managing the ERIScotland project. We had the opportunity to have some discussions around repositories and research pooling in Scotland and will be keeping in touch.
The Minutes Madness, well half a minute, was an opportunity for every project to make a 30 second pitch about their project. A huge digital countdown clock was projected against the back wall and there was a large X marks the spot gaffa-taped to the floor to ensure that we knew exactly where to stand. We were filmed for future promotional purposes so watch this space. There were raps, haikus, poems, Bob Dylan homages and even some juggling as Chris Awre demonstrated his versatility to pitch a project while juggling three balls, oh and there was information about the projects themselves. It was a fairly dynamic experience and everyone stepped up to the X and delivered.
The MM also gave us an opportunity to to put faces to projects, especially the ones on our dance cards.
Managing your project
The meeting provided a good baseline for new project managers and old hands, alas it seems I am in the latter category, So much so that Andy asked me to do a brief presentation on my experience as a project manager to follow Amber’s presentation about JISC’s expectations and the paperwork etc. I did a short piece entitled “JISC Project Management: A View from the Frontline” which gave some background on our previous work (DAEDALUS), our transition to Enlighten and the current Enrich project as well as some project lessons learned. A key one is to always keep in touch with your Programme Manager especially if you run into roadblocks or project issues, don’t wait until the interim report. JISC and your Programme Manager want your project to succeed.
It also gave me an opportunity to namecheck NECTAR (the Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research) and IncReASe (White Rose) projects to demonstrate the importance of the work of previous projects and programmes. We are building on the work the they have done with EPrints reports and import plug-ins.
The remainder of the Wednesday focussed on four breakout sessions in the areas of Evaluation, Communication, Sustainability and User Engagement and there was the opportunity to attend at least three of these.
I went to Communication where we had to put together a focussed tweet to a distinct audience, we targeted researchers for ERIS – suddenly a 140 characters is not a lot; Sustainability which looked both at how products such as Red Hat have maintained their funding as well as focussing on IR software and institutions – the key message was that you should be building your community from the outset; my final session was User Engagement which touched on the 90-9-1 Principle of Participation Inequality – the key principle here seems to be that you need to extend the size of your user group to maximise the number of active and creator users which you have.
Lastly, JISC and many of its projects seem to have wholly embraced social networking and its panoply of tools such as blogs and wikis as well as the rich raft of services from Twitter, Netvibes, Wordle now available. This blog, and indeed this entry is a direct result of Andy McGregor’s [our Programme Manager] suggestion that we set one up for Enrich which we duly did and the added it to our Dissemination Plan. We have extended it to Enlighten, our repository service to ensure its sustainability beyond Enrich’s funding which finishes at the end of March 2010.