I’m at HighEdWeb in Austin this week. Posts containing #heweb11 filled my personal social stream in the weeks leading up to this annual event that brings together web professionals in colleges and universities throughout the country.
Why all the frenzy? Why such anticipation? I’ve been a member of professional associations for as long as I can remember and I can’t think of any other associations that have been as useful or as directly tied to what I do to earn a living. Why?
Because “the web” can be a lonely business. And, frankly, we get by with a little help from our friends.
Anybody remember the time when the college/university website was considered supplemental? You had to have one, but it certainly wasn’t the flagship communication piece. Battle won, that hurdle behind us. Even so, the infrastructure needed to support the institutional web strategy is still developing. We’re still working to establish the discipline of web on our campuses.
I often meet individuals who refer to themselves as a “web team of one.” They are courageous and enthusiastic about what they do but, still, they face an isolating and challenging work environment because there is no one else who does what they do.
I still meet people who are leading (and nurturing) campus web teams. They are having some success, but their team members don’t yet have the right skill sets and competencies to take their work to the next level. And, what these teams advocate and accomplish is sometimes misunderstood and under appreciated by campus leadership.
I’m regularly asked by mStoner clients to share organizational structures, position descriptions, mission statements, and various and sundry reports from other colleges and universities. (Thanks to all of you who have provided them for the benefit of others!) Web professionals are hungry for data about how to make it happen well.
Enter HighEdWeb. It’s not just a conference, it’s a community.
For the web professional going solo, it provides colleagues. And not just people you exchange ideas with once a year. More often, the HighEdWeb conference is where you finally meet the person behind @putyournamehere for the first time. Because really, you already know each other because you’ve shared ideas, figured out solutions to problems, and provided mutual encouragement through social media.
For the web team with limited professional development funds, the HighEdWeb event provides a stream of content (live from #conferencelocation) that can be an exceptional resource even for those who had to miss it. Even if it wasn’t your turn to go this year, you still benefit because you can follow along.
For every higher education web professional, the conference offers a shot in the arm and, more importantly, a way to realize you’re not crazy. There’s nothing like an affinity group to make it clear that your highs, lows, struggles, and successes in the world we call .edu are shared by many. Some of the smartest people you’ll meet have been where you are. Cool thing is, they’re ready to share. They’ll save you some time, give you an idea, or teach you something you didn’t know. That’s what all the frenzy’s about.