ICT Forum Conference 2013

Today was the annual ICT Forum conference for Oxford’s IT Staff with some from Cambridge, and a few others too.  It was held at the Kassam Stadium as usual and started with an introduction from Anne Trefethen, our CIO, reminding people how far the IT Services formation had come in the last year and expressing her gratitude for all that Oxford’s distributed IT Staff do for the University in delivering a coherent and joined up service.  I was touched that she thanked my team, ITS3, for all we do too.  It is really good that IT Services is continuing to support the ICTF conference by allowing lots of resources (not least ITS3’s time) to be put towards it.  It must be remembered that the ICTF Conference Committee also does a huge amount of work to make the conference happen, particularly its leader Sarah Lawson.

Following the introduction we heard two plenaries, one about a robotic car by Prof Paul Newman and one about cyber security and insider threats, by Prof Sadie Creese.  We had the usual 24 workshops running in four parallel sessions of six and there were some fascinating topics and a great variety of technical and less technical subjects.  Five were by Cambridge people and we had an IT director (Séan Duffy) from Birmingham talking about informations security as well as James Davis from Janet CSIRT on evidence-based security.  Following all that we normally have a plenary session but this year opted to get everyone together in the last hour for a Pecha-Kucha session.  The format is that each speaker has 20 slides to talk about their topic and each slide lasts 20 seconds so the talk is over in 400 seconds, i.e. 6 minutes and 40 seconds.  I was really delighted that 9 people came forward to give sessions and that they all went extremely well with people rising incredibly well to the challenge.  They were so good that I list them all here, note also the gratuitous cupcakes picture, another new innovation for this year.

Pecha Kucha
20 slides, 20 seconds each. The Pecha Kucha format ensures a fast moving and invigorating pace as we take a brief look at:

  • Tom Anstey: One year in – where are we with information security?
  • Carl Marshall: Rapidly developing a secure data collection environment.
  • Penny Schenk: Using Creative Commons images.
  • Lyn Waddington: eSSO and other IAM developments. The current IAM strategy and the road map and projects for the next three years.
  • Jeremy Rowntree: A novel remote live lecture broadcast technique.
  • David King: Building the new mobile Oxford.
  • Sarah Lawson: Stuffing your Digital Safe.
  • Peter Smith: Using telecommunications data to fight crime legally and effectively.
  • Mark Duller: OpenBSD Desktop: More than a firewall, OpenBSD as a secure Desktop.

Pecha Kucha is a real joy at the end of the day as it completely re-invigorates everyone and gets a huge amount of information across in a very short time.

Following announcement of the ICTF election results by me (Riaz Khimji – IT Services, and Ross Wackett – Linacre College, were elected) and general thanks by Jeremy Worth, the ICTF chair, we moved out to the football stadium for another group photo (as we did last year) and then there was the pre-dinner drinks reception.  It would be fair to say the Kassam Stadium staff did a quick and efficient job of turning round the main plenary session room and turning it into a dining room this year.  Dinner was good and served efficiently.  Our after-dinner speaker this year was Tomasz Schafernaker – BBC weatherman and meteorologist.  He shared some interesting anecdotes and facts about the new BBC centre on Oxford Street.  He kindly drew the prize draw for us  to round off the evening.  This year’s prize draw money is going to Sobell House, an Oxford hospice for adults.

The could-do-better points of the day for me were the lunch – it’s very hard to get that right for so many people but the food was not great (soggy rolls) and it was not ready when it should have been. That isn’t good when 300+ people are waiting.  The other problem was the Wi-Fi – last year the issue was lack of address space and that was fixed this year but the underlying network was just not coping properly with so many people even though we’d made it clear that it needed to cater for 500 concurrent users.  Many people however experienced not being able to connect at all and those that could connect were experiencing slow connections with regular drop-out.  This is not the service I want to be delivering to Oxford and Cambridge’s  IT Staff.  I hope we can use eduroam next year.

There were around 330 delegates and six companies sponsored the event and had exhibition stands – they were Dell, Nouveau Solutions, CAE, Misco, Khipu and OCF.  I am very grateful to all of the sponsors because the event wouldn’t be able to happen without them.  Do visit their sites and have look – they’ll love us if you do!

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One Response to “ICT Forum Conference 2013”

  1. This year , the conference was well organised – apart from the wifi provision by the local service provider which was dismail and perhaps needs to be thought from ground up next time around.
    The problem is they may not have scoped out for such a large volume of users and this shows the clear gap between the expertise of the education sector (we are used to delivering networks to large areas with huge number of simultaneous users ) and the private sector.

    Loved the electronic contact exchange this time around and the food was great as well.
    The conference organisers did put their very best going beyond their call of duty to sort last minute issues out – even those not within their control (thanks Greg for your ADSL router/3g Combo) .
    I hope our guests from Cambridge also had a great time – all in all the day was good.

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