Not much IT related today. I decided to get a train up the night before the main conference so I could attend the sessions the next morning before the opening of the conference proper. I should have had a 14 minute connection at Birmingham New Street but Cross Country had problems so I actually missed the last train to Liverpool (around 2130) by 5 minutes. National Rail was helpful and directed me by train to Crewe then ordered and paid for a taxi from there to Liverpool. I got around half past midnight rather than 2320 so it could have been worse! I stayed at an interesting hotel.
I attended this two day meeting in Cambridge because the Distributed IT Staff part of the UCISA Staff Development Group is moving into the Support Services Group and I have had a part in forming the new terms of reference for that group.
The group consists currently of people from many other UK HEIs including Edge Hill, Sheffield, Cambridge, Cardiff, Liverpool John Moores, Nottingham, Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan and Sheffield Hallam and it’s really fascinating to get insights from people in different places and with different strengths, opportunities, weaknesses and threats. We started with an ice breaker where everyone had to imagine they were going to a conference and state three things they’d take: a favourite song, a favourite book and a favourite luxury item. It was all fascinating!
We talked through the terms of reference and were particularly careful to make sure that it was clear that SSG will not be carrying passengers, rather everyone will be expected to pull their weight and make a positive contribution to the work of the group. We also decided that there needed to be deputy chair as well as a chair and secretary. Succession planning would be important and the group will make sure people are clear about length of service so there can be a healthy rotation. It would also be important to make sure that an incoming chair was on the group for at least a year before taking the role of chair.
We moved then onto the business plan and talked about current activities of the SSG and our aspirations for the future. In addition to the annual conference, the SSG is aiming to take part in many more activities and ideas include:
- Business Case award. How? Industrial sponsor?
- Developing social media guidelines and policy
- Engaging with the community – consider email list alternatives – LinkedIn group?
- Sharing own-institution events and paid training where there is wider relevance
- Webinars – bright talk, Google hangouts, WebEx, Skype etc. – IT Support Models
- Toolkits/Case Studies/Good practice guides – perhaps on the back of the annual conference – models for distributed IT support? – Helpdesk to Service Desk
- Surveys (post conference, small/short/snappy polls on specific subjects)
- Staff experience and satisfaction
- Reports and publications – consider for future after other activities have happened
- One-day events. Social media & engagement? Using social media to support distributed IT Support Staff
- Laptop/iPad vending
- Cultural change and changing roles
- Website stats via Google analytics (Sue/Nik). Where people come from to SSG site, how long they stay, what they visit, where they go etc.
The group had a really useful update on activities from Peter Tinson (UCISA’s Executive secretary) and Sue Fells (The UCISA Business Manager). The work of the UCISA office is incredibly important to enable UCISA groups to function properly and I am very grateful to Sue and Peter and the rest of the team for all their hard work and dedication to our work and that of many other groups. it’s especially appreciated given the imminence of the UCISA flagship event in March, the Management Conference.
On our second day of the meeting we had an update from the organising committee for the Conference in July 2013 in Edinburgh. Steve Gough (as its chair) joined us in person and Nici Cooper from Wolverhampton was with us by the magic of Skype. Quite a lot of detail on the conference was fleshed out and some useful discussions were had. The conference website should start to fill with lots more information soon. In line with not carrying passengers we then revisited the business plan and made sure that individual areas or work were assigned to members of the SSG so that we would all have things to do before the next meeting. The meeting finished just after lunch to give us all time to get back to our home towns and Cities.
As well as all the interaction time during the two days of the meeting members of the group spent a nice evening having a few drinks and dinner together. I am firmly of the opinion that time spent building relationships with colleagues from other UK HEIs is incredibly valuable. It gives us all so much to learn and share that directly benefits our own Universities and our own personal development. I hear people sometimes say that these events are just jollies and I won’t deny they are enjoyable bit they are also extremely valuable. I’m grateful to Oxford University for allowing me to take part in them.
Today I attended the 2012 College IT Management conference, jointly run by Oxford’s and Cambridge’s College IT Managers. The events are always away from Oxford or Cambridge and have been held at some fascinating venues over the years, including Bletchley Park, Duxford Air Museum, the Williams F1 HQ, and Stamford Bridge. This year’s event was no exception and I found myself quite childishly excited to be going to the National Space Centre in Leicester for the day. About 20 Oxford College ITSS attended out of a total of about 75 people.
The conference was a great success with a good deal of networking and sharing of best practice taking place. The plenary session was entitled “anyway, anyhow, anywhere” and given by Richard Harris, CIO of ARM. We learned some fascinating facts. Did you know, for example, that the mission to put man on the moon used less computing power than today’s average smartphone, and that, worldwide, data centres create more carbon emissions that the total world aviation industry? I was quite surprised! Minimising energy use in mobile devices (to preserve battery life) is a well known issue but it’s clearly just as important to minimise energy use in data centres as much as we can too.
Richard explained how the move to mobile devices and the proliferation of different form factors are such important factors in the development of computing today. Computer use is much more personal and as mobile devices consume more and more bandwidth efficiency in network infrastructure and servers becomes ever more important. One Oxford ITSS made the wise observation that it’s no longer information itself that is power, but instead, its management and interpretation.
There were twelve plenary seminars and round tables run in four sessions of three in parallel. I started at a seminar about Near Field Communications (NFC), learning about excellent possibilities for NFC integration for mobile phones so time-limited “keys” can be texted to people who are in industries like field service or home care. This sort of application could also be useful in the College environment where room occupancy changes constantly—think of the headache it would remove if porters’ lodges no longer had to handle keys!
My next seminar was about developing a college helpdesk. There were some useful principles shared and lessons learned and I was impressed at how a helpdesk system in a college can be used just as effectively for buildings maintenance and housekeeping issues as it can for IT-related issues. I was impressed that a lot of the audience questions did show a good understanding of the real costs of developing apps in-house. I couldn’t help wondering if the effort would have been better-spent implementing RT or similar.
During lunch there was ample opportunity to explore a good exhibition of about 16 suppliers that had come to the event.
My first afternoon session was a fascinating overview of the Raspberry Pi given by someone from the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the Cambridge Computer Lab gave an excellent demonstration with the ‘Pi hanging from a cable in the ceiling-mounted data projector! We hope to have this session as a workshop at the ICTF conference on 5th July.
My final session was a round-table discussion about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). I was struck at how some IT officers still see the college network as “my network” rather than something they provide and support for their colleagues. There was useful discussion about remote desktops and application virtualisation and the issues around keeping College data secure on personally owned devices.
The day was rounded off with a great film in the Space Centre’s planetarium about the vastness of space, some rather radio-active-looking cocktails and an excellent meal. After dinner we heard a great talk from a member of Cambridge University Spaceflight – a student-run society that does some amazing stuff with small computers and radio communications!
I attended this today run by JANET training as a guinea-pig since it was a first run of a course. I’d been asked to attend by a contact in the UCISA Staff Development Group.
The course was well presented by Matt Cook, Head of Networks, from Loughborough University. JANET use many venues for courses and this one, The Studio, in Birmingham was certainly very good. It is 2 minutes’ walk from New Street rail station and the training room was light and airy. There were refreshments available all day and the lunch provided was excellent. I particularly like the punchbag in the “relaxation” room!
The course covered lots of material and was more of a management overview than an in-depth technical session, although we did get to play a bit with VMWare and doing some networking in virtual machines.
The course covered:
- Virtualisation Implementation
- Virtualisation Networking and Security
- Introudction to the Cloud
- Janet Brokerage
- Cloud Networking
- Cloud Security
- Cloud Futures
For me I think the most interesting aspects were the things we need to consider as we move to cloud services as network connectivity becomes more and more critical to everyday operations of a University.
I was impressed at the professionalism of JANET training and thoroughly enjoyed the course. It was good to see Eduroam in a Box in action too!
I attended this meeting becuase SDG is one of the subgroups of the UCISA Support Services Group that is repsonsible for organising a biennial symposium focusing on support issues and I am to be the chair of the 2012 event. It’s different to the top-level UCISA group called the Staff Development Group (also SDG) of which I am a member
I knew most of the people present at the meeting but it was good to see how a different group operates. I think I learned quite a bit about how UCISA events run and look forward to being the chair of the 2012 event. We have a good team assembled of:
- Peter Tinson (UCISA Executive Secretary)
- Sue Fells (UCISA Business Manager)
- Me (Chair)
- Nici Cooper (Wolverhampton University)
- James Woodward (Manchester Metropolitan University)
- Vince Woodley (University of Cambridge)
James and Sue are going to visit a possible venue on Monday and I will be emailing my own group (Staff Development Group) as well as all the subgroups of the Support Services Group to get suggestions for plenary speakers and workshop/breakout session leaders.
The event will run over three days in July 2012, 10-12th, so long as that works with the venue. This is just a week after the Oxford IT Support Staff Conference so I will have to pull back a bit on that next year – a good development oportunity for others involved in organising it!
We had the usual evening meal out, this time at a restaurant called the Saffron Club, and we stayed at the Jurys Inn Hotel in Sheffield.
I look forward to working more closely with SSG, and the wonderful UCISA staff, and delivering an excellent conference in July 2012.
I’ve just got back from this event at Clare College, Cambridge. I was part of the organising committee and it was good to see about 120 people attending.
We started with lunch on Tuesday and then the conference was introduced by Ian Lewis, head of the University Computing Service in Cambridge and Tom Mortimer, UCISA Chair.
Tim Marshall (JANET UK) started the talks with one entitled “Shared services? A white elephant?” and explored some of the issues around shared services. There were some useful observations including that a commitment to continual development is a key to sharing services effectively. Tim also announced the JANET Brokerage service. I was interested also to hear the NorMAN can help HEIs achieve savings on self provision more than 80%. Tim observed that our purpose will remain more or less the same, but the way we do things will almost certainly have to change
Next up was Lynne Tucker (Kings London) with a talk about sharing the support load with external commercial partners. Kings have outsourced a large amount of their IT operations and services not least because of lack of server room space and the flood risk from the Thames. Lynne reminded us that outsourcing needs behaviour change and taking responsibility for services we don’t provide. Need to keep things professional. Service delivery partners don’t always understand the way we work (in detail) despite having an overview of HE so we need to make sure they do. It’s really important to to help suppliers understand HE, business cycle, peak periods, change freezes, how students and academic staff operate etc. We take it for granted but it can be very alien to commercial partners. I was interested to hear that one partner supplier had posted a service manager on site at Kings so they can understand more about how the university works.
After a well-earned cup of tea we moved on to the first set of parallel sessions. I attended the talk by Heidi Fraser-Kraus (St. Andrews) about “Lean: why, what, how?”. Lean is an interesting philosophy of work that centres around continuous improvement and respect for people (staff). It is based around the plan-do-check-act cycle and has five pillars:
Do what’s needed (pull)
Think of the process (the value stream)
Think of the process flow and make it happen
Add value and remove waste
Aim for perfection
I was particularly interested in the the drive to remove waste, with its specific meaning of not doing things that don’t add value. The big 8 Wastes are: Transportation, Inventory, Motion, Waiting, Over-processing, Over-production, Defects and Skills Misuse. I have a good booklet about this from St. Andrews and it’s on their website too. Heidi also made the wide points that you have to stick at Lean to really make it work and it rather depends on being actively championed by Senior management. She thought that middle managers were often the biggest barriers to change, also.
The final session of the day was by Chris Parry (Nottingham) and looked at managing the supplier relationship. I was really impressed at how much resource (including training) Nottingham University has invested in Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) and the dividends it has paid. In the first year I think it cost £130M but is reckoned to have saved about £500M. That said, Chris made it very clear that value is not only in financial savings but also in helping suppliers to work better with the University ethos and ways of working. Communication with suppliers was often poor and ensuring that SRMs understand the market makes communication and negotiation much more effective. SRMs were al a variety of grades and often were technical staff with previously very little market understanding. Meeting suppliers regularly had really helped to understand each other’s issues and objectives more deeply and to firmly establish a better relationship.
The first day was rounded off with a drinks reception in the beautiful surroundings of Clare College and a 3 course dinner in Clare’s dining hall. We were entertained by some excellent singers, Collegium Regale, and ended the evening in the College bar. I particularly enjoyed the mashup of “Eye of the Tiger” and “Thriller” performed in close harmony complete with counter-tenor!
Day 2 was started with an excellent talk by Maxine Melling (Liverpool John Moores) – about Enhancing the Student Journey by Superconvergence. I was really impressed at how some processes (this was the one producing letters for students proving their status for banks, council tax etc.) had been cut down from 5-10 working days to being instant. Maxine made the important point that there is no simple recipe for super-convergence and that it all depends on understanding the local context properly. It was interesting that all front-line staff that deal with customers now “belong” to a customer services department even if that’s not where their line management is. A good memorable comment from Maxine was that “Vision without action is only dreaming, action without vision is only passing time, but vision with action can change the world”. The key performance indicator in super convergence is customer satisfaction.
The morning continued with more parallel sessions and I attended one by Gillian Cooke and Paul Hitchens (Northumbria) about assuring quality service with agency staff. They were talking particularly about staffing the NorMAN out of hours helpdesk service and had some useful insights into using agency staff. I was struck by how the advantages of using agency staff seemed to rather outweigh the disadvantages and how much control NorMAN was able to exertof who the agencies sent. Potential staff were telephone-tested first, with 75% failing at that stage, and then interviewed with 50% of the remainder failing then. This means only 1 in 8 agency staff were deemed suitable by NorMAN. There was also extremely intensive training and monitoring and this had helped to ensure quality. Nortumbria had found that agency staff were much more keen and motivated, were more flexible and were more suited to adaptable working patterns (unsocial hours etc.) in a way that would be very hard to achieve with permanent staff. Another attraction of agency staff was that the overhead for sickness and holiday leave is effectively eliminated. The agency worker directive coming into force in October 2011 will change some of the parameters in which Northumbria can work at the moment and I think will give agency workers better rights so it’s worth reading and understanding them before taking on agency workers yourself!
After Coffee we moved to a world World Café session where we looked at six topics: Social networking; supporting mobile devices; outsourcing to google; engaging with distributed staff; managing change; and collaborative working. We considered the following questions in quick five minute groups:Why bother? What are the Opportunities? What are the issues? What good practice can we share? What would we do differently if we were doing it again now? What will it look like in the future? Apart from the facilitators we moved table every five minutes on a whistle. The session was good fun and produced lots of material which is yet to be written up.
Our final session of the conference was by given by Howard Kendall (Service Desk Institute). Howared talked about Service led culture and motivated staff. I hope this is something we all aspire to and it was good to hear some real expertise about it. Howard pointed out how the work/social border is now really blurred and how people bring their own devices to work or study so much that we really need to be able to offer them at least some support. I was indeed tweeting on my own android pad (ASUS Eee pad) and had my own Adnroid phone with me. Whether we like it or not performance is rated by customers, not by us. They are comparing against and with Amazon, Tripadvisor, ebay etc. and have an app for virtually everything! As IT permeates alomst everything we do, getting the support right is ever more important. A good point I thought was that the best support is sometimes no support i.e. apps (web or otherwise) that are so good that they just work intuitively. Look at facebook, dropbox, amazon etc. Who ever talks to their helpdesks, or needs to? Howard said he thought that attitude and soft skills were more important in support/service desk people were more important than technical skills. I agree wholeheartedly! There were some really good insights into team working and team management in this talk. if you look at just one set of slides then I recommend these! The Don Page 10 minute challenge and the Team Code of Co-operation I think are extremely helpful. You can click Howard’s book on the left to see it on Amazon too.
I had been chairing this last session and wrapped up with a very brief summary of what we had learned – noting that I felt we had really focussed on managing service delivery properly rather than providing technical solutions. I gave thanks for all the work Dilys Young had done for UICSA in her many years on the Service Desk Group and thanks all the UICSA staff and Clare College Staff that had made the conference such a success. Somone commented that it was THE UCISA summer conference to attend and was rivalling the annual management conference in terms of quality of speaker. That was really pleasing!
There was lots of tweeting at this conference and I’ve made a tweets archive at http://twapperkeeper.com/hashtag/aits11 There is a summary at http://summarizr.labs.eduserv.org.uk/?hashtag=aits11
There is also a UCISA page with programme and slide links. This was an excellent event and I hope that you will consider attending UCISA events in the future as they really do offer excellent value in meeting and sharing ideas and experiences with others from the UK HE sector. I personally find it extremely refreshing to be able to have a peep and a share outside the horizons on my own institution. As well as learning new things there is some reassurance in realising that often others in the sector are facing similar challenges and opportunities.
After a rather early start I got to this conference around 9.45am. I went last year to speak about Oxford IT Staff but this year was a guest and just a consumer (although I provided a few tweets!) We started with a welcome from Marina Whitmore, who is probably to distributed IT Staff in Cardiff what I am to ITSS in Oxford. Marina introduced the twitter hashtag #cardiffdits. There were 140 tweets when I wrote this post. See the end of this post for archive details.
Eileen Brandreth, Director of Cardiff University IT then gave her introduction. She was pleased with how people were working well together since last year’s event and said that 2 people together sometimes gives 5 times the value of one working alone. Value and power comes from collaboration and helping each other. Eileen explained how the DITS event helps us to get to know how non-central IT Staff can share and support each other better. It was good to hear that working groups resulted from last year’s conference. The MacOS support group is a good example of this.
Sharon Magill from the School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies (JOMEC) was next up to talk about LanSchool software for managing the computer classroom environment. Computer classrooms are a challenging environment as there are internet distractions like Facebook, email etc. The challenge is to focus the mind on learning and teaching. LanSchool gives a tutor a view of everyone’s screen, can force a blank screen on all users or replicate the projector image on everyone’s screen. It can also broadcast a student’s screen to the projector, or block internet access to all controlled computers.
Chris Yeo then moved on to giving more technical detail on LanSchool. It can do common admin tasks and also WOL for workstations. Multi control of lots of lab/lecture room machines at once is really cool and saves a lot of floor walking! LanSchool can also send files and native system commands (in command prompt) to Windows and to bash shell in MacOSX. Licensing is per-room. Students seem to like the software.
Next was Rodney Smith from Physics and Astronomy giving a general overview of IT in Physics and Astronomy department. Computing intensive. Physics don’t just use the University image. Running lots of own service and have own machine room. I notice that science departments are often early to run their own services (perhaps before adequate central provision) and then late to stop! This is not always cost-effective.
We then moved on to Tim Cross, talking about IT Support in School of Medicine. There was a merger in 2004 of UWCM and Cardiff Uni. School of Medicine is a large department with £50m turnover. Historically there were 20 departments in school with a rather disjointed computer users forum. There have been 3 restructures since 2006. The current one will probably leave 7 departments: one for medical education and the other 6 for research. The School of Medicine has a complex IT organisational structure.
Finally before coffee was Vicky Stallard of the Arts and Social Studies Library (ASSL). ASSL shares a building with the Law Library and Special Collections and Archive. ASSL is biggest library on Cathays Campus. It serves 6 schools and has 96 open access PCs and 39 library catalogue terminals (DOPACS). The weekly gate count is 12,850 people with a weekly circulation of 100 metres of books. Laptop use is growing fast – on average 70 users bring them in per day. ASSL is leading the way after INSRV in laptop wireless registrations in Cardiff. ASSL also has lots of assistive technology including a selection of adapted keyboards and pointing devices. The “ask a librarian” online chat support service looks really interesting. I had a useful chat over coffee with Vicky about “Ask a librarian”
After coffee we had a talk from Steve Gough of Reading University about how IT Support works in Reading. There are lots of IT supporters spread around schools and departments. Some IT Staff never attend events for IT Staff and this is a problem Steve would like to address. Student email is outsourced to Live@Edu. Steve’s department runs an IT mailing list with 89 distributed staff and 52 from IT Services. Discussion Forum/Wiki/FAQ are kept in Blackboard VLE. Reading is doing lunchtime seminars, like Oxford’s Lunch & Learn and would like to do more specialised training (where trainer is brought in at cost). I wondered if Oxford could collaborate with Reading on this.
Reading Computing Services offer physical and virtual server hosting. Schools can rent extra file space on central servers in addition to normal quota. It’s considered a bit expensive and people tend to “go it alone” with cheap external disks but ignore the risks to data. Reading is using “Remedy” ticket and job tracking service across the university. Schools get to use this for free and can assign tickets to IT Service. IT Services can assign tickets to schools. User gets notified of ticket reassignment. I thought this might well be an interesting idea for Oxford.
Reading help with IT staff recruiting, like us. They are looking at standard job descriptions, perhaps using SFIA, but find it very difficult to get uniformity. The have documents specifying minimum standards for school servers (spec, config, administration, backup) which are useful in addressing questions from auditors.
After this we split into discussion groups and had good discussions about our own particular environments and arrangements for delivering IT services. It was interesting, but not surprising, to find that Cardiff IT Staff face very similar issues to Oxford IT Staff.
Next we had a nice buffet lunch and I did a twitter demo for Vicky Stallard in libraries. I think many people don’t quite get the value of a hashtag at a conference and I hope I managed to show some of that value to Vicky.
The afternoon started with a presentation about creating an IT Manual for IT Support. There were some very interesting ideas presented about getting an ongoing collaborative effort to provide a manual for IT Support. This is something I’ve been considering in Oxford for some time as we have so many IT staff creating and managing their own IT manuals at the moment. It must be better to pull all that effort together and the ideas presented about a public area of the manual as well as a private area for discussion of proposed changes and additions was extremely interesting. I hope to pursue this more.
Next up was a MacOSX server peer support group talk by Drew Mabey, School of Music. Some interesting and useful features of OSX server and its imaging and remote control services were presented. I worry a bit about those who have a lot of investment in OSX server as Apple have already stopped selling new server hardware and I wonder what will happen with server software. Those Apple servers currently in existence won’t last forever!
The next, and probably most fascinating, talk was about mobile forensics and given by Mike Daley from Computer Sciences and Informatics. He says when he started with Cardiff University INSRV were driving punch cards around the campus!
Mike reminded us that we are surrounded by mobile devices and that they are essential to modern business. He gave us a reminder that some Android users had been hit by data theft by malicious app. Interesting stats were given: there are 3 billion mobile phones in use worldwide. A new model of phone is introduced somewhere in the world every 4 days.
Mike explained that forensic examination of mobile devices is difficult. Cables, batteries, SIM PINS etc. get in the way. That said, it’s amazing the amount of information that is on the phone and the SIM. Mike gave some fascinating demos both of getting data off a phone and off a (supposedly dead) SIM. It will certainly make me think twice about how I dispose of old mobile phones!
Another tea break preceded more group discussion, this time about support and security of mobile devices. My group observed that the boundary between personal and work use gets very blurred when mobile devices (phones, smartphones, tablets and laptops) are used. Support is hard given than a new mobile device comes along every 4 days! We talked about issues around supporting mobile devices as well as how to make sure they are secure. Information security is a big issue and a holistic approach to it must include user education and policy as well as software solutions such as anti-virus. We wondered if HEIs should have a policy of only allowing access to University systems (email etc.) from personal devices if those devices themselves were secured by a password or similar access control.
After the group discussion we came together again in the lecture theatre and Marina Whitmore made closing remarks and gave thanks to all those who had presented, attended and participated.
The final session was followed by some food and wine and a chance to reflect with other delegates on the day’s events and share views. I’m glad there was plenty of space for networking at the event and after it as networking is an extremely important part of such IT Staff events. IT Staff across Schools get very little structured time to interact with each other and with central services so it’s great that this conference provided plenty of time to do just that.
I felt that the conference was a good improvement and building on last year’s (the first) Cardiff DITS conference. The Presentations and outputs from groups will be typed up and made available to delegates. There was a twitter hastag for the day, #cardiffdits and it was quite active. You can find an archive of the tweets on Twapperkeeper and a summary of them on Summarizr
Members Present were: Jim Nottingham (South Bank, Chair), Roland Cross (Leeds Met., Secretary), Peter Tinson (UCISA execsec), Dave Atkins (Cardiff), Me, Steve Gough (Reading), Katharine Iles (Janet UK), Noel Wilson (Ulster), Nici Cooper (Woverhampton)
We met today at Birmingham City University in Perry Barr, hosted by Rajesh Mistry.
Members present were Steve Gough (Reading University, chair), Me (note-taker), Marina Whitmore (Cardiff), Paul Mazumdar (Cambridge), Dave Valentine-Hagart (Nottingham), Rajesh Mistry (Birmingham City). A full house!
UCISA events like this offer wonderful opportunities to network with the most important and influential IT people right across the UK HE Sector. As I said in a tweet: “Another brilliant conference. Huge well done and thank you to all UCISA staff and organising committee”. As an organiser of the Oxford ICTF Conference I am only too aware of how much planning and hard work it takes to make an event like this run as smoothly and well as it did.
I thought the venue and the planning were excellent and travelling to and from Edinburgh was really not to difficult. After heavy weeks like that I definitely recommend first class train travel home if you can do it cheaply by booking an advance ticket. My ticket was £92 and the standard class would have cost £81. I only claimed the £81 but got a huge amount more work done in first class than I would have done in a crowded, noisy standard class carriage.
The UCISA web site has all the conference information and most of the talks have their slides linked as PDFs now. If you are not already involved in UCISA then I can highly recommend it. It’s a fantastic way of broadening your horizons beyond your own institution and there is no better or more efficient way to learn so much from so many like-minded IT professionals in the UK Higher Education Sector.