Educause 2008 – Day 1

So I’m at my third (or is it fourth… I forget) Educause conference. Last year we were in lovely, gorgeous Seattle. As you might imagine, the city itself competed with the conference for my attention. This year we’re in Orlando, so not so much on that problem. The only upside about being in Orlando is the possiblity of seeing friends who live here tomorrow night. Not even the weather is much better than Boston.

(ETA this whole paragraph which I cannot believe I forgot. Long day much?)

The opening session speaker today was V.S. Ramachandran (official bio), a neurologist who talked about phantom limb pain and synesthesia. He’s a brilliant man and amazingly funny. He gave a TED talk last year, which was somewhat similar to today’s lecture.

After that great start-off, I struggled with session selection. The first couple I went to were on learning management systems, and we are so not at a place where anything the speakers were saying made sense to me. So instead I went and talked extensively with a few vendors about some of their products. Color me impressed with the second person I talked to at the Zimbra booth – he knew his stuff. The Google fellow was okay, but not as edgy or as hungry as the Zimbra people. That’s the problem with being the big guy – you don’t always know when someone is coming up from behind you, trying to knock you off your pedastel. Not that I think Zimbra will knock Google off of the bulk of their pedastels, but they do have some really compelling things about their product that I think many schools will find very attractive (*cough*integration with voice messaging*cough*). Spent some time talking with the Sharepoint LMS fellows too. It might just be me, but Sharepoint just doesn’t make sense to me yet. Perhaps it’s not having seen it used in any sort of situation… seems that it might be the issue.

The one session I went to today that really resonated with me was a session on student email and different ways of approaching it. There were large, medium, and small schools there (yay small schools!) and they took several approaches, from keeping it in-house to pushing it to the cloud via Google/Microsoft to using an open-source front-end to using a hosted open-source solution for everyone. The best moment of that session, though, had to be when the woman sitting next to me was working on her computer, which started in with a (very loud) loon wail that morphed into a yodel. (Note: those links are both to .au files, so don’t be that person who plays them in a conference session now, y’all.) Now I’m all about loon calls, having grown up on a lake in northern Minnesota with maybe a dozen mating pairs of loons. But in the middle of a session at Educause on student email solutions? It was hilarious, and the speaker handled it really well. Poor woman was embarrassed, as she should have been, but it definitely lightened the mood in the room.

I ran into several folks today who I wasn’t sure were coming: Mark C. and Janet S. from Bryn Mawr, Anne M. and Veronica B. from Wellesley (well, I knew they were coming, but still), and then I even met someone who worked at the University of Northern Iowa! We didn’t know each other when I was there, but he seemed like a nice guy and like he enjoys working there, so props to him. Still waiting to run into Pattie; reports are that she’s around.

The final thing I did today was go to the NITLE reception. I knew one person walking in there, and ended up meeting several other. That, of course, was the point. I enjoyed talking with John from Drake, Bryan Alexander, and Pamela from Occidental. Made a bit of a fool of myself with someone else, doing the whole, “I know you but I don’t know quite why I know you” spiel. Later it occured to me that he’s a former president of a national library association and his face was all over stuff several years ago. D’oh!

Tomorrow morning starts early, so I’m headed to bed now. Go Phillies, World Series 2008 Champions!

3 thoughts to “Educause 2008 – Day 1”

  1. For Zimbra, I think there are three places that will like them. 1. Schools that want more customization than Google can provide, without the heft/bulk/expense/uphill climb of an Exchange implementation. 2. Schools that want to get out of the email business but are nervous about the cloud; they can more easily push students to the cloud but keep fac/staff in-house. Zimbra claims that those two products integrate seamlessly for the users. although I haven’t talked with anyone who’s in that boat. 3. They’ll appeal to schools that want their voice messaging to be available in email. They provide services for Comcast and the rep showed me what the Comcast email with integrated voice message delivery looks like – it’s slick. They don’t offer it for educational institutions out of the box, but have shown it can be done. That’s promising.

    I hope Yahoo doesn’t screw it up for them.

  2. Thank you for that analysis, Megan. It sounds like Zimbra has fine timing, then, as the cloud idea is just starting to take off. A few months ago, it would have been too emergent; some months down the road, it might well be too established.

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