I SPENT AN EVENING in the Ballsbridge Hotel ballroom with hundreds of others celebrating the Irish Web Awards--our first Irish internet event in six years. The ground has shifted since my wife and I first coded a web page in 1997 just as the event's big screens suggested while rewinding history back to Netscape, Windows 95 and the time frame when Realex Payments was just a flicker of a fire, well before it moved into the realm of a trusted payment system.
Nowadays, awards programmes are more about agencies getting credit for the work they do. When the Irish web was a teenager in the early 21st century, these Irish awards programmes would bring out the coders, the writers and the database designers. Some of those people mingled in the crowd of the rebranded Berkeley Court hotel tonight but you need to go to quiet corners of the lobby (or to other Dublin watering holes) to find those same people today. Tonight's well-run event belonged to the agencies, their clients and connectors.
My interest in the 2014 Irish Web Awards was more about change management than web development. Several of the local government websites have evolved significantly and they were in the running for "Best Government and Local Government Website". A few local government websites earned honours and were listed on the short list. All of those short-listed local authorities created responsive websites that cobbled together dozens of legacy systems for public service. It's hard enough to make programs coded for Windows 98 work with Safari on iOS. The really old programs need to be recoded from the ground up and there's no money coming from central government to make that happen so the local authorities cannot move up to Windows 8 or start using more elegant Sharepoint services. So the developers have to shoehorn old legacy information systems into a fresh and appealing responsive interface. None of those developers won the top prize for Best Government website but a government-funded festival site. The honour went to the Waterford Harvest Festival, a government-funded site developed by Emagine for an outstanding local event. The takeaway message for local government: to win an Irish Web Award you should create a subdomain with a snappy responsive look and feel that focuses exclusively on a single event.
We'll take that conclusion back to the skunkworks and plan to connect up with more friends at the 2015 Web Awards. In the meantime, we'll continue making plans with Soundmeister Brian Greene during #cong14 next month and talking networking strategy with Pat Carroll.
[Bernie Goldbach teaches third level students creative multimedia in the Limerick School of Art & Design. Image snapped during the Realex Fire Web Awards with Lumia.]