[Session at ALA Annual Meeting, Anaheim, CA June 28, 2008]
As one of the founding parents of the LITA Top Tech Trends, I am perhaps biased, but….
I’m really glad that this time more “trendsters” participated in part due to the wonders of technology. The inclusion of additional voices, perspectives cannot but help. These sessions have been widely oversubscribed for several years, a great success for LITA. And I gather that “listeners” this time had the option of coming into the discussion from a variety of virtual avenues. And to some degree the nature of the setup was more participatory. Again, very good moves forward.
The content was generally interesting, though not much new under the sun. Perhaps on that front, this type of activity increasingly takes on a “preach at them until they change their behavior” rather than an opportunity to reflect on a *few* interesting trends, relate some gottchas from the past, and the process of selecting and analyzing trends and their impact on libraries.
I found the execution, however, disappointing. The “trendsters” had good content, but its delivery was troubling for me. First, I found it incredibly difficult to hear much of the conversation from the back and middle of the room. And the “remote” “trendsters” were practically indecipherable. Clearly there was a problem with the in room sound reinforcement, not uncommon at conferences, but adjustments could be made. With a setup as in this room, there should be no feedback through the sound system…none whatsoever. The balance of the in-person mics and the remote audio feeds was off-track.
I’ve always questioned the real value of projecting the “back channel” at conferences, but perhaps for me that’s a learning/info acquisition issue. I was surprised that at times I was able to follow some of the in-person presentation and the “back channel” conversation. BUT the setup and management of the channel was very distracting. It was not clear to me who was controlling what displayed when, perhaps this needs to be handled by someone who is not responsible for any other activities…and one who is viewing the large screen version in order to understand how even slight adjustments can ruin the effect for the audience. The frequent flips between the Meebo room and the Twitter feed were not conducive to following this added information source. Plus, the display resolution projected caused the display of the conversation to flip off the screen each time new comments were added to the Meebo room. Perhaps this could be better handled by having a separate computer used solely for displaying the public side of the conversation. It appeared to me that the feed to the projector was coming from a laptop in use for other purposes by one of the panelists. Thus, some times the display would flip back and forth between earlier comments and the current flow.
I write these things not as a discouragement (although I still question the value of the “back channel”), but as a reminder that we can do much better.
Also, I did find it interesting that I could not get any cellular signal in the room and therefore could not participate in the “back channel.”