A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Session


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Jason and Karen have already posted their thoughts on why we, BIGWIG leadership, chose to plan a program for ALA Annual outside of the normal operating procedure. It all started over pizza and beer the last night of ALA Midwinter.

Program planning that requires a topic set a year in advance automatically ensures that the technology presented will be old news. It is impossible to present on any cutting edge topic, technology related or not, with this structure. There is no way to plan a session that can be responsive to the needs of engaged professionals if you have to plan it a year in advance.

In order to get around this, BIGWIG reserved a “Discussion Time” at Annual, which only requires that your organization promise to use the room for something. I know that there are many groups that do this in order to create a program with less red tape. Discussion times exist outside of the realm of the normal program planning committee structure.

We wanted to create something that was engaging and allowed participation from “off site.” We decided that we should have an online conference and made a list of people we thought would enjoy participating in something off the radar, people who loved technology, and people we trusted to be creative. We gave our presenters free reign to talk about almost anything they wanted in regards to technology. We asked them to talk about something totally new or a novel way to use something “old.”

We also told the speakers their “presentation” could look however they wished. In a couple of emails, I told them they could make a screencast, record an MP3, make a collage, write a poem, draw a picture, or sing a song. We trusted our presenters to do something fun and convey whatever information they deemed important. It is all about trust.

The timeline we have is very short. I am not sure, even at this time, exactly what topic all of the presenters have chosen. I am not sure what kind of formats we are going to receive from them. We did not ask for their final content until June 11th, a mere 8 working days until ALA. We want them to have time to change their minds at the last minute should they so choose. They are adults, who are smart, creative, and fun and we trust them as such.

A lot of this project is about trust. Who we trust and who we do not. We do not trust ALA to provide official channels that can be responsive to our needs, so we created our own. We, BIGWIG, trust each other to pull this together. BIGWIG trusts the people we have asked to contribute to give us thought provoking work.

I trust that you, dear readers (if you are an ALA member or not), will find this content delivery enticing and exciting. I am trusting that at least some of you will come and talk to our presenters in person on Saturday, June 23rd from 1:30-2:30 in the Renaissance Mayflower Cabinet Room or on the Social Software Showcase wiki in the talk pages.

Come help us try something new in ALA.

–Jane, a brave new world

5 thoughts on “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Session

  • June 8, 2007 at 12:39 pm

    This sounds so cool, and I really want to come to it . . . if only it weren’t at the exact same time as my poster. All the cool stuff I would actually want to go to seems to be during that time slot. Boo!

  • June 8, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Well the good thing is you will still be able to see the presentations online and participate in the online conversation.

  • June 8, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    I’m presenting, and I won’t even be there! I just can’t decide which pony, I mean, um, topic… LOCKSS is high on my interest list.

  • June 8, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    This is exactly the right kind of subversiveness to be practicing. I was double-booked for that time slot but I will arrange not to be so I can come. It’s an important and welcoming thing you are doing.

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