An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

Something happened yesterday that I am still trying to understand. I am not talking about the shooting in AZ. This was much less tragic in the worldly sense, but more tragic to me personally.

An open meeting was closed to me because I could not physically sit in the room, though the means necessary for me to be “present” at the meeting were available and running; it was shut down for what I think are some shoddy reasons.

A disclaimer: I was not at the physical meeting, so my knowledge of what happened after the stream was cut off is limited to the Twitter hashtag #litabd11 and other backchannel discussions.

A word to the PTB, if you do not control the conversation and allow transparency, someone else will do it for you and the results will not be in your favor. I think the backchannels bore out the truth of that reality yesterday.

Briefly: Jason Griffey set up a Ustream if the LITA Board meeting so that members not physically present in San Diego could watch the meeting. This would also have ensured that members who were currently serving elsewhere at Midwinter could have watched the discussion later. The main speaker for the section of the meeting in question was a consultant who did an analysis of how the LITA leadership works and how we can make our organization better, at least that was what I gleaned from the tweets I saw from members in the room (which sounds a topic all the membership should have access to seeing). The board voted to suspend the live stream “during this portion of the meeting” (though for the record, the stream was never set back up). Jason has the recorded section of the meting up on his Ustream channel which shows the discussion of why the stream should be turned off. The sound is a bit wonky, but gets a little better. The discussion happens about 7 minutes into the recording.

For those not familiar with ALA or the processes of its meetings: The LITA Board meeting is an open meeting at ALA which means that any member of LITA is welcome to attend and participate. LITA stands for the Library and Information Technology Association.

There were three main reasons the board and other members present gave (in the video and on Twitter) for turning off the stream:

  • The board was not aware the streaming was going to happen and wanted a chance to discuss it first,
  • Streaming is a form of communication and should be discussed because a stream of the board would be seen as an “official” communication mechanism of the board, and
  • The information being presented by the paid consultant to LITA was copyrighted and he was paid to present to the board and not a large group (aka the entire membership).

The first reason given is valid, though knee jerk. I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did. The issue is that we should be streaming meetings and there is some disconnect about the why and how. People do not like to be surprised by things and will frequently reject the thing, good or bad, because the surprise factor is hard to get over. Jason got the knee jerk reaction he was looking for but unfortunately it was not in favor of streaming. The surprise could have given way to a, “What a great idea” discussion, but instead it was more like a “we want the opportunity to apply some red tape to this procedure so we’ll put it off reason” which brings us to the second reason given.

The second reason was that streaming constituted an “official” communication from the board and therefore should be vetted in some way. This argument reminds me of the discussions surrounding the LITA Blog when we first began that successful experiment. The same argument was made for not having a blog. We must get over this idea that everything that is produced should be polished to a high shine before being sent out to members. The internet is a beta platform. If you blog or tweet a meeting, people expect to see a meeting, not an “official” communication platform. If you wait around for “official” there will never be streaming of anything, including open meetings. Official communication methods from meetings, by the way, includes types notes that are out up somewhere, sometimes months after the meetings itself. This is not useful, though I think in the LITA Board’s defense their meetings minutes take less time to get the membership that want to read them. I think it is about time we got over this argument and accept the way technology works. I would expect that an association whose main purview is supposed to be about technology would inherently understand the meaning of change and flexibility in technology. Let us not forget this is an open meeting, but I will talk about that later.

The last reason given, while also valid, has some major issues as well. I do not know the exact rules about who owns copyright on material created by a consultant for ALA, whether the ALA body or the consultant is the holder of copyright for that material. For the sake of the argument, I will assume that the consultant retains copyright. If this is true, than the meeting, open or not, should not have been recorded in any fashion, including blogging and tweeting. However, there was more than one person in the room tweeting what the consultant was telling the board. Those tweets, while valuable, lacked context to some degree, as Twitter often does, so instead of a valid, whole picture of what the consultant was telling the board, we got choppy bits and pieces. In the world of the internet, streaming and Twitter are not that far apart except that one is better quality. Streaming would have given the consultant a better platform. If copyright was really an issue, a creative commons license could have protected the content of the message. After all the money we paid the consultant (I assume he did not do the work for free), should the members not be able to hear what our money paid him to do? Cindi Trainor did let us know that we could receive print copies of the consultant’s presentation if requested. I half wanted to request a copy just to put it up on the internet. I think that getting a print copy of the report is a waste of paper and postage.

My main issue with all this boils down to the fact that the LITA Board meeting is an open meeting. Open. Any member is allowed to attend and I think that should include me even though I can not physically be there. If the technology exists, and it does, for me to participate with the workings of my association, though other obligations and finances prevent me from attending, why are we not utilizing them? If the board is concerned that non-LITA folks might see the goings on of our association, then put the stream somewhere only members can access it. I would not advocate that route, however, since we all know nothing that secretive happens at board meetings. For actual secret stuff, we would have to record the conversations that go on in the halls after the meeting. Streaming meetings would open up opportunity for participation, which is what LITA is always saying it wants.

My secondary reaction is one of supreme disappointment. I love LITA, but I do not always feel that reciprocated now that I am not able to physically attend all the meetings. We are the technology group for the love of all that is holy, but we rarely act like it. Some of the tweets yesterday were arguing that the governing body should not be simply reactive to what members want and my response is “Why not?” Why can’t we experiment? Why can’t we try new things? Why does everything have to be official even when published on a platform, like streaming, Twitter, or blogs, that people know are not polished modes of communication? Why not test the newest technology (though streaming is hardly new) and show the other divisions how to do it? Isn’t that one of the things LITA is supposed to do with technology?

Lastly, and anyone with a shred on internet saavy knows this: If you do not control the message, someone else will. Yesterday, the LITA Board declined to try something new for reasons they felt were valid. As a result, other people, mainly members disenfranchised by the decision controlled the conversation via Twitter, and LITA did not come out the winner. They came out looking ignorant about the thing they are supposed to know about, technology.

I come away from this sad but unsurprised. LITA continues to be the thing I give my time and energy to in ALA because I want to make it better. I want to keep advocating for a technology association that actually is a leader in technology from inside the organization, even if I have to do so from miles away, on my blog, instead of on the live stream of the open meeting of the my board.

–Jane, this post is open for discussion

36 thoughts on “An Almost Streamed Meeting Causes a Ruckus

  • January 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Michelle, I agree completely. I’m doing a lot of travel this year, and chose to skip Midwinter as a result, for a lot of reasons — too far away, too complicated in my snow-covered part of the world, too close to Christmas, too much construction and project work to be done at my library before classes start back up. You have your own set of reasons. Thousands of other librarians have their own reasons for not traveling to the official conferences of our national organization.

    But I’m still a member. I still care. I still want to be engaged and involved. I know that the technology to make my remote participation exists, is widely available, and is in many cases free. The meetings are, per ALA policy, “Open”, and labeled as such in the conference program. And so yesterday’s kerfuffle left me floored. Given the ease and ubiquity of streaming technology, why on earth should an open meeting not actually be open to the membership? Particularly when it was hosted by the Information Technology arm of the organization, the one group that should be uniquely poised to lead in leveraging modern technologies?

    The answer largely appears to be that the leadership of the technology arm of the ALA itself can’t commit to truly being open or utilizing modern technology. Not even cutting-edge technology — just modern. It’s really, really sad. I’m very frustrated by it all, and though I’m less angry than I was yesterday, I’m no less disappointed. I expected better things of LITA. I didn’t get them.

  • January 9, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    It’s been interesting to watch this from afar. If the following is true, “I think (and this is speculation on my part) that Jason may have tried streaming this without warning the board to demonstrate the issue at hand, which it clearly did.” I’m not as upset about the streamed being stopped. Showing up the board in a public meeting is not the way to get people in your court. If it’s not true and the idea of streaming was brought to board, they declined, and he streamed anyway, I’m still not in favor of that. Please understand that I’m in favor of streaming, just not doing it as a surprise endeavor. As a leader of a state association, I would hate to be put on the spot like that even though I’m in favor of opening meetings to everyone, in-person or not. I don’t know about you, I don’t always react well to surprises. Not sure many people will agree with my take but I’m looking at the debacle as something that could happen to me and trying to learn from it.

    Taking another view of this, what things need to be considered before streaming a meeting like this (assuming everyone wanted to)? What would make this go successfully?

  • January 9, 2011 at 9:17 pm

    I agree, and said so in the post, that people do not like surprises. I just would have hoped for someone , anyone, to speak up (from the board) in favor of the streaming in an organization that I know wants to be at the front of technology in ALA as a whole.

    Things that I think should be considered for streaming a meeting would include:

    Is this something the members want or need?

    Is this meting open when offered in a physical venue?

    Do we need to put some sort of Creative Commons license on this content?

    Should there be a disclaimer on the stream that states exactly what the purpose of the stream is i.e. this is a meeting discussion not an official communication of the governing body blah, blah, blah?

    Do we have the technology to stream the meeting or program?

    Does our organization want to be transparent to our members?

    How can we use this as a marketing tools to new and nonmembers?

  • January 9, 2011 at 9:31 pm


    Thanks for the list. You’ve given me some things to think about. I would add that people speaking during a virtual meeting need to consider how what they say will be perceived if there’s only audio. I always try to speaker slower and use a slightly deeper voice so that listeners can understand me better.

    It sure feels like in this case, someone dropped the ball long before the meeting occurred. So to your list I would also add a streamed meeting takes more to prepare for than an in-person meeting. You can’t do as much on the fly.

  • January 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    I have to respectfully disagree with Robin’s hesitation, in regards to the LITA meeting. Announced or not, the technology was there, it worked, there was obvious member interest, and the meeting was OPEN. No other discussion should have been needed. If the content of the meeting wasn’t appropriate for sharing, then the meeting should not have been open. Since it was supposed to be an open meeting, stopping the stream was not only unnecessary but counterproductive to the goals of the organization, and alienated the people that the board is supposed to be reaching out to.

    Sometimes leadership isn’t about planning for every contingency, but instead responding gracefully to the unexpected. The LITA board did not respond gracefully.

  • January 10, 2011 at 12:45 am

    Whether it was a surprise or not, it’s a lost opportunity for the LITA board to look like they were actually going to take the membership up on something that we have been hassling wider ALA about for a very long time – utilizing technology to ensure greater access to information and participation from its membership. An open meeting is *exactly* the place where that should be the first place to happen. That it has taken this long for it to happen is a shame, that it was shut down for what I would consider spurious reasons is even worse. Particularly now, when many more members are unable to travel due to ALA and we *should* be leveraging technology so that members can participate to the fullest extent they may, this is disheartening. I’d disagree that you can’t do as much on the fly – the conversation may lack some context, but not as much as minutes which will have gaping holes where pertinent discussion occurred (unless you would argue that those unable to attend dont need to know all of the discussion). I’d also be interested to know if this consultant’s full report will be available to all LITA members, or only those who were fortunate enough to be able to travel.

    In any case, an opportunity to broach streaming as a successful way to help members stay connected when they cant afford to travel – and set an example for other units – is tarnished. LITA members tweeted the meeting; a streaming, unexpected or not, would have given a fuller picture and encouraged full transparency, and Im surprised it wasnt embraced.

  • January 10, 2011 at 1:22 am

    Jane is correct in her guess that I didn’t warn the Board…but in all honesty, it never entered my mind that I needed warn people to stream an open meeting. I wasn’t attempting to “show up the board”…I’m a member of the Board. I feel like it is a service to the division that the meeting be streamed, and just did it. To say that I was surprised by the result is putting it mildly.

  • January 10, 2011 at 7:45 am

    I had a dream about this last night. The media picked up the story and you gave lots of interviews. After that, we were all part of someone’s wedding.

  • January 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

    Cindi Trainor did indicate that a paper copy of the consultant’s presentation could be mailed to any member that requested it, but that would leave out all of the good discussion that seemed to be going on regarding what he said. I think the paper version would be just about as useful as meeting minutes.

    Meeting minutes are not useful except to remind people actually present at the meeting what was discussed. For anyone else, they lack content and context.

  • January 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Jenica, I think, has hit upon what bothered me the most which was the response of the board. Not one person spoke up in favor of the streaming. Not. One. Person.

    This tells me that the board either does not understand the needs of the members or does not care. I know many of the members, like them even, so I think it is more of the “does not understand” reason.

    Whatever the reason, it still makes me sad.

  • January 10, 2011 at 11:50 am

    The minutes of the meeting should have the actual votes on it, but the vote to stop the streaming had three members vote against stopping. The remainder of the board voted for stopping the streaming.

  • January 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Well that at least is good to know, but I did not hear anyone speak up and the camera did not show the whole room.

  • January 10, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    I have only one bone to pick…the meeting was an open meeting which means that it is open not only to all LITA members, but to ANY ALA MEMBER OR REGISTERED CONFERENCE ATTENDEE.

    I would also argue that the copyright issue is a huge red herring. First of all, the work constitutes “work for hire” so that any copyright value would rest with LITA not with the consultant. In addition, it is an open meeting! Once it is released there, it is no longer “private.” The only exception would be if the LITA board had gone into executive/closed session (the grounds for which, under ALA policy which trumps any LITA policy, do not exist).

    I am very sorry that I am not in San Diego to push this issue, but I have communicated with some who (I hope) are pushing it.

  • January 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I was at this meeting; I am not a member of the LITA board. So I guess I have the privilege of being a somewhat neutral observer. Here’s a rundown of what happened from my perspective:

    First, it was hinted to me ahead of time that the meeting would include “drama”. I didn’t know what this meant at the time, but I guess it bore itself out. At the meeting were the Board, the hired consultant who was presenting the majority of the day’s agenda, and three or four audience members including myself. The meeting began in the usual fashion of committee meetings of this type–a brief summary of the agenda followed by introductions and updates. Partway around the table, a Board member seated directly across from Jason Griffey asked about the webcam in front of Jason’s laptop. Jason’s response was that he was webcasting the meeting. This, maybe 10 minutes into the meeting, was the first (as far as I could tell) that anyone in the room other than Jason knew of the webcast.

    Some heated discussion ensued, during which time points about the hired speaker’s contract, openness, etc., were brought up. Major points included that no one in the room (including the consultant) knew precisely the language of the consultant’s contract; specifically no one knew who the contracted audience was. I won’t attempt to relate the exact wording of the conversation, but ultimately it was put to a vote as to whether the webcast would continue, and it was voted down. Jason asked what the ramifications would be of not heeding the decision of the board, “out of curiosity,” and was told that they would be the same as not heeding any board decision (though I don’t know what that would be). In any case, the webcast was shut down, some more discussion ensued, and eventually the consultant gave his presentation. That’s really the important meat of what happened, for context.

    There’s a number of dimensions to this, and unfortunately the Twitterverse only saw one side of it: all they saw was “Follow the LITA Board of Directors meeting LIVE via stream here”, followed shortly by “I was requested, a motion was made, and the LITA Board of Directors voted to have me cease streaming and recording the Board Meeting….” Frankly, I’m not surprised that so much LITA-bashing ensued.

    But consider the following:
    1) It was utterly inappropriate and quite rude for Jason to take it upon himself to webcast the meeting without informing the people in the room. It’s fitting that the consultant first spoke about the importance of trust and communication within an effective organization, because Jason’s actions fostered neither.

    2) People act differently on camera and off. I would certainly think a lot more carefully about how I phrase something if I know it’s potentially being recorded for posterity. As at least one of the board members indicated, during board discussions, thoughts are often being formed as they come out of people’s mouths; it’s certainly possible that such statements could be taken out of context and misinterpreted. So it’s important for people to know if their statements and actions are being recorded so they have an opportunity to form fully-crafted thoughts.

    3) I am not a lawyer, but recording and broadcasting a meeting such as this one without consent may or may not violate California law. California wiretap law specifically forbids recording “confidential communication” but in defining such communication only explicitly excludes communication “which the parties to the communication may reasonably expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded”. So while it was an “open” meeting, in that anyone could attend, there was certainly no expectation from among the board members that their communications would be overheard by anyone other than attendees of the board meeting.

    4) On the topic of open meetings, I think the argument that “it’s an open meeting, so I should be able to secretly broadcast it” is a chimera. Yes, it’s an open meeting; any attendee of the conference can drop in (this is, in fact, as much definition as ALA gives to “open” meetings). And I agree in principle with the folks who think that open meetings should be accessible to members online where possible. BUT streaming the video on a wide open channel does not pass muster: in addition to the problems with trust and (other kinds of) openness, there’s the issue that a UStream webcast is not limited to ALA members. Regardless of what the specifics of the consultant’s contract said, putting the presentation on an open channel violates either the consultant’s or ALA’s copyright, since only paid attendees or (at best) paid ALA members have the rights to access the content.

    Jason insists that he was totally taken by surprise by the response to his actions; he has insisted that he was not trying to antagonize the board or hustle them into action on webcasting through controversy. But if that’s the case, his actions represent a critical failure in forethought. As members of the board indicated at the meeting, if he had brought up the idea to the board ahead of time, they could have done webcasting right, including making sure the contract with the consultant was in the clear, possibly arranging for proper AV equipment, and giving meeting participants a chance to work out their thoughts ahead of time so they wouldn’t set themselves up for getting the proverbial egg on their faces.

    As it is, although Jason’s acted, I presume, in a manner that he felt would be in the best interest of LITA and ALA, it ultimately worked counter to this, quite severely, as anyone who browses Twitter hash tags like #griffeygate and #litafail will see. People are laying the blame for this kerfuffle on LITA, but I don’t really think that’s the case. I think that the Board followed the only responsible avenue that was open to them; and given the information that the Twitter folks had, they reacted exactly as might be expected.

    As for openness, I am definitely in favor of open meetings. I think that streaming is a possible way of achieving this. But if we are going to have open meetings that make use of multimedia technology, we need to have a complete suite to really get the full picture. A video stream is fundamentally one-way. It would be more appropriate for committees to arrange some possibilities for two-way participation from observers (although at committee meetings in particular, it’s typically just the committee members who participate; the possibility for two-way communication needs to be there, though). And we’ve seen how a narrow communication stream such as Twitter can really present an inaccurate picture. Sure, make meetings open online, but do it right!

  • January 12, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Karen, thanks for the link to your post.

    I think you bring up some good points about virtual participation. My major problem with the LITA kerfuffle (love that word!) was that because it was sprung on the board with not warning, there was no time to prepare for the meeting. From my experience with participating in meetings with a mix of virtual and physical participants, chaos reigns if the person running the meeting has not thought through the challenges of involving both sets of people. What I see happen too much in meetings is that there’s a group of people together physically who have conversations that don’t involve the virtual attendees, the virtual attendees know stuff is going on in the room but don’t know what. Meeting is open but sucks for those not in the room.

    I think the meeting should have been streamed but not as a surprise tactic. I’m not going to criticize the board for not reacting well to a surprise. I also think it’s rude not to warn a guest you invite to a meeting that the meeting is being streamed. However, I do think the board could be faulted for not considering streaming before the meeting. Faulted not excoriated.

    The reaction to this event has been interesting to watch. I see few people giving the board the benefit of the doubt. I try to keep in mind that it’s a volunteer organization. I lead a state ALA chapter and I try to keep this in mind as I ask people to do things for the association and I hope that they give me the benefit of the doubt as inevitably make mistakes. I’m not a LITA member but I’ll be curious to see how the board responds.

  • Pingback:Collaborative tech, virtual participation, and what is an “open meeting” anyways? | Information Wants To Be Free

  • January 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    There is a chat option on Ustream that allows viewers to talk and that would have provided some two-way communication.

    I am not advocating that Ustream is the answer. It may be that ALA or LITA or someone decides that the streaming should only occur in some place only members can get to, like ALA Connect.

    Cindi Trainor indicated that this is now a policy issue that LITA is going to discuss. That makes me groan a bit as I know that policies sometimes take a long time, and a few committees, to come to fruition. I would ask that LITA have this resolved by Annual. I do not think that is asking too much.

  • January 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

    Fascinating discussion over this issue, I am really enjoying the input. I actually had no idea this went on except for the AL Direct I received. This might just be a case where the board might need more training. We recently had training on the Brown Act which is an open meeting law specific to California. There are a lot of rules to follow and if the board had the right training or were notified ahead of time, then there wouldn’t have been an issue. I don’t think they were planning any secret coup or anything, so it doesn’t seem like they shut it off to have some secret vote. They seemed to overreact out of fear of offending their speaker perhaps?

  • January 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    Information on the Brown Act (since this did take place in California):

    allow non-disruptive recording • cast of meetings, (§54953.5(a)), and let the public inspect any recording made by the agency of its open meetings. (§54953.5(b))
    The agency may destroy recordings it made after 30 days. (§54954.3(b))

    So by asking Jason to turn off his recording device, the board violated the Brown Act.

  • January 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Jason, I applaud your willingness to stand up for open access to open meetings. ALA has long been too reliant on physical presences for participation in groups and meetings, and so-called “open” meetings have truly been closed (I was physically turned away from an “open” meeting at my first and only ALA conference attendance). I am so proud of you for trying, both for using the technology to improve ALA services and for promoting open access to meetings our dues pay for.

    And to both Karen & Jason (& others like Michelle Boule & Meredith Farkas who have written eloquently about this) I’ll buy you all drinks next time we’re in the same physical place 😉

  • January 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    The Brown Act isn’t relevant to this discussion, because it applies only to California’s city and county boards, councils, and government agencies.
    I was not at this meeting – I’m not even a member of LITA – but it doesn’t seem unreasonable for the Board to have stopped the streaming until they could make a decision about how best to handle this, especially without the consultant’s contract in front of them.

  • January 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm

    Incidentally, I don’t think the ALA is covered by the Brown Act. It’s not a governmental agency or a nonprofit organized through a public agency; it’s an independent nonprofit corporation.

    As for the content of the meeting, it was nothing earthshaking or mysterious, though certainly helpful if you’ve never had any training in nonprofit management. I think the primary content-based issue revolved entirely around the unknown strictures of the speaker’s contract. (There were obviously other issues of trust, communication and courtesy that came into play.)

  • January 13, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I wasn’t physically at the meeting, but if I were at a meeting, and found out the meeting was being streamed live without my knowledge or permission, I would be angry. I don’t know that I could have handled the situation with the grace and logic that the LITA board did. Seems like the board member that streamed it was trying to create drama, which he certainly succeeded in.

  • January 13, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    “Dre” also posted on my blog. I would note here a few things. First is that I appreciate his perspective of having been there. He is also correct (in a second comment here) that ALA is not governed by California laws, but is governed by the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (where it is incorporated). I understand his point that people act differently on-camera and off-camera, but I find that this is hypocritical in an open meeting. If you are willing to say it in a group setting, you should be willing to have it recorded. And statements are regularly taken out of context even when a meeting is no recorded!

    However, I disagree with him/her, and can only echo what Jenica said way above: “Announced or not, the technology was there, it worked, there was obvious member interest, and the meeting was OPEN. No other discussion should have been needed. If the content of the meeting wasn’t appropriate for sharing, then the meeting should not have been open. Since it was supposed to be an open meeting, stopping the stream was not only unnecessary but counterproductive to the goals of the organization, and alienated the people that the board is supposed to be reaching out to.”

    The LITA Board lost a wonderful opportunity to provide leadership in technology for the association.

  • January 13, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I think this is a great discussion — thanks for hosting it. With all due respect, and appreciation for his goals, I do think that Jason Griffey’s streaming proceedings without explicit permission violated Generally Accepted Internet Etiquette. With the ability to make everything public, it becomes more and more important to be explicit about what we’re making public.

    For example, I frequently participate in various bulletin board and discussion websites. It’s generally considered bad form to publish a private email without permission of all involved in the email.

    In the same way, streaming without notification is, generally, rude.

    All of that said, of course meetings should be streamed and opened up to virtual participants. But even as someone supporting that goal, if someone had told me “well, you’ve been broadcast for the last ten minutes and I didn’t even tell you”, I would have been pretty annoyed.

    As we participate in more and more virtual events, I think we have to be more and more respectful of privacy boundaries. If the goal is to be as open as possible, how does that jibe with broadcasting people without their knowledge?

    Was there a reason this was not brought up before the meeting? Because it was assumed the answer was “no”? Wouldn’t it be more fair to give the board a chance to say “yes”? If they still had said “no”, then kerfuffle away. But this seems like a somewhat unfair way to force the issue. Again, I do completely support Jason Griffey’s goals in opening the meeting up to virtual participants.

  • January 13, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    I’m very inclined to believe Jason’s statement that he wasn’t trying to show up the Board. I do think he’s probably so media-immersed and used to being recorded and streamed that it’s no big deal for him personally and so I can see how he would genuinely be surprised by pushback. Based on what I know about him, I find it really hard to assume any kind of Macchiavellian motives.

    OTOH, I also can’t fault the Board for not just rolling with it. Personally? I think that streaming open meetings should be OK, and things like live-tweeting should be explicitly OK as well. But it should be discussed and voted on and communicated as an explicit formal decision before the fact. Yes, that’s bureaucracy, but that’s how formally constituted organizations work. That’s not wrong – it’s just one way for a group to work. It should not be a big deal for the board to discuss the issue of streaming at a future meeting or conference call. Then they can issue a formal decision on whether it’s OK in the future. It would be great if they could get it done before Annual.

  • January 13, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Dre I think you’re being extremely harsh to Jason, mostly because Jason has been streaming the board meetings and other LITA events for the last few years and if anyone on the board can say they weren’t aware of that I’m even more disappointed in that then with them shutting down the streaming.

    The fact is that LITA screwed up on this and how they’ve responded to it…which is to say nothing at all. Jason made a tweet about having to shut down the streaming and then said nothing else (which I can’t say I really blame him for…) However the rest of the LITA board didn’t seem to agree on anything and created more controversy and ire for some of the things they did tweet. There’s still been nothing about the actual reasons why this was shut down, which LITA members deserve to know.

  • January 13, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I do confess to being a bit emotionally driven in my comments, especially initially. I am not sure where the raw nerve is, but I definitely respond very strongly to the dissonance between the desire for an open meeting and the “surprise” factor of the webcast.

    I am sorry, Jason, for getting so worked up about it and repeatedly hammering on the same point.

    It’s clear that Jason had the best interests of the organization in mind. And at least the conversation has gotten started….

  • January 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I do also want to add that I’m certainly not privy to all the LITA-specific contexts. Maybe the board meetings have been streamed for the last few years already, maybe LITA has not been responsive to calls for virtual participation, I don’t know.

    And I don’t mean to suggest motives for Jason Griffey, someone I’ve never even met. But I did want to add a voice that, even as a relatively-internet-and-tech-comfortable librarian, I would have been annoyed by the “surprise” factor.

    Again, it is good to see this being discussed. ALA in general really needs to focus on ways to make meetings more accessible to distance participants.

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  • January 18, 2011 at 10:30 am

    As a disinterested observer, I couldn’t help but notice evidence in this discussion itself that entities need to be properly prepared and set up for streaming, something that clearly had not happened. One person (Jane) emphasizes that “Not. One. Person” spoke up in favor of streaming. Jason, who did the streaming, reports that a vote had been taken and three board members voted against stopping. Jane concedes that she didn’t hear everyone and the camera didn’t show the whole room.

    I’m in favor of using technology to include those who can’t be present. However, care must be taken to prevent the kind of misinterpretation (in this case, quite emphatic) arising from inadequate technology and insufficient planning.

    January 10th, 2011 at 11:25 am

    Jenica, I think, has hit upon what bothered me the most which was the response of the board. Not one person spoke up in favor of the streaming. Not. One. Person.

    Jason Griffey
    January 10th, 2011 at 11:50 am

    The minutes of the meeting should have the actual votes on it, but the vote to stop the streaming had three members vote against stopping. The remainder of the board voted for stopping the streaming.
    January 10th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Well that at least is good to know, but I did not hear anyone speak up and the camera did not show the whole room.

  • January 18, 2011 at 2:41 pm

    As has been mentioned in the national news “less harsh rhetoric (reactions), more constructive dialogue” is what is needed. Finger pointing and name calling does not address the issue. The fact is the LITA board responded the only way they could under the circumstances. ALA has some pretty strict rules for recording and “broadcasting” meetings at conferences. A couple of years ago we wanted to record and make available an Interest Group meeting but were told ALA would not allow it. I agree that the ALA rules need review and that is where the effort should be placed rather than on reacting to a situation without all the facts.

  • January 20, 2011 at 12:46 am

    Greetings all,
    Since this page hasn’t had a comment from a Board member yet (except for Jason’s clarifications on what happened), I’d like to offer a few comments that I hope will be helpful. There are many complicated threads on this issue; rather than attempt to untangle them all, I’ll just offer a few thoughts.

    First, please see the statement from LITA President Karen Starr that was posted today concerning LITA’s commitment to openness and to delivering Association content to LITA members, ALA members, and the library profession as a whole:

    It is unfortunate (but understandable) that the main focus of the discussion has been on the open meeting policy and a feeling that LITA lost an opportunity to show leadership in the use of technology. Karen’s statement addresses that issue, so I won’t get into it in this post. However, it is important to state in the strongest way that LITA’s leadership is committed to openness and to the online delivery of Association content and business to LITA members. Here are some of the relevant facts.

    ~Conversations related to developing a viable and sustainable model for capturing and streaming high-quality LITA content started as early as July of last year. By December, the Board had voted on and approved a task force to examine the technological, logistical, and policy issues for large-scale delivery of high-quality Association content. The task force goal is to complete its work by Annual (a target already determined last December, before the Midwinter conference). The Board fully recognizes the potential and power of delivering streamed and archived content, and the need to move quickly.

    ~This initiative comes out of years of testing and proving the technology by people such as myself and Jason. We were pushing the envelope on recording and delivering content long before the technology was actually viable. Capturing audio, and especially video, in a conference hall environment is quite complicated, especially to do it well. I know because I have been capturing LITA programs since 2004 (before the LITA Blog existed) and have made my share of spectacular technology flops live, in front of hundreds of people, for the sake of figuring out how to make this stuff work. Griffey and I have often partnered on those efforts. I don’t mind the fails, because that’s what it takes to figure out how to do this right. I was responsible for the first podcast of Top Tech Trends in 2007 and either recorded or organized technology for those events in subsequent years (many of which Griffey was involved in as well); I broadcast the first full-quality stream of Top Tech Trends (completely open to the public, over 1,000 views to date); and was responsible for streaming last fall’s LITA Forum Keynotes by Roy Tennant and Ross Singer, as well as two programs from this last conference, Top Tech Trends again (sorry for the technical difficulties at the beginning of that one–beyond our control) and the Verner Vinge interview, conducted by Griffey himself. And this is just a sampling of what I’ve been involved with as far as content capture. My point is simply this– Creating a viable and sustainable program of high-quality streaming content (that doesn’t depend on me or Jason showing up in a room with our own equipment) is non-trivial in effort, coordination, and cost. LITA has just three staff to support the programs of the whole association. Compare that to ACRL, which has 15 or more. Beyond those three people (let me pause to pay them deep gratitude and respect for the hard work they do on behalf of all of us), it’s all just a volunteer operation. And last year, because of the economic crisis affecting us all, LITA was in a budget hole well into the five digits just to cover current operating expenses.

    ~Given our track record on recording and streaming, it is safe to say that if the Board had adequate (or any) pre-discussion about the desirability of streaming the Board meeting, this would be a very different conversation. We would have been prepared with appropriate technology, would have worked to resolve possible issues with ALA policy or enforceable contracts, and everyone in the room would have known they were being broadcast and been prepared for it. I say that as a matter of fact, not to knock any members of the Board or assume motivations. I think that everyone who is reading this should assume the best motivations on the part of all Board members for an active interest in forwarding the work of the Association and providing increased value to the membership. It’s a volunteer operation. Not one of us would be there unless we truly cared about the trust placed in us and the work that needs to be done.

    ~The last contribution I’d like to make is to challenge the notion that the technology was “working”. The audio in the first four minutes of the video are so distorted that I can only tell what Karen is saying because I was in the room, and the remaining four minutes you can only “see” less than half of the Board and can only really hear Karen (who has a mic) and Griffey (who is right on top of the camera). As previously noted, you can’t see the real results of the vote that was taken, and you’d be challenged to hear the reasons that are discussed for ceasing streaming until the relevant complications can be sorted out. One of the things that you probably can’t make out is that I was the one who noticed the camera and introduced the motion to cease streaming. I did this:
    * Despite the fact that I have worked tirelessly and consistently for seven years to prove that capturing high-quality audio and video content at conferences is both practical and affordable
    * Despite the fact that I am a firm and constant advocate of reaching out to LITA members and others who can’t make it to conferences for whatever reason (Sarah Houghton-Jan can testify to my repeated if not entirely successful efforts to bring Top Tech panelists into the room virtually who couldn’t make it physically)
    * Despite the fact that I am a revolutionary at heart and believe in open information, open process, and open governance
    * Despite the fact that I actually like Jason and have collaborated with him for years on recording and delivering content

    If I have learned anything in my years of doing this, it’s that the camera and the mic definitely introduce a bias based on who you can see, who you can hear, how loud or how present they are, etc. It is logistically quite complicated to represent an experience that approximates “being in the room” over a live stream. This is less problematic for programs, where one or a handful of people are talking in an orderly fashion according to a prepared structure. It becomes much more problematic for a meeting in which a dozen or more people are participating in an unstructured conversation around a large table that is not conducive to the limitations of camera angles and mic sensitivity.

    If you haven’t tried to capture an ALA event yourself and are wondering why I think it’s so challenging, I invite you to come and sit with me at Annual and I’ll give you the road show. You’ll see me up front at Top Tech and other programs, sitting next to the camera, hunched over the laptop. If you can’t make it to the conference, maybe I’ll make a video of me making video. 🙂 In the meantime, I will thank you all for your valuable comments, affirm to you that we are committed to bringing Association events to you in every feasible way, and ask for your patience and support as we continue to work to deliver increasing value to the membership and anyone who has interest in LITA content and services.

  • January 20, 2011 at 11:51 am

    “ALA has some pretty strict rules for recording and ‘broadcasting’ meetings at conferences. A couple of years ago we wanted to record and make available an Interest Group meeting but were told ALA would not allow it.”

    Whoever told you that was grossly misinformed, and it’s sad that you took this at face value. This is why it ALA needs regular governance training and why all of us need to become more familiar with the policy manual, bylaws, and other ALA documents. We’re librarians, for heaven’s sake.

    There is an arcane rule that only ALA can record programs, left over from when cassette tapes of key programs were sold at the conference. The LITA board meeting was not a program; it was an open meeting. Your IG meeting was also a meeting. An OPEN meeting.

    The only things I knew about LITA Board ahead of time were that there were board members who were hoping to open discussion on issues unrelated to streaming. So let’s squelch the idea that this was a planned event. The reaction of the board members at the event, and the email that has followed, continue to suggest that the Board’s outrage was disproportionate to what was actually going on.

    Journalists often pop into open meetings and take notes. Tweeters tweet. People talk. This is WHY recording is a mitzvah, and should be welcomed at open meetings. There is absolutely nothing like the ability to view the actual events to squelch the he-said she-said of partial communication. I’ve seen at least one person in the last week who had post-hoc regrets for how her words to a reporter were misrepresented.

    Dre wrote, “I would certainly think a lot more carefully about how I phrase something if I know it’s potentially being recorded for posterity.” In theory, that’s what minutes are for. Would you really behave differently if Jenica was watching the meeting from home than if George from American Libraries or Josh from LJ were sitting in the room–or lil ole me and my Twitter account? Furthermore, you’re assuming assiduous minute-takers wouldn’t capture your every word. How can you know that?

    Trying to qualify what “open” is to match your comfort level can lead to huge logical fallacies. One of the battles that came up in Council in 1995 was Council’s unwillingness to release the real-time transcripts made for the hard-of-hearing (and broadcast in the chambers); the oft-repeated excuse was that these transcripts were “inaccurate.” In other words, the transcripts were fine for DEAF people to use for information and decision-making, just not for everyone else.

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