I believe the distillation of Code4Lib’s value into enabling “communication and sharing” is accurate, but I think this should be further focused. Showcasing what we’ve done and how we’ve done it is wonderful, but only goes so far since many of our open source solutions still require a loads of effort to implement. A number of institutions (Stanford certainly stands out in my mind) have made great strides towards open source collaboration in libraries, but for understandable reasons they are limited in size and focus, and there should be more contributors than there currently are to most open source library projects. Furthermore, the use cases of smaller archives and libraries often don’t get addressed.*
I went to DrupalCon last month, and I learned that Drupal really needs people to step up and contribute to Drupal Core, but just getting out of the starting gate requires training, mentoring, and dedication. It took me all day at the Drupal Core Sprint “hackfest" to simply move a single issue forward with a few comments and screenshots. I felt good about that until I realized that there’s no commitment from my institution to set aside time to contribute back to Core. The perception of open source as completely free software requiring no reciprocation on the part of institutions needs to change.
As others have mentioned, I agree that this year could be an opportunity to experiment with the annual conference format. I wonder what could be accomplished by organizing a hands-on virtual “hackfest/creative coding” event, where institutions commit “attendees" to working on open source software (mentorship, coding, design, UI, UX, documentation, etc) for that week? This could be completely virtual, or it could be semi-virtual by coordinating regional/local gatherings. It would involve just as much effort, logistics, and infrastructure to organize, so I don’t see the committee structure going away, but it wouldn’t require the burden of contracts and money necessary to organize a "mega event" in physical space.
My two cents,
* There are some efforts to address this with projects like "Hydra-in-a-Box” (love those weekly sprint demos!), but you get my drift.
On Jun 8, 2016, at 3:11 PM, Matt Sherman <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
Thanks for tossing these ideas out there. A number of these ideas had
not occurred to me, even though I've been wanting to see more local
events. What you and Kyle are saying is resounding far more than I
would have initially thought. I think in general one of the great
things with Code4Lib has been more of a focus on hashing out projects
and ideas, helping one another learn new things, consider new ideas
and approaches, and build relationships that way. Which having more
local meet ups would help with. Part of me hates to see the national
conference go away as I love getting a chance to meet and interact
with so many folks from all over, but I think you have a great point
on needing to put some greater focus back into regional events and the
collaborative aspects that build this community in the first place.
On Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 2:50 PM, Eric Hellman <[log in to unmask]<mailto:[log in to unmask]>> wrote:
Since we're brainstorming...
In addition to regional meetings, how about having some smaller, national or even international thematic Code4Lib meetings. For example, I see an aching need for a "Code4Lib:Privacy".
President, Free Ebook Foundation
Founder, Unglue.it<http://Unglue.it> https://unglue.it/
On Jun 8, 2016, at 6:40 AM, Eric Lease Morgan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
On Jun 8, 2016, at 1:55 AM, Kyle Banerjee <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
My recollection is that in the bad 'ol days, c4l was much more about sharing ideas to solve practical problems… Nowadays, the conference (which has become like other library conferences) has become an end in itself…
In the spirit of open source software and open access publishing, I suggest we earnestly try to practice DIY — do it yourself -- before other types of formalization be put into place.
I was struck by Kyle’s statement, “the conference has become an end in itself”, and the more I think about it, the more I think this has become true. The problem to solve is not identifying a fiduciary for the annual conference. The problems to solve surround communication and sharing. A (large) annual conference is not the answer to these problems, but rather it is one possible answer.
Unless somebody steps up to the plate, then I suggest we forego the annual meeting and try a more DIY approach for a limited period of time, say two or three years. More specifically, I suggest more time & earnest effort be spent on local or regional meetings. Hosting a local/regional meeting is not difficult and relatively inexpensive. Here’s how:
1) Identify one or two regional leaders - These are people who will initialize and coordinate events. They find & recruit other people to participate. Sure, they require “spare cycles", but they do not have to keep this responsibility past a single event.
2) Create/maintain a Web presence - This is a Web page and/or a mailing list. These tools will be communication conduits. Keep the Web page up-to-date on the status of the event. Refer to it in almost every email message. Use it to record what will happen as well as what did happen. The mailing list can start out as someone’s address book, but it can grow to an mail alias on a Linux machine or even a Google Group. The Web page can live in the Code4Lib wiki.
3) Communicate - Kind of like voting in Chicago, “Talk early. Talk often.” This is essential, and can hardly be done too much. People delete email. People don’t plan ahead. People think they are not available, then at the last minute they are. The reverse happens too. Send communications about your event often, very often. Use email to build a local/regional community. Share with them your intention as early as Step #1. Keep people informed.
4) Identify a venue — Find a place to have the event. Colleges, universities, and municipal libraries are good choices. Ideally they should be associated with the output of Step #1. The meeting space has to accommodate fifty people (more or less), but bigger is not necessarily better. The space can be an auditorium, a meeting room, many meeting rooms, or any combination. The space requires excellent network connectivity. A meeting space sans strong wi-fi is detrimental.
5) Identify a time - The meeting itself needs to be at least one afternoon long. A day is good. More than two full days becomes a bit difficult. Starting at times like noon allows people to have traveling time, or for folks who arrived the night before time to get oriented. Starting at nine and ending at 5 makes for a nice full day. Ending the meeting around noon makes it easy for people to travel back home. Host the event on a weekday and maybe ending on a Saturday. This is professional work, and it may be fun & interesting, but it should not require vacation leave.†
6) Outline an agenda - The agenda embodies "la raison d’être”. The agenda is a tool for facilitating the communication and sharing. Put it on the Web page. Allow others to fill it in. Outline show & tell sessions of various lengths. Recruit people who you know are doing interesting things. Be prepared to show one or two things from the local institution. Do show & tell on things other than computers in libraries. Give tours of local cool stuff, like an archive, special collection, museum, maker space, or even churches. These tours are less about the showing of the stuff as they are about enabling communication of the attendees. Do you really think people are not going to talk work while gazing at a painting? Identify concrete (library) problems to solve, and these form the basis of hack sessions. Do the “unconference” thing. Take hints from THATCamps. Do roundtable discussions and have reporting back sessions. Bring in people outside computing but inside the hos!
ting community, and learning by everybody will take place.
7) Identify how to eat - Going to one more more restaurants/bars for lunch or in the evening is a very good thing. When it comes to lunch, people can go out on their own, or the hosting institution may want to sponsor. Cookies and snacks during the day are good things, but not necessary. Shy away from caterers. They are expensive. Take the same money, go to the grocery store, and buy things to eat. Make reservations in restaurants for larger groups.
8) Do the event - On the day of the event, make sure you have name tags, lists of attendees, and logistical instructions such as connecting to the wi-fi. Have volunteers who want to help greet attendees, organize eating events, or lead tours. That is easy. Libraries are full of “service-oriented people”. Use the agenda as an outline, not a rule book. Smile. Breath. Have fun. Play host to a party. Understand the problem you are trying to solve — communication & sharing. Let it flow. Don’t constantly ask yourself, “What if…” because if you do, then I’m going to ask you, “What are you going to do if a cow comes into the library?” and I’m going to expect an answer.
9) Record the event - Have people take notes on the sessions, and then hope they write up their notes for later publishing. Video streaming is expensive and over the top. Gather up people’s presentation materials and republish them.
10) End the event - Graciously say good-bye, clean up, and rest. Put the coordination on your vita and as a part of your annual review.
11) Evaluate - Follow-up with the people who attended. Ask them what they thought worked well and didn’t work well. Record this feedback on the Web page. This is all a part of the communication process.
12) Repeat - Go to Step #1 because this is a never-ending process.
Now let’s talk about attendee costs. A national meeting almost always requires airfare, so we are talking at least a couple hundred dollars. Then there is the stay in the “cool” hotel which is at least another hundred dollars per night. Taxi fare. Meals. Registration. Etc. Seriously, how much are you going to spend? Think about spending that same amount of money more directly for the local/regional meeting. If you really wanted to, coordinate with your colleagues and sponsor a caterer. Carpool with your colleagues to the event. Coordinate with your colleagues and sponsor a tour. Coordinate with your colleagues and sponsor video streaming. In the end, I’m positive everybody will spend less money.
What do you get? In the end you get a whole lot of professional networking with a relatively small group of people. And since they are regional, you will continue relationships with them. Want to network with people outside your region? No problem. Look on the Code4Lib wiki, see what's playing next, and attend the meeting.
Instead of centralization — like older mainframe types of computing — I suggest we embrace the ideas of de-centralization a la the Internet and TCP/IP. This way, there is no central thing to break, and everything will just find another path to get to where it is going. Instead of one large system — let’s call it the integrated library system — let’s employ the Unix Way and have lots of tools that do one thing and one thing well. When smaller, lesser expensive scholarly journal publishers get tired and find the burden to cumbersome, what do they do? They associate themselves with a sort of fiduciary who takes on financial responsibilities as well as provides a bit of safety. And then what happens to those publications? Hmmm… Can anybody say, “Serials pricing crisis?”
Let’s forgo identifying a fiduciary for a while. What will they facilitate? The funding of a large meeting space in a “fancy” hotel? Is that really necessary when the same communication & sharing can be done on a smaller, lesser expensive, and more intimate scale? DIY.
† Here’s a really tricky idea. Do what the TEI people do. Identify a time and place where many similar people are having a meeting, and then sponsor a Code4Lib-specific event on either end of the first meeting. NASIG? DLF? ACRL? Call it a symbiotic relationship.
Eric Lease Morgan