Reasons for This Post
At last week’s CILIP2 Open Session both Phil Bradley and myself argued that there was a need for the Library community to actively engage with Web 2.0 tools and even be prepared to make mistakes. Without making mistakes, it will not be possible to innovate, we argued. We also felt that we should be open about our mistakes, in order to learn from them and to help others in the sector from repeating such mistakes.
Such views echo the sentiment expressed by Mia Ridge who, in a blog post about the recent Museums and the Web 2009 conference entitled “Oh noes, a FAIL! Notes from the unconference session on ‘failure’ at MW2009 ” explained her “motivation in suggesting the ['Failure' unconference] session – intelligent, constructive failure is important. Finding ways to create a space for that conversation isn’t something we do well at the moment“.
This post is my attempt at explaining aspects of the ‘amplification’ of the CILIP2 open session which failed or could have been improved, and to identify ways in which the next attempt at amplifying a physical event to a wider remote audience can be improved. (Note the term amplified conference was coined by Lorcan
Demsey Dempsey and a summary is provided on Wikipedia).
Things Which Worked
Before describing areas for improvement it is worth summarising the things that worked!
I was pleased that the pre-event publicity of use of Twitter at the event succeeded in attracting large numbers of participants, with some, I think, being willing to subscribe to Twitter and possibly even install a Twitter client in order to participate on the day itself.
The event organisers played their in supporting the amplification of the event. Caroline Moss-Gibbon, who chaired the event, described the live-blogging at the event and asked the participants physically present at the meeting at CILIP Headquarters to regard any comments they made or questions they asked as being in the public domain. The evnt organisers had also arranged for two official bloggers, who would act as public note-keepers at the event, using both a Twitter channel and a CILIP blog post as a means of keeping the remote audience up-to-date with the talks and discussions.
The Twitterfall client which was suggested as a way in which remote participant could keep up-to-date with Twitter posts containing the ‘cilip2′ tag also seemed to prove popular judging from subsequent comments I read of various blog posts. And the goodwill of software developers – in particular Dave Patten – was appreciated by the CILIP community for his transcript of the tweets and his Wordle visualisation of the content of the tweets.
I was also pleased to have recorded a slidecast of a rehearsal of my talk prior to the event. A couple of people commented that they had listened to my talk prior to the event which enabled them to have a feel for the issues I would be raising in my talk.
Areas For Improvement
There are a number of areas in which I felt improvements could have been made. Most of these will not have been apparent to others and so I could feel safe in keeping them to myself. However sharing the experiences with others will remind me to do better next time and will allow others to make additional suggestions.
After the event it was pointed out to me that the description of ‘official’ Twitterers and bloggers at the event could have been interpretted as a way of ensuring that an official party line was documented which censored any criticisms of CILIP. As Caroline Moss-Gibbons, chair of the CILIP Council, described in her brief report on the session the reporters ”had full editorial freedom of course, no ‘party line’ to follow“. Although Caroline made this point in her introduction to the session, the remote audience would not necessarily have picked up on this.
Lesson: next time I feel it would be helpful to provide a Web page about the amplification of the event which explictly clarifies the autonomy of the reporters.
Lack of audio/video recordings:
I recorded a video of Phil Bradley’s talk at the event using my Nokia N95 mobile phone – but despite having deleted old videos from the memory card the previous day, the phone ran out of memory after only two minutes. I subsequently discovered that the phone was storing the video on its built-in memory rather than using the 2 Gb memory card.
Lesson: check configuration options on mobile phone to ensure recordings are being made to correct storage device.
I also brought along a digital camera which could take video recordings (and isn’t limited to the 10 minutes of video footage which my personal camera has). I also brought along a tripod to avoid camera shakes. As my intention was to record my own talk I needed a helper to start the recording. Unfortunately no recording was made, possibly because the camera had switched itself off.
Lesson: I need to remember that people who I ask to use my digital devices are unlikely to be familiar with them and there will be a need to provide some training.
Lack of streaming audio/video:
I brought along my Asus EE PC and intended to try out Skype in order to its potential for allowing a remote user to listen in to the two opening talks (and also possibly record the talks). I also brought along a Polycom Communciator device and tested that it worked correctly as a microphone and speaker. Unfortunately although the devices worked correctly I couldn’t connect to the two new Skype contacts who had expressed interest in listening to the talks. This may have been due to user interface problems on my Linux-based Asus EEE.
Lesson: I need to authenticate remote users in advance, on user interfaces which I am more familiar with.
How Else Could the Event Amplification Have Been Improved?
What else could have been done to enhance the amplification of the event to the remote audience and to people who may have wished to hear the talks and discussions but did not have networked access at the time of the event?
I am aware that James Clay, e-learning resource manager at Gloucestershire College, has been using Qik at various conferences for some time. I did wonder whether a streaming video service such as Qik might have been used by members of the CILIP2 audience with a suitable mobile phoneand a contract which allowed for data to be transmitted within incurring significant charges. However I suspect that this service is still being used by the early adopters, such as James, and hasn’t yet caught the attention of the early mainstream user community. Perhaps there’s an opportunity for its use at a forthcoming CILIP event?
But if members of the audience did not have a device and contarct which could be use for video streaming, I suspect many of them did have mobile phones which culd be used for sound recordings. SHould we have encouraged the audience to record the talks, I wonder? Rather than a single centralised approach, which has a single point of failure (as I’ve described above!) possibly we should be adopting a LORKSS approach (Lots of Recording Keep Safe and Secure). Should we be encouraging others to take recording in order to minimise the risks of failures?