Code4lib Day 1: Keynote on Code4libcon

Daniel Chudnov from George Washington University was the first Keynote of the conference.

Dan began with a bit of an introduction and then went into a very touching overview of the story of his family and his life. His life lesson was that

things fall apart.

We Blew It

We have turned away too many people: way more than 100 people. That was a terrible mistake. If we don’t address this mistake, this [conference] is not going to last.

Code4lib was inspired by Access, with some key aspects:

  • single track
  • participatory
  • social
  • beer
  • fun

The difference the organizers wanted was a (possibly) geekier version in the USA in Spring (so as not to compete with Access). What might have really pushed this discussion is that

we turned away more people in 2012 than attended in 2007.

Why? The most common answers revolved around the capacity of venue. There were of course, some other concerns about keeping it a small, informal, participatory conference that were expressed, especially in the backchannels (IRC and Twitter).

Nevertheless, Dan asked the key question “Why do you come?” He expressed how he comes to connect with people, and hang out with the attendees, and there are many others that wanted to join, but were turned away.

He went on to talk about how while there is a chasm of techies vs. non-techies, there shouldn’t be. Plenty of people want to learn what coders do, and as a group, we should want to help respond to change constructively. They want to code, and we should connect and work more closely with them. We have one choice to make:

HACK OR DIE

We Must Expand

Dan used PyCon as a possible a good mode to follow. They have:

  • 2 days of pre-conference tutorial days
  • up front training for all levels
  • 4 days post-conference sprint days
  • back-end collaboration for all levels
  • plenary talks, plenary lightning
  • multiple tracks

Dan was against multiple tracks for many years, but not anymore, because

we need to connect or this thing we have will fall out from under us.

His point is that next year people won’t even bother if there is no clear statement to make things work.

Challenges

  • break complacency
  • lack of proposals to host
  • too heavy a burden on local organizers

Possible Solutions

Committees need to be formalized, especially an advisory committee of former hosts to help future hosts. The work needs to be done through the year, and more open like it used to be. Dan also suggested a formal program committee to replace the “diebold-o-tron”, but there was some disagreement because it’s less participatory.

Some other ideas included a multi-core code4lib where each regional group would be 1 hour live streaming on the same day, and the BarCamp approach where there are no pre-planned presentations, which might work for regional code4lib conferences. However, concern was expressed with having too many small conferences organized, burning out possible hosts for the annual code4lib.

The next code4lib conference should aim for 500 people.

Chicago is ready. Are you?

Published by

Cynthia

A librarian learning the ways of technology, accessibility, metadata, and people

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