LibTechConf 2014: A Reflection

After all the conferences and the craziness at work, LibTechConf seems like ages ago and though it’s been a little while, I wanted to write the usual reflection that I do. I wish I had done it sooner now, but I’m finally getting to it.

Great Keynotes

libtechconf mitaI normally prefer getting keynote speakers from outside of the library world, to see an outside perspective on the library and how we can connect with others, but in no one can I complain about the choice of keynotes even if they were both from inside the library world.

@copystar and @bfister’s talks also complemented each other, talking about stories, communities, and sharing.

Multistream Madness

It was really hard trying to choose which presentations to see. Just when I thought I’d chosen, someone tells me about something that I apparently missed when I looked over the program the first time.

I was thankful that a number of people were tweeting and/or posting slides, because then I could get a sense of what was going on in that other session I wanted to attend at just about every time slot.

I had never attended a multistream conference before, so it was kind of confusing for me moving between rooms and buildings. Thankfully there were lots of people to ask and lots of signage. Still, it was simply a new experience for me to have to move all the time.

Of all the sessions, I think my favourite was still @adr’s lightning talk where he yells at everyone to start using markdown instead of whatever inane technology we still use.

libtechconf fink lightning talkIt left a very big impression, and it was effective. Despite his yelling, he got a lot of people to laugh appreciatively. That takes skill!

Presenting

libtechconf chibibis on podiumI had also never presented at a multistream conference before, and never before at a curated, full hour length session. It was very nerve wracking!

I was scared of all sorts of things, especially whether anyone would even be interested enough to show up.

Thankfully, I had some support and lots of water (plus a script) to get me through the whole thing.

In the end, the thing that really got me was whether my talk was too technical.

Audience Technical Level

One of the things that struck me the most was how high level most of the talks were. With a title like “Library Technology Conference”, I expected more developers and people with a high technical skill. Instead, I got 2 people during my talk who would consider themselves any kind of developer, and a handful of people who really knew any web coding (i.e. HTML/CSS).

After the first day, I definitely got the impression that the most technical people in the room were presenters. While it’s not a bad thing, it’s not what I’m used to, and not entirely what I expected. At the very least, I expected the level of technical expertise to be somewhat like Access where you get the range from little to expert with a good mix, and falling a bit more to the technical side.

It’s All About the People

While the presentations were interesting, so frequently, the best part of a conference is the time spent with people.

libtechconf-dinnerIt was a great chance to catch up with some of the other Canadians (mostly folks from Ontario), and finally meet in person some of those who I’ve talked to frequently on Twitter or IRC. There are, of course, those who I just happen to meet, usually introduced through someone else, or because they ended up at the same dinner.

The Unplanned Hackfest

Well I say “hackfest”, but really it was a hack session with just two of us.

You can read the full background on the about page of the site, but basically @mreidsma asked me whether I wanted to help him build a site for library people where they could share their favourite searches, much like you can with music on thisismyjam.

So we met at the hotel bar and we were there from 7:30pm to close to midnight. He gets all the credit for the actual coding, while I was essentially the project manager and did other random things like choose the icons.

I am very pleased to say we shipped it, the code is on github, and the site is live on thisismysearch.com. You can contribute or simply play with the site. It’s always great to see people sharing!

this is my search screenshotIt was actually a very new experience for me, because while I’ve participated in hackfest sessions before, I don’t think I’ve ever really felt like I contributed. The most interesting part is that I felt like I contributed even though I didn’t write any code.

This was the most memorable part of the conference. Big thanks goes to reidsma for inviting me to collaborate.

Conclusion

The all important question of “Would you go again?” cannot be easily answered.

I prefer conferences with shorter presentation slots and on a more technical level (it’s probably why I keep going to Code4Lib and Access).

I had a great time at LibTechConf and I owe that experience to the people that were there, and the opportunity LibTechConf generated to get us all together in one place. So, that is what would make me go back again.

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Cynthia

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

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