June 10, 2005

Back from SLA

SLA was as usual a great conference, with many highlights.

  • One of the real highlights was the chance to raise a cold one with my fellow scitech bloggers at the All Science reception at the Steam Whistle Brewery. Check here for Christina's pictures. It was the first time we had all been in the same place at the same time! Last year, we were somehow never able to get more than 2 or 3 of us at a time. Philosophical conversation of the night was Randy, Christina and I musing about blogger fame.
  • The Gary Hamel closing keynote. He was inspiring to say the least. His message was that change is inevitable, that we need not so much embrace it but learn to accept and anticipate it, to challenge ourselves to survive by transforming our organizations into what they need to be. Believe me, I'm not one to go out and buy those cheesy businessy strategy books, but I picked up one of his on the way home -- Leading the Revolution. And he was funny too and a great storyteller. The story that had the most resonnance for me was about how he and his colleagues worked with some hospital administrators. First what they did was get people from all across the institution and sent them on trips. Any where they wanted, they had to choose places with the best customer service experiences. Disneyworld, First Class flight to Europe, anything. They gave the travellers digital cameras to take a picture anytime they felt that frisson of superior customer satisfaction. Then, after that stage, they took these same people and made them experience their own hospital. Crowded emergency room, lying on a gurney in the hall for 12 hours, walking the halls pulling an IV stand with your butt hanging out the little hospital robes. And they used their digital cameras there too, to take pictures when they felt awful. It really struck me. Maybe we need to walk a mile in the shoes of our students sometimes.
  • As usual, the chance to meet with and exchange ideas with vendors was great. This time around, the people at Morgan & Claypool were particularly receptive, but I also had a chance to give some good feedback to IEEE, SPIE, SIAM and others.
  • Hanging in the PAM Hospitality suite was a lot of fun, a good chance to meet & greet the fun folk from the division. The Open House on Sunday was a blast. Thanks to Barbara for inviting me onto the Hospitality Committee.
  • This was the first time I moderated a round table, this time for Computer Science. It was great fun and an interesting challenge. The CS RT is a bit different from the others in that more traditionally it's open discussion rather than a series of presentations. Check out a fine set of notes over at the PAM Blog.
  • Low lights? Well by Wednesday I was wiped. What with IATUL last week and SLA this week, by Wednesday afternoon I should have just gone home. Totally conferenced out. The other somewhat disappointing this has to do with the changing nature of the SLA conference itself. I understand completely that the conference needs to be run so it breaks even financially, if not generating a bit of a surplus to make up for ones that may sometimes end up in the red. But, and a big but, I feel sometimes that the conference is run a bit more for the sponsors and exhibitors than the attendees. More and more, the emphasis is on sponsorship opportunities and networking time with the exhibitors. Used to be that there were two plenary sessions, now with three each of the big sponsors gets that branding time with the whole conference. Used to be that there was only one "no conflict" time so everyone would have a chance to visit the exhibitors, now there are three, one each day. The two extra "no conflict" times and the one extra plenary mean that there's three fewer slots for programming. Result? Monday at 11:30 the simultaneous scheduling of the CS RT, the All Science Poster Sessions, the Standards Rountable, one of the Blogging/RSS panel and the session on Who Owns Scientific Knowledge. Again, I understand that the exhibitors pay a lot for their booths, but who's conference is this, anyway? Oh yeah, apparently the opening plenary is going to be on Sunday night next year. We'll have to see how that affects programming. I'm hoping it means another slot for sessions.
  • Rant over. More session summaries coming from IATUL and SLA both here and at the PAM Blog.

1 comment:

Carol said...

Reading these remarks about the extra "no programming time" certainly underscores my feeling about the conference. The conference program seems to be an appendage to a trade expo.