The last two weeks have been a sort of “perfect storm” of online-related problems at ALA, and as the person here who probably does the most tracking of what’s said about us online, I think I’ve pretty well heard everything you have to say about that storm.
Except what we want to say. With the holiday breaks (ALA was officially closed on December 26 and January 2), it was difficult to coordinate some of the discussion, but now we’ve had a chance to talk about some of these things internally, and we want to update you on decisions we’ve made to try to fix some of the problems.
The first issue that came up was in a blog post by Jason Griffey, in which he praised ALA’s willingness to try something new and accept YouTube submissions of questions for presidential candidates. He then questioned why we wouldn’t accept videos from non-members or anonymous posters. While we still won’t include videos from anonymous users, we’ve changed the guidelines to accept submissions from non-members for consideration. And actually, we hope non-members *will* submit videos, as well as members. The deadline to post your question is January 16 (see the instructions here), and we encourage those of you who are inclined to participate in the election this way to ask your questions, whether you’re a member or not.
The second issue came up on the ALA Council email list when councilors began trying to plan their schedules for Midwinter. Even though we’re on our third vendor for the planner and we’ve requested changes to what was the default service, clearly this tool still isn’t what it should be. We got some valuable feedback from Nicole Engard and Jessamyn West that noted other concerns, such as a notice that the site recommends Internet Explorer and security issues around making the password the same for everyone and then posting that password on the page itself. Mea culpa (us-a culpa?) on both counts.
We’re going to put this issue to rest once and for all by working closely with the Website Advisory Committee to research and outline exactly what members need and then create it. As some of you know, we’re currently beta testing ALA Connect, which is our new collaborative work/online communities site built on open source software called Drupal. Since each conference will be its own community in Connect and it already uses your ALA login and password, it makes sense to put the event planner there. Naturally, this is going to take some time, especially since we haven’t even launched Connect yet, but we’ll shoot for having a new planner ready for Midwinter 2010. We’ll keep you posted about progress over on the ITTS Update blog, which is also where you can track what’s happening with Connect.
The third issue that piled on top of the event planner happened on Monday when we opened registration and housing for Annual 2009. I saw at least 27 tweets, not to mention complaints on Facebook and FriendFeed, plus a desperate plea from Karen Coombs on her blog (did I miss any – let me know). We’re truly sorry for the frustration this caused everyone, and it’s not going to happen next time. We’re still talking to Experient about this one since they’re the company to which we’ve outsourced this function, but we’ll be taking steps to make sure that the confusion, busy signals, and frustrated clicks don’t happen in the future.
We’re also going to talk about how to communicate better (differently) when something like this happens again. For example, I was thrilled to see Lorraine Squires tweeting help for the revised start time and Anne the Librarian retweeting that info. Don’t think we didn’t notice that, and thank you both for helping. In fact, thank you to everyone who cared enough to post about any of this in order to get our attention. Consider it gotten.
With Midwinter just over two weeks away, hopefully we’re sailing into calmer waters, but let us know if you run into choppy water and we’ll try to help.