What Does Virtual Annual Look Like to You?

For the first time this year,  “big ALA” experimented with offering a virtual conference component of its Annual Conference. While some of the divisions have done this in the past (ACRL, PLA) and AASL is currently running a parallel virtual event, this was the first time we’d tried this for the monster, “big kahuna” Annual Conference.

While you may be thinking about MidWinter because it’s just around the corner, we’re thinking about Annual, so the Conference Planning Committee has already started talking about how to improve next year’s virtual Annual. We have a three-year contract with Learning Times, so that will be the platform, but many of the other pieces are up in the air at this point, which makes it a good time to ask for some input.

We can’t promise anything at this point, but what’s your wishlist? There are already some “givens,” but building a structure around them, what would you like to see? Here are just a few of the questions we have, but feel free to give us feedback around other issues, too.

  • We can’t do this for free, not if we want to offer a quality, stable video feed. Keep in mind, though, that our members do tend to stream some of the more popular sessions, such as Top Tech Trends, and that will continue. Which sessions are you okay with as volunteer streams versus quality feeds?
  • We can’t stream the keynotes because the speakers don’t give us permission, and in fact, they usually forbid it. Otherwise, though, what types of sessions do you want to participate in remotely?
  • What does “participate in remotely” mean to you?
  • Where are the price points that fit? Are there tiers or does one-size-fits-all work in this type of situation?
  • Where can we add value to improve your virtual conference experience? Are you more interested in just sessions, or do you want virtual hallways, networking opportunities, and other comparable experiences, too? If it’s the latter, what do they look like?
  • If you’ve seen this done well somewhere else, we’d love to hear about it. Just give us a URL and a description of what you liked about it.

This is your chance to give us input to help shape the future of virtual ALA conferences, so please share your thoughts!

10 Responses to “What Does Virtual Annual Look Like to You?”

  1. lukethelibrarian Says:

    i haven’t been to ala for a couple of years, but this caught my attention because i just finished attending the educause 2009 online conference — see http://www.educause.edu/E2009/Online/Program — which was the absolute best execution of an online meeting that i have yet seen. they used a combination of adobe connect and sonic foundry mediasite, complemented by effective interactions with a organizer-created ning group and user-created twitter and google-wave backchannels — plenty of virtual lobby space. two of the three plenary speakers — lawrence lessig and brenda gourley of the uk open university — gave permission for their addresses to be webcast, so it’s worth asking others. registration for online conference was $100 less than in-person, but included the recordings package normally sold for $300. i would encourage ala planning folks to contact the organizers & facilitators of the online event, starting with Carie Page. they truly would be my example of a model to emulate.


  2. Chris Strauber Says:

    Top Tech Trends and the Social Software Showcase (particularly the second, which is designed to be simulcast, unlike much of ALA Annual) would be for me examples of things which would benefit from a lot of bandwidth. Both programs are usually filled to overflow, and while they are likely to be broadcast by volunteers, they would provide a good way for ALA to associate itself with successful programming. Make the streaming for those two programs work flawlessly and it will be easier to show other divisions and groups what’s possible.

    I really like the Ning and Twitter group ideas. Both platforms are designed to support vastly more interaction than ALA can afford to provide–harness them and concentrate on making the rest of it work well.


  3. Walt Lessun Says:

    The good folks running TCC have consistently out-performed all others I’ve attended. Below find the wrap-up note from this year’s event:
    TCC 2009: Closing Message

    Aloha everyone,

    TCC 2009 is officially over. The last session finished about 30 minutes ago. We indeed hope that you found it invigorating as we did, with inspiring content, networking, and most importantly, opportunity for future collaboration.

    There are a few loose ends and reminders to follow up on:
    … Recordings will be available (forever?).
    … Participate in discussion forums.
    … Tagging the TCC 2009 Conference.
    … Complete the conference evaluation.
    … Put 2010 on your calendar today.
    … Get a life after TCC 2009.

    The recordings page provides quick access to all session recordings and paper proceedings. After selecting the item of interest, click on the Play Recording button. Note that in the playback mode, there are controller icons in the lower left corner of the Elluminate Live interface. Papers are stored in PDF format and are easily downloaded and printed.


    The recordings will be available as long as the files are playable on your computer. No doubt that at some point in time, they will be unplayable or incompatible with your new “super vista” operating system.

    The discussion forums page lists the most active discussion topics. Note that a discussion thread is attached to every TCC presentation right below its description. Click on the “Subscribe” button at the top to be notified by email when someone submits a post.


    To start your own discussion topic, go to the Conference Cafe. The discussion area is still active 24/7.


    In the spirit of this year’s conference, we urge you to tag anything and everything that you create, upload, or share relevant to this year’s theme with “tcc2009.” Befriend and collaborate. Keep our TCC community alive.

    A link to an online evaluation form will be sent soon via the conference mailing list, TCCNINE-L. We are having email delivery challenges with spam mail filters so please allow mail sent to TCCNINE-L@hawaii.edu to be received in your inbox.

    VERSION 15, 2010
    A quick check with our partners at LearningTimes indicates that April 20-22 will be tentatively reserved for TCC 2010. Yikes, we will now be in our third decade!

    Eat pizza. Take a walk. Enjoy significant others. Have a stressless weekend.

    Aloha (goodbye and hello) and mahalo nui loa (our deepest thanks),
    – Bert and the TCC Conference Team

    # # # # #

    TCCNINE-L is a mailing list for the TCC 2009 Online Conference that participants are automatically subscribed to when registration is confirmed. To remove yourself from this list at anytime, send email to listserv@hawaii.edu. In the BODY of the message, type SIGNOFF TCCNINE-L. For assistance, please contact Bert Kimura . Thank you for your support of the TCC Worldwide Online Conference.


  4. Christopher Harris Says:

    Considering AASL broke the twitter feed used by Learning Times during last week’s national conference, you best be sure that any expensive paid service is actually up to handling the volume of virtualness that is sure to be coming. Librarian keynote tweet rampage ftw!


  5. Sue Martin Says:

    Since ALA has a presence in Second Life, why not consider using that for at least part of a virtual conference? I know it can’t take care of all the virtual conference needs, at least not at present, but it presents interesting opportunities for exploration. And hundreds of librarians participate in SL already.


  6. Brook Berry Says:

    Group or institutional discounts for the virtual conference would be great.


  7. Ernie Cox Says:

    “Where are the price points that fit? Are there tiers or does one-size-fits-all work in this type of situation?”

    This question needs to be expanded to include “what are other similar membership associations doing?”.

    I would suggest two tiers
    Free – with plenty of sample content from the to-be-purchased level
    Pay (with an option to become an association member) – for expanded packaged content (the content we have contracted LearningTimes to create)

    At AASL the bulk of video, audio, and textual content created for the virtual conference was member driven and much more quickly posted – make this stuff public, free, and easy to get to.


  8. Chris Sharpe Says:

    I also think there are possibilities in Second Life. I have been impressed with some of the lectures and conferences that I attended there. I feel more of a participate in Second Life than in some other “Virtual conferences” where it was just viewing a Powerpoint slide.
    Here is one example: Virtual World Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) Conference
    The 2010 plan is to have “192 presentations and upwards of 500 presenters over 48 hours…”
    Videos of the conference in 2009:

    I just saw that Learning Times is involved in Second Life. http://www.learningtimes.net/3d


  9. Jenny Says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful responses, everyone – we appreciate it, and we’ll definitely be talking about all of them internally.

    I’m curious if anyone else saw this post – Gaming and Virtual Reality at Cisco’s Annual Sales Meeting . Granted, we don’t have Cisco-level resources directed at salespeople, but do pieces of their event appeal to you? I’m fascinated that they were able to put on an event of this size.

    Ernie, that “freemium” model also came up in a discussion about this post on FriendFeed. I guess my question is what would you be willing to pay for in a Learning Times package? What added value can we provide in that environment?

    I also want to explore what the New Media Consortium, does, too. I know they do a lot of virtual events.

    Sue and Chris, I don’t think we’re ruling out Second Life, although bandwidth and internet access onsite are definitely a concern. It might be more difficult to try to facilitate interaction with onsite participants than it would be to host special virtual-only events in the SL environment. I don’t think we can do this exclusively in SL, but it could certainly be one component.

    Would love to hear further thoughts….


  10. Lazygal Says:

    NEIT2009 just did a great job of streaming (Ustream) and tracking Twitter comments: http://neit.wikispaces.com Granted, this is >150 people vs. ALA’s thousands, but there needs to be some way to create low-cost/free participatory content. One thing that ALA *must* recognize is that in this economy, many “usual” suspects may not be able to come to the conference. Bringing the conference to them will keep ALA relevant in all our lives.


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