To cut to the chase, I extracted the hCal events from the 2009 conference schedule and fed them into a Simile Timeline. I then linked each event to the corresponding slice of my IRC client log. If you want to take a look it’s here.
I don’t remember what initially sent me there, but my introduction to Code4Lib was through the IRC channel. I’ve been logged in there off and on ever since. It keeps me informed and entertained and, yes, occasionally distracted. I’ve since attended all four of the yearly conferences, met and meatspace-friended a good percentage of the #code4lib regulars, contributed a patch here and there to a couple of projects, and helped organize a one-day regional gathering. I guess you could say at this point that I’m pretty fond of the whole thing.
This is why I take it somewhat personally when the annual hand-wringing debate begins over the perceived “cliquishness” of the community. There was much fuss this year–an awkward amount, even, IMO–over 1st-timers vs. old-timers. I make it a point to try and sit with people I don’t know during the lunches and shake a few hands. Lots of folks do the same for dinner. Basically, IMO, if you feel like an outcast n00b, YOU’RE NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH.
There is, however–and maybe I have a bit of “I haz a straw man. Let me show u it” going on here, but anyway–an aspect of the “code4lib is just a big fat secretive, juvenille high school-ish in crowd” argument where I think we majorly fail, and that is the non-open nature of the backchannel.
I met a lot of awesome new people over the past few days attending the 4th code4lib conference in Providence, RI, Jon Phipps of the NSDL MetaData Registry. I was a little suprised to read he didn’t enjoy the program, but that’s cool. I give him big props for calling it as he sees it. The part that got under my skin, because he’s totally right, was his mention of “the hugely active IRC back channel of ongoing commentary (which really should be displayed where everyone including the presenters can read it)”. This simply rang true to me.
Let me first say what I’m not saying: I do not think it’s rude and unfair that a bunch of us (100+, depending if you count those not physically present at the conf) are carrying on a parallel conversation while the presenters we have invited are getting up on stage and sharing projects and ideas that they care deeply about and have slaved over. This is the nature of our beast. To paraphrase something BillDeuber said in channel yesterday, is the channel and extension of the conf, or vice versa? I think the latter.
But I do think it’s rude and unfair that we are carrying on an un-open and inaccessible parallel conversation while the presenters we have invited are getting up on stage and sharing projects and ideas that they care deeply about and have slaved over.
The funny thing is, this reasoning is not what first prompted me to put my chat log up on the web. I did it because Corey Harper asked if I’d email him the section from when he was presenting at the linked data preconf and I figured others might like the same courtesy. I also thought Timeline would be a cool project to experiment with. I’ve since had a few conversations about whether or not it’s fair to the people in-channel who maybe didn’t realize what they were saying was going to be published later on. But if someone is accusing you of being cliquish and secretive, how is the proper response not to be more open and transparent? To say, “Here, take a look. See for yourself.”
This is probably making it seem like there must be some really juicy shit going on in the back channel, but that’s exactly the thing: there’s really not. It never gets any snarkier than your typical MST3K episode. And would anyone argue that Joel, Mike, Crow and Tom Servo didn’t really, deep down, love those old, bad movies they were forced to watch?