Posted by: char booth | 5 July 2008

straight up.

My ALA MARS presentation went extremely well, not only for the fact that I was on enough to crack people up, but for the mountain of positive feedback I received regarding a specific aspect of my talk. Tons of people expressed their surprise at my “brutal” honesty about the fact that most of what we’ve done with Skype and video reference at OU has not been particularly successful in terms of user reception or statistics. That we got up and dusted ourselves off after getting our asses kicked by Skype several times seemed to surprise many people in and of itself, but not as much as the fact that I let myself admit to/poke fun at this series of service “failures” in front of hundreds of people. That we tried multiple service configurations using a promising technology is obviously the most important aspect of what we did, especially in light of the mountain of good advice we are now prepared to give to other practitioners thinking about exploring something similar.

This is a outcomes-driven field quite self conscious about its own potential obsolescence; admitting failure of any kind is not the easiest thing to do. Think about the last time you heard someone disavow or even mildly criticize a program or service from a podium – at times it seems like we’re in the business of convincing ourselves/each other that we can do no wrong. Sadly, this perpetuates a culture ill-prepared to handle the typical result of experimentation: a series of resounding failures hopefully punctuated by modest success. This attitude also results in massive duplication of error that drags us all down – I for one would love to hear more crash and burn stories at conferences and the like, because they’re never without a series of important lessons for things to avoid in the future. This is along the lines of an article Lia and I wrote for Library Journal (before it was nixed, the subtitle was ironically “Getting Ready to Fail, and Like It” or something along those lines).

Here are the presentation slides for those interested – it’s a pared down and updated version of the talk I’ve been giving on OU’s Skype projects for some time, hence the familiarity.


Responses

  1. [...] apparently lingered on snafus many times in the past, including in the July 2010 issue of Library Technology Reports, which examined predictions and [...]


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