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Repositories get my vote

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Having attended the CRIG Unconference last week, I think that it delivered much that was interesting and valuable. I look forward to the results of the synthesis of the many contributions from the delegates. Although there was just one formal presentation, the volume of content was still considerable, as just about everyone actively contributed something. The final analysis will have to demonstrate whether or not the quality of the content has been good enough to be useful. I’m particularly interested to see if the nature of the synthesis of the content is such that it can be demonstrated that the unconference has delivered something which would be difficult to arrange otherwise.

Spread over one and a half days, the unconference was probably a little too long. I’ve particpated in ‘ open-space’ before, but in a concentrated 3 hour session, not spread over two days. Having said that, it is not reasonable to get people to travel from all over the country to attend a session which only lasts a few hours. Some of the logistics didn’t work so well - it was difficult/impossible to see the SWORD demonstrations in the side room because there just wasn’t enough physical space.

Having said that, some of the logistics worked brilliantly. The pub which was chosen for an informal ‘un-dinner’ was perfect - just the right size, no loud music, walking distance from conference venue and accommodation. Conversation ranged widely, but it was non-stop and a significant proportion of this was around the CRIG domain. David seized the opportunity to gather more feedback in true unconference style (he must carry A3 flip-chart paper and felt-tip pens when he goes to the pub just in case…!) I think the second day worked better than the first - people had warmed up by then, the ‘rules of engagement’ were a little clearer, and the previous evening’s session in the pub had broken the ice.

Some highlights for me included some discussions around SRU/W - (‘yes please’ to SRU, ‘no thanks’ to SRW). Remembering to serve developers by making artefacts stored in repositories directly addressable with ‘cool’ URLs was a theme which got general support. And there seems to be wide-spread dissatisfaction with the state of ‘packaging’ in metadata terms. People got to ‘vote’ on ideas using a version of the ‘ dotmocracy’ approach. This worked pretty well - again, I look forward to seeing the outcome of this ‘democracy of ideas’.

I think this may have been the first large gathering I have been to where the Mac users outnumbered the Windows/Linux users. Mind you, the user of the MacBook in the picture might become an ex-Mac user if they adopt this kind of practice:

BTW - I see that I am reported to have said “Wouldn’t it be great if the outcome of this unconference was that repositories were just wrong?” at At the CRIG Unconference last week. ( here and here). I did, in fact, utter these words…. but in a sarcastic response to someone who had proffered the observation that “repositories are just wrong” in one of the one-minute roundup sessions. I have an interest in the development of repositories, and I also have an interest in the development and use of unconference techniques. There is a certain scepticism, in parts of the repositories community at least, about the efficacy of unconferences. Such scepticism could only have been reinforced if the CRIG Unconference had delivered shallow thinking, glib conclusions and sound-bites. This was my concern, and the reason for my sarcasm. For the record, I think that there is much that is valuable in repository research, development and deployment.

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