Loose LIPs

By Tom Peters | Usually I have a terrible memory. Once, in high school, I forgot the name of the young woman I was dating at the time—in her presence. Oddly, I recall her name very clearly now, thirty-three years later.

Whadda set of LIPS! Even my addled pate, however, is capable of creating and maintaining vivid memories. I remember very well the sight of Charles Bailey poking his head into a crowded room just prior to the start of an ALA Annual Conference presentation—probably in June 1989—asking, at the top of his lungs, if people wanted to be able to communicate online with colleagues about professional issues. Like a union organizer, he frantically handed out printed leaflets to the eager, huddled masses describing how to subscribe to PACS-L.

That was seventeen years ago. I remember thinking at the time, This could be the death knell of professional conferences. Why, in the future, would anyone travel to places such as New Orleans, Los Angeles, and Dallas in the sweltering summertime to ride on shuttle buses and listen to presentations, when everyone can participate in a year-round stream of interesting discussions online?

Well, next month I, and thousands of others, will be trekking again to New Orleans for another ALA Annual Conference. My flight is on Southwest Airlines, so I have altered the song lyrics to "Oh, when the saints go marching in…I want to be in that A Group…." I'm still amazed that we continue to have Live, In-Person (LIP) conferences, workshops, and other professional gatherings. These days, there is a sense of nervous splendor about some LIP events, but they continue to be held.

In the intervening decades since PACS-L launched, the ability to interact professionally online has improved dramatically. Web-conferencing software, virtual-reality environments, and other forms of Live, On-Line (LOL) human-human interaction are going mainstream. Just yesterday, I and a group of librarians had a delightful online discussion with the thriller writer J.A. Konrath. Later in the day, I participated in a live online meeting of the volunteer librarians involved in creating the Second Life Library 2.0 from scratch; participating in several LOL events each day is not unusual.

LIPs have evolved over the decades, too. Live in-person conferences used to be too tight-lipped, in my opinion. If you didn't actually attend the conference or workshop live and in-person, reports of happenings were short, sketchy, and ephemeral. Live in-person conferences tend to be more loose-lipped now. If there is wireless access at the conference site, bloggers will be posting online in almost real time. Some conferences simultaneously broadcast audio and video feeds of presentations over the Web. Slowly, but surely, LIPs are learning to love LOLs.

Last week, I spoke at a wonderful LIP workshop held in sunny Lansing, Michigan, organized and conducted by the Michigan Library Consortium. A small workshop attended by about forty people, it was both fun and informative. The vendor presentations were good, and everyone, including the vendor representatives, engaged in a great panel discussion at the end of the workshop. Everyone was very interested in e-books and digital audiobooks, the twin topics of this particular workshop. Within a day, the workshop had been blogged, the audio recording was available, and digital photos of the workshop had been Flickrd. (Or is the correct spelling Flickred? If one e is dropped, are all e's banished from the various verb tenses? Where's Fowler when we need him?)

We carbon-based critters heated to 98.6 degrees F love to congregate. Although live Web-based events, podcasts, and Flickrd photos are good ways to extend the availability and usefulness of professional presentations, there really is no perfect substitute for a good old lippy conference or workshop. Loose LIPs—ones that utilize to advantage these new online tools for broadcasting, capturing, and conveying professional information, opportunities, and concerns—however, are a definite improvement for this tried-and-true mode of professional interaction.
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