Aaron Swartz Is Speaking at Midwinter

Aaron Swartz, co-creator of RSS, co-founder of Reddit, technical lead on the Open Library project, etc., has agreed to speak at ACRL’s University Libraries Section Current Topics session at Midwinter. The session is scheduled for Saturday, January 12 from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

As a new academic librarian, this is exactly the sort of thing I’d like to see more of, especially at the bigger meetings. I’ve heard that LITA, Access, Computers in Libraries, and code4Lib are great conferences, but they’re also small compared to ALA Annual and Midwinter, ACRL, and SLA. And while “big conference” speakers like 2007 ALA Auditorium Speaker Julie Andrews and 2007 SLA Annual keynote Al Gore are fabulous, and I’m an unabashed fan of 2007 ACRL keynote John Waters, it’s time we use the pulling power of speaking to thousands of librarians (not to mention the larger budgets for the bigger events) to bring in people who are setting the tone for the non-library information community. I think the world of Clifford Lynch and Karen Schneider and Roy Tennant and Jessamyn West, but I also think the world of influential technologists like Paul Graham, John Gruber, Mark Pilgrim, Aaron Swartz, and Steve Yegge. I want to see these folks at our conferences. We need to hear from them and they need to hear from us.

Aaron has agreed to speak about the Internet and new collaboration technologies. Naturally, he’ll also talk about the Open Library. He plans to keep his actual presentation relatively short, about half an hour, to allow plenty of time for questions and discussion. To get a sense of what he’s like as a speaker, check out the video of his October 25 presentation at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, which he delivered to a small but appreciative group that included several librarians. Of course, my hope is that there will be a lot more of us in attendance when he speaks at ALA Midwinter in Philadelphia. For which advance registration closes on November 30, 2007. I’ll be there. Will you?

8 thoughts on “Aaron Swartz Is Speaking at Midwinter

  1. Steven,

    Thanks for the comment and for mentioning the post in your blog.

    Although RSS is many things, Aaron Swartz co-created one of its more important variations, RSS 1.0. From his bio: “As part of his second project, an early web-based news aggregator, he joined the RSS-DEV working group where he co-authored the RSS 1.0 spec.”

  2. Right on! Last year, I’d received an e-mail asking for ideas for major speakers at ALA Annual and I suggested folks like Jimmy Wales or Richard Stallman, not Julie Andrews. I totally understand that we need big-name people and political figures, but it would be nice to have speakers who are developing the technologies that are impacting us so greatly as librarians (and as people who use the Web).

    In addition to seeing more non-librarian tech speakers, I’d like to see more experts on management and marketing speak to those issues at library conferences. How cool would it be to have Jim Collins of “Good to Great” and “Built to Last” give a talk on good management in the social sectors? Or Seth Godin talk to us about marketing? Most of us sure could use help in those areas, and I think we’re better off looking outside for that help.

    I also think we should give talks outside of our own conferences. I had such a great time speaking at Wikimania in 2006 because we were able to show them how libraries are capitalizing on wiki technology and how we approach the Wikipedia, but also, we were able to learn a lot from what was going on in other areas. I love that!

  3. Meredith,

    Does this mean you’re going to make it to Midwinter after all? It would be great to see you here in Philadelphia.

    I couldn’t agree more with your comments about Seth Godin and Jim Collins and others (I’d include Donald Berwick in that list). If only there were a conference that would book Godin. Heck, I’d even fly all the way to Seattle to see him.

  4. Great news on the ALA speaker. I agree we should have broader representation of speakers and areas rep. at library conferences. That being said, though, when you plan a conference people like to be entertained too. The “high-profile” speakers generate the most press.

    I agree with the other commentors- speaking at non-library meetings will expand your influence much more than within your own constituency.

  5. I’m glad to see such interest among the library community; I’m really thrilled to have this opportunity. And I promise I’ll try to put together a broader and more impressive talk than the little thing I gave at Berkman. :-)

  6. Hey, I think the world of me too. ;-) Seriously, while I appreciate that you want to bring in other speakers and think it’s great that Aaron is speaking, I wish Brett’s list of “new voices” hadn’t been all male. There are some interesting voices out there, such as Rebecca MacKinnon, danah boyd, and Kathy Sierra.

    As a small point, I also think there’s a difference between the “big voice” keynotes, who need to be accessible to many different librarians, and the smaller venues.

    My dance card is full, but I’ll watch for the program podcast!

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