Traugott Koch has been for many years a touchstone of integrity for me. I know that what he says to me is honest, direct, and unblemished by tact. You might think this a backhanded compliment, but I say it with high regard and affection. Dependable, knowledgeable tellers-of-unvarnished-truth are rare indeed.
A few years ago, Traugott remarked to me how important it was for colleagues to meet at conferences and engage in the sort of intellectual discourse for which such events are intended, rather than flying in for a day, laying on a presentation, and dashing off to something else. Of course, this was at a three day conference that I flew into, gave a presentation, and dashed away to something else. I guess thats why I remember his remark so well.
Last month I fulfilled the 'summing-up' role at the WebWise 2006 conference in Los Angeles. This may be the only role in conventioneering worse than 'after-dinner speaker'. Your audience is tired of forth-holders, hungry, and inclined to trickle away mid-talk, roll-about carry-on bag rumbling astern. Worse yet, you have to find the soft-and-creamy center of each session, risking lasting enmity from the neglected and the too-well-attended alike. Besides... can't we all figure out for ourselves what we learned?
I fulfilled my duty as best I could, frantically editing remarks on that morning's talks while trying to follow the dense, policy-rich discourse of the penultimate session. It turned out to be hard work, but also quite rewarding. Actually paying close attention brought a sense of coherence to the event as a whole which I would have missed. I'm not sure my effort added much to the conference, but it sure helped me get more out of the experience. An extended version of my summary is available in the March, 2006 edition of DLib magazine.
Seattle has a troll bridge... or troll-under-a-bridge, anyway. Photo by the author, January, 2006