Online since late March of this year, the new ArchivesNext  blog is wasting no time in generating great ideas. First of all – I love the idea  of awards for the best archives websites. How about ‘Best Archives Blog’, ‘Best Online Exhibit’ and ‘Best Archives Website’? It seems like barely a week goes by on the Archives and Archivists’ listserv  between each announcement of a new archives website or online exhibition. I think an entire blog could be created just showing off the best of archives websites. I would love to see those making the greatest online contributions to the profession honored at the annual conference.
Another great ArchivesNext idea is a wiki  for SAA2007  in Chicago. I was amazed at the conference last summer to see the table where you could buy audio recordings of the presentations. I live so much in the tech/geek world that I had assumed that of course SAA would have someone recording the sessions so they could be posted online. I assumed that there would be a handy place for presenters to upload their handouts and slides. A wiki  would be a great way to support this sort of knowledge sharing. People come from all over the world for just a few days together at conferences like this. Many more can’t make the trip. I think it would go a long way to build more of an online archival community to have something beyond a listserv that let groups of like minded individuals build a collection of resources surrounding the topics discussed at the conference.
What about blogging the conference? Last year Foldering.com  suggested we all use SAA2006  to tag our conference blog posts. Technorati  shows 25 posts  with that tag (and yes, a lot of those posts are mine). One major stumbling block was a lack of wireless in the hotel where the convention was held. Another was a combination of lack of interest and lack of coordination. Too few people were mobilized in time to plan coverage of the panels.
We could leverage a conference wiki to coordinate more effectively than we did last year. Simple signup sheets could help us ensure coverage of the panels and roundtables. I think it would be interesting to see if those who cannot attend the conference might express preferences about which talks should definitely be covered. If there are wiki pages for each panel and roundtable, those pages could eventually include links to the blog posts of bloggers covering those talks.
Blogging last August at SAA2006 was interesting for me . I had never attempted to blog at a conference (Spellboundblog was less than 1 month old last August). I took 37 pages of notes on my laptop. Yes, there was a lot of white space – but it was still 37 pages long. I found that I couldn’t bring myself to post in the informal ‘stream of consciousness style that I have often seen in ‘live blogging’ posts. I wanted to include links. I wanted to include my thoughts about each speaker I listened to. I wanted to draw connections among all the different panels I attended. I wanted someone who hadn’t been there to be able to really understand the ideas presented from reading my posts. That took time. I ended up with 10 posts about specific panels and round tables and another 2 about general conference ideas and impressions. Then I gave up. I got to the point where I felt burdened by the pages I had not transcribed. I had gotten far enough away from the conference that I didn’t always understand my own notes. I had new things I wanted to talk about, so I set aside my notes and moved on.
I hope we get more folks interested in blogging the conference this year. Feel free to email me directly at jeanne AT spellboundblog.com if you would like to be kept in the loop for any blogging coordination (though I will certainly post whatever final plan we come up with here).