Saturday, November 04, 2006

ALAO Conference & the fruitless endeavor for wireless

The ALAO (Academic Library Association of Ohio) Conference was held yesterday at the Crowne Plaza Quaker Square in Akron. I lugged a laptop around with me all day in the hopes that I would be able to write a post (or a series of posts) directly from the conference. Alas, this was impossible due to the horrible wireless connectivity there. At first I was getting no where with several networks being available but none working. Then, during my first session, I was able to get the page to come up on my browser where I needed to put in a code to access other pages. I hadn’t been given a code and was told by the nice lady next to me who was happily enjoying her wireless that it cost her $9.95. Between sessions I asked at the registration desk about wireless access because I wanted to blog the conference. It was disconcerting that at first they had no idea what I was talking about, but they figured it out pretty quickly and someone gave me what she said was the last code she had, but warned me that most others were having problems connecting. I felt pretty lucky to have obtained a code and tried again to get that page to load so that I could input my new code and get access, but for the entire rest of the day I was not able to get it to reload. The wireless would say I was connected, then it would have trouble with acquiring a network address, and I just kept getting my homepage not loading with no redirect to the page that I needed. Since there didn’t appear to be a place to go with my problems, and others seemed to have given up on the wireless dream, I finally resigned myself to carrying around a pointless heavy bag for the rest of the day.

I sincerely hope that in the future ALAO will take a few of the following recommended steps for future conferences: 1) make sure that free wireless will be available to all conference attendees without code, or have a code for everyone included in their registration packets; 2) make sure that free wireless access is available in all of the rooms of the conference hotel (I heard a lot of people broke down and paid for it, or made due without it); 3) test out the wireless ahead of time and/or talk to other groups who’ve had conferences there to see if there are any problems when many people are trying to access it at once; and 4)have a desk near the registration desk and/or near the poster sessions for people who are having problems with the facilities provided including the wireless service. I know the fourth suggestion may be a stretch, but considering all of the complaints regarding room temperature and wireless problems it may be helpful to have a “help desk” like place. These things will be more important in future conferences which will be 2-day events.

I found these problems with wireless more than bit ironic following the excellent keynote address by Dr. J. Richard Madaus who spoke powerfully about people accessing information constantly and instantly and that it wasn’t about technology, but about people and the way they live. I will make a separate post summarizing my further thoughts on the keynote address, presentations, etc. very soon, but I thought that this subject deserved its own post.

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