Diversity Scholarship Trip Report Code4Lib, 2014 Raleigh, NC Nabil Kashyap 4/1/14

Coming to my first Code4Lib was significant because when I first began connecting with the group and its resources, I was a freshly-minted graduate in the middle of a career change. By the time I landed in Raleigh, three months into a new job, I was an information professional–more or less.

After graduating last May from library school, I admit to using the Code4Lib website obsessively during my quest for employment; I quickly found the site, wiki, listserv and journal invaluable. There was a level of energy and involvement by users that made it stand out from other, more conventional professional organizations. Plus, the job postings often described exactly the kinds of emerging, interdisciplinary positions I was most interested in. Code4Lib was a network I wanted to be a part of. Miraculously, my search worked out: I was offered a position, though I had not yet started when I finally applied for the diversity scholarship.

What did I hear at Code4Lib 2014? I heard about use cases for specific code libraries like socket.io and D3.js. I heard about upcoming changes to software integral to our library’s stack, straight from the developers. At the grandest level, I heard inspiring calls for change in our practices and workplaces. Code4Lib left me with a lot to chew on, both in terms of ideas for how I might tackle specific problems I happen to be working on and in terms of the social and political implications of my interactions in and around code.

One of my preconceptions was that I would be surrounded by coders and be exposed to open source libraries and ideas for how to implement them. This was clearly the case. In the near term, I will definitely make use of what I learned to help me in my current slough of projects. Thinking a little further out, I was very interested in the cluster of presentations around exposing and reusing more data in our discovery layer, from lightweight linked data implementations to tree maps and network graphs.

Finally, I have a personal interest in political and social issues around digital networked technologies, and I am seeing more and more of an interest in these issues around my campus. It was not what I expected from Code4Lib, but I learned a great deal about how to articulate these issues, how to identify problems and recognize success and how I might facilitate related-events in the near future through the library. I also walk away inspired to stop being bashful and to push my first commit to an open source project.

And from the Laotian we had at Monday’s Newcomer Dinner to phenomenal barbecue, from lurking on the IRC channel to 80s hacker footage on 16mm, Code4Lib tasted better and was way more fun than I intended. It was a pleasure to interact in the conference hall and at the bar afterwards with such a generous and esteemed group of developers, designers, technologists and librarians.

Besides the obvious challenge of limited connectivity and getting presenters set up, I largely felt the conference went smoothly. Internet access is clearly not entirely within ones control. On the other hand, I think being a little more strict about how presenters can present might have been helpful, e.g., maybe requiring uploads prior to speaking, maybe limiting all presentations to web-based interfaces, maybe limiting presenters to pdf’s and supporting live websites. Both Code4Lib volunteers and hotel staff were pretty much excellent and helpful. A far cry from many conferences I’ve attended.

Two other unrelated suggestions came to mind during my time in Raleigh. One is, I wonder whether the order of the presentation proposals could be randomized in the Diebold-O-Tron online voting interface. Because there were so many proposals, I wondered whether the order of the options skewed vote distribution, for instance, otherwise interesting proposals getting less attention because they fell below the scroll. I also felt inspired to work on actual projects but didn’t feel like I had any time to play. The conference worked well as it was, but I wonder if a parallel track, instead of a breakout session or afternoon talk, might be convened to allow those interested to actually play with tools the time and space to do so.