Notes from the Trenches

[Field Notes]: Website Working Group, 2020 Virtual Conference



In some respects, reflecting upon the efforts of the Website Working Group under the rubric of “Notes for the Trenches” simplifies the challenge of identifying an applicable and productive metaphorical frame-of-reference. “In the trenches” feels right. It focuses on the lived experience of designing and operating a virtual conference. The trenches are where you pay your dues, where you are regularly confronted with limits of your knowledge, and where you’re reliant upon the tangible skills of your teammates to solve any and all problems that emerge, in real-time, with everyone watching.

The trenches are transformative. Entering – even naively – acknowledges an implicit agreement to be forever changed. In the trenches is where you’ll find the movers and shakers, getting their hands dirty, building a future world for others to inhabit and make their own.


Members of the 2020 Website Working Group were:

David W. Green (State Library of Ohio)
Melissa Hill (Ohio Wesleyan University)
Ken Irwin (Miami University)
Ryan Scott (Columbus State Community College)
Zach Walton (The Ohio State University)


The fact is, pulling off a virtual conference provides a fresh set of challenges, even for experienced conference planners. While the traditional requirements of sustained coordination and careful planning were ever-present and artfully managed by Mandi Goodsett, other classical guarantees were unavailable. Without the physical impediments of conference center walls to demarcate ‘capacity’, hallways to organize and control directional flows, and a rigorously shared sense of linear time to reserve and sequence our events, delicate solutions needed to be architected that referenced these mental models; otherwise, the proposed design would fail our “understandable, intuitive, and familiar” policy.


There are many artifacts of the process, of which these brief fields notes are a minor one.

If you’re interested in a much longer read that discusses key technological tools and services used by the Website Working Group to create the ALAO 2020 virtual conference – a deeper dive can be accessed here:

Additionally, ALAO now has a GitHub organization – – where you can view the code for the conference site. I encourage ALAO membership to expand the use of GitHub as a resource to share metadata processing scripts and other forms of code to benefit and enrich the work of us all.


–Derek Zoladz, TEDSIG Co-Chair, OhioNET

This entry was posted in Vol. 38 no. 4 (Dec 2020) and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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