The ILTA Conference, #ILTACON18, is well under way, and all the tweets and other messages suggest that it is going as well as ever with, apparently, 4,100 people attending. It may seem otiose to come back to my post Going to ILTACON? For the first time in 10 years, I won’t see you there, but I would like to round off the discussion following Caroline Hill’s article whose title includes the words “… a real chance for change”.
Like Caroline Hill, I have had an “in-depth and constructive conversation… with likeable ILTA board member Kate Cain and VP of Marketing and Comms Patti Moran”. I give full credit to them for making contact with those of us who expressed strong views about the new press policy and about the accommodation offered to us.
There has been some constructive learning on both sides. ILTA has acknowledged that the press policy should have had some fine-tuning and discussion before arbitrarily excluding people who have been stalwart friends of ILTA for years. They conceded also that they might have made a better job of explaining why the press had been relegated to an hotel away from the main event – the fundamental problem is shortage of space but they had managed to convey the idea that the press was not really welcome on site.
For my part, I have learnt that if you don’t like something, you engage on the subject instead of just refusing to take part. I might have explained, for example, that one of my sons, Charlie or William, works as a critical part of my video team, rather than simply getting into a strop when I was asked to prove Charlie’s press credentials. I might also have explained more fully why an off-site hotel room is not acceptable as a practical matter, quite apart from any sense of being relegated to inferior accommodation. The fact is, though, that there was no space at the venue, and no amount of explanation on my part would have changed that.
First, I should make it clear (as I did in my original post) that I was offered a press pass (Caroline’s post said otherwise). I shouldn’t, perhaps, object when I am asked to establish Charlie’s credentials; the point really was that “old ILTA” well knew what contribution my sons make to eDiscovery coverage because they have been coming with me for years, and the fact that “new ILTA” did not know became part of the general feeling of alienation.
Was it an over-reaction on my part that relegation to another hotel was the factor which tipped me against going to ILTA? As I said in my earlier post, I go to events to mingle, not to be segregated. Tom O’Connor’s original post explained that we lug a lot of cameras, lighting, and tripods around with us. Carrying that lot back and forth was not an option.
We don’t take the green screens everywhere, but the rest comes with us
There is another point. One clocks up a lot of miles at these events – last year I recorded 16,000 paces on one day. That was at a more sprawling venue, but others also talk of walking between 5 and 7 miles a day. I like to think that grey hairs (and the fact of having been around since eDiscovery was a kid) bring a certain quality to commentary. Unfortunately, age also brings its downsides, in my case an arthritic hip. It doesn’t stop me doing anything, but tacking on hundreds or thousands more paces just to get to and from my room is slightly tiresome, not to say painful (if you think of arthritis as something only for the very old, you may have a nasty surprise in store).
We had given a lot of thought about going to this year’s ILTA. I have two more events in the US in September and the beginning of October. My mother is unwell and that made a case for skipping an event at which I was not speaking. But Charlie had been booked for months (he is a freelancer, and it seemed unfair to block his time and then not go). I haven’t missed an ILTA in a decade. I enjoy it and get value from it, and it always gives me plenty of material to publish.
We decided to go. Flights were found, and all that remained was to get press passes and rooms. The rest you know.
What of the future?
My first post about the travails of ILTA was written after last year’s event and was called ILTACON 2017 – and the ship sails on. Some of it was about how the show went on despite losing Peggy Wechsler just before it opened (I still marvel at the cack-handedness of that), mainly because the plans were already made:
a big ship, already set in the right direction, would maintain momentum into port even if key members of the crew were dropped overboard at the harbour mouth. The engines would turn, the deck events, entertainment and meals continue, and the passengers would just have to assume that the new crew had the next destination in mind, and some idea of how to get there.
Much of the post, though, was about how big shows like ILTACON will fare in a changing world. It referred to a thoughtful post by Greg Bufithis called How to run a technology conference which looked at everything from detail (where do you sit down?) to the wider picture. It is worth re-reading.
Now, an event which is so popular that it has outgrown a venue like National Harbor can hardly be said to be in decline, but what of the future? I listened to an interview with Tom O’Connor from the 3 Geeks site called Tom O’Connor wonders what is going on at ILTA in which he considered, among others things, the cost and time of attending big events, the rise of smaller rivals, including the product-led events (my next two are the Nuix User Exchange and Relativity Fest, both of which are excellent and both of which have many of the attributes of the more general ones, and obvious advantages to those who use the products). In addition, Tom mentioned the growing number of videos, podcasts and blogs which offer knowledge and shared experience at a fraction of the cost both to organisers and to those who “attend” them. He referred in particular to ACEDS and its webinars and other educational resources.
None of these things offer the immense opportunities which you get at ILTA to see products, to have meetings, and to just bump into people. But they offer competition – and “they” includes me as well as others, equipped to do videos, podcasts and more. Skype is about to offer near-native recording, and there are other ways of gathering eloquent and informed people to share their knowledge and experience.
I like these big events, and I would be sorry to see ILTA in particular suffer from the changing trends. When the dust settles on this year’s ILTACON and on the distractions which surrounded it, ILTA will want to hear constructive comments not just about its press policy but about how to reconcile its commercial pressures with the peer-to-peer ethos which its members want. When you come to make your comments on ILTACON 2018, try this: for everything you want to criticise, from the big picture to the trivial detail, come up with something better.