I got more out of the BIGWIG Social Software Showcase than any other session at ALA this year.
Regular sessions at ALA have to be planned so far in advance (often a year) that they are very rarely about cutting edge topics. The showcase sidesteps that issue nicely by basing itself on the relatively new ‘unconference’ idea: a bunch of people show up and talk about what they’re interested in. I believe the agenda of what topics would be focused on wasn’t finalized until a week or two before the event!
Each topic had a featured coordinator, who claimed a table or area of the room. People then rotated around, dropping in and out of discussions as they liked. Offhand I can remember a partial list of topics, the ones I gravitated to: APIs, facebook, and streaming video. The format lends itself nicely to a more conversational approach than most conference events – everyone had something to share, and and asking questions flowed much more naturally into the setting.
The room was sized to seat about 75 people, and more than 100 showed up! I have a feeling this will be an even bigger deal next year in Chicago.