or08: live blogging experiment

Today – as you probably have seen – I posted some badly written notes that meant nothing to no one, and interested even fewer. This was my experiment in live blogging. I’ve seen others do it quite a bit recently and always thought it worked well, so wanted to give it a try.

Some thoughts:

  • Using a different tense is a little weird. Normally we write in the past tense if reviewing an event, when blogging as it happens I found myself switching between current and past tense (the latter out of habit). This wasn’t helped with no internet access before coffee, so i was writing in to a text editor (not that you wanted to know, called Smultron) something I planned to paste in to a blog post in the future, which when posted will be talking about the past, but i wanted it to read as if it was live!
  • I looked up at one point while switching between wordpress and twitter and saw two laptop screens of people in front of me, one had twitter across the screen, the other had the wordpress composition window. Am I boring or with the in-crowd?!
  • Perhaps the biggest point was my difficulty in note taking. I wanted to write stuff that other people not there would find useful. However, my notes were largely rather basic, not meaty enough to say much, someone reading would get a general idea what the talk was about. It would give someone a feel of the outline of a talk, but not what the key points were, something which I think is a crucial difference.
  • As well as taking notes, I had various tabs open, including the excellent crowdvine conference site, twitter, bloglines, google blog search (searching to see what turned up for ‘or08’… oh look! me! god I’m so vain). At times the note taking, twittering (and learning about tags on twitter) and checking out crowdvine, I would occasionally look up and have no idea what the presenter is talking about (I’m a man, I have evolved to be an expert single tasker). Must try and ensure I’m not being distracted from the actual reason I’m there.
  • My notes were rough. Not helped by the fact that the lecture hall was very full (and it wasn’t one of those poncy MBA lecture theaters with big wide seats), so I was being careful of my elbows – which limits typing, and for me, using the shift key. Does the embarrassment of badly typed, ill thought, ungrammatical notes get trumped by their potential interest to others and timeliness?
  • Timeliness is an important point, I could have waited until the end of the day but wanted to get them out straight away.
  • After morning coffee I had the internet. I sat down with next to two people I had met before, while there were quite a few with their laptops open, they were not, and I felt a little self conscious. They were trying to listen to the talk, and here was this guy next to them mucking around on his laptop the whole time. Actually I don’t think they were bothered.
  • While talking about being self-conscious, does posting things as quickly as possible look like attention seeking and ego massaging? Never thought that about anyone else doing it so hopefully the answer is no (but then I love this sort of thing, so I wont).

So will I do it again. Yes, and I like having the web to hand while at these things. I think I need to improve my note taking, and perhaps take more time writing up points (and my thoughts) on the things of interest rather than writing lots of little snippets. I basically need to take notes anyway (whether notepad and pen, MS Word or a blog), and it does make it stick in my head better than just sitting there, so I may as well make my notes open to others. The timeliness (thats time – li – ness, not Time Lines!) is perhaps harder to argue, but I like the idea that things are hitting the web the moment they happen, so think I will continue it.

I remember last year a couple of years a go when the www 2006 conference was taking place (can’t believe it was two years a go), I was sitting at my desk watching flickr, blogs, and just about everything else being updated – a lot – in real time. The ability for me to see photos, watch videos and see notes of things that happened a couple of minutes a go amazing and really help capture the feel for the whole event.

Other bits

Battery was running low (why didn’t campus designers in the 60s think to add plug points in lecture theaters for laptops) so had to revert to pen/paper for session 3. All good talks, but the SWORD talk by Julie Allinson was excellent.

Didn’t stay for the poster session minute madness but of the few posters I did have chance to see, the one for feedforward really got my eye and just looks excellent.

Crowdvine (link to or08 on crowdvine)

This is an excellent tool, and I recommend it to anyone setting up a conference. Though I think web savvy crowds will get more out of it (e.g. integration with twitter and web feeds). It helped to put names to faces, but it also helped to get a feel for who are some of the more prominent people. For example: If Les Carr talks about Gnu Eprints, I know to listen as he manages the thing, and if Bill Hubbard talks about IRs I know to listen to what he says because he Manages Sherpa in the UK. However I couldn’t tell you the same about the Dspace or US equivalents. I still can’t tell you their names (I don’t do names) but I certainly recognised faces of those who seemed to be very active in their area. I know this sounds a little elitist or hierarchical, but it really isn’t meant to be.

Handy hint: if you want your profile page to be at the top of the conference homepage, just make superficial changes to it every few hours!

As someone mention on twitter, this, and every social networking site, needs much more than just ‘friend’. Perhaps: ‘i have seen a few emails from them on mailing lists and I may have even replied to one’, ‘I kinda stood in the same group as them during a coffee break at a conference once’ and ‘I read their blog and see them mentioned here and there so we are a little like friends’. I felt a little unsure when clicking on a few people as friend, but then they all added me back (except Christophe Gutteridge, bastard). Of course this is no different to facebook, the amount of people who have requested me as a friend who I swear I have never spoken to, even if they new a girl who lived in the corridor above me at the first year of University (that’s a real one).

(PS I used too many brackets and exclamation marks in this blog post!)