Is there value in live conference blogging?

Like Stilgherrian, I’ve been invited by the organisers of X|Media|Lab Sydney to attend their event tomorrow and talk about their event online.

I appreciate the gesture. And attend I will. And write I will.

But like Stil, I attend very many of these sorts of events, and am of the mind that liveblogging them, or live tweeting them, unless one has an especially cogent observation to make, actually detracts from the value of attending the event.

So, I’ve made a decision. I will attend the event. I will occasionally tweet if I or a speaker or another attendee has something especially noteworthy to say.

But I’m not going to live blog. Rather, I’m going to make notes, compile them, and post a summary tomorrow evening or Saturday.

Once I’ve had the opportunity to digest the material from the event.

Here’s why. After attending a great number of these “big thinking” events – TED, TEDx, Interesting South and others (that don’t annoy me nearly as much as they do Stil) – I find that trying to digest the content and report on it in real time dramatically reduces my experience of the event. I don’t focus on the speakers and other attendees. Rather, I focus on rapidly getting out what I think at the time is the message those watching might want. I don’t absorb.

In a breathless, media right now, attempt to broadcast my own and the presenter’s message, I actually dilute the experience for myself and others. It’s a mile wide and way less than an inch deep.

And that’s not what I want.

I want a rich, deep, relevant, cognitively expansive experience where my own interaction with the event is rewarding. I want to be, as Jay Rosen notes, “the people formerly known as the audience”. And I want my fellow attendees to do the same.

To do that, I need to focus on being at and in an event. Not scattershot partial attention.

12 Replies to “Is there value in live conference blogging?”

  1. Trib, great post – I felt the same way at E3 this year (which I am still at). Originally I was planning on livetweeting the event, as I had in the past – but realised that a lot of the depth of the event was lost on my frenzied typing.

    Most importantly, that dilution of events caused the message I passed to my followers to not be anywhere near as important – I was in the mindset of ‘tweeting everything my readership might find interesting or inspiring’ and at the years biggest games conference, there was a lot.

  2. I don’t disagree, but I have a couple of other perspectives to add.
    Inherent in your post @trib is that live tweeting or blogging doesn’t provide value for *you*. Let’s think about this.

    First, there are some events/speakers/presentations which call on you to be mindful and fully present, and the experience requires immersion and reflection. Don’t live blog/tweet that. Do it later.

    On the other hand, there are some events/speakers/presentations which can be enhanced by intellectual engagement with the links and background information that are mentioned. And sharing this via live blogging or tweeting with other participants creates connections and conversations that might not otherwise happen. This has been especially true for me in technical/professional conferences.

    Finally, live tweeting and blogging may not provide value for you, but it may provide value for others. I recently blogged about “attending” a conference in London via their hashtag (http://bit.ly/8YFvNu). I had brilliant online discussions and connected that learning with other knowledge to get a more global picture of this area of interest.

    The value in your post and the comments is a theme I keep coming back to again and again. If we thought more about *why* we do things, we could them better. And same goes for live blogging. Have a great time!

  3. There was a similar conversation on Mumbrella about live tweeting: http://bit.ly/clrTwj

    I absolutely agree that if you tweet throughout the conference, you don’t absorb as much and as a result waste your time and money.

    On the other hand, if there is a dedicated person from conference organisers, or a chair, who is live-blogging or live-tweeting, to make the content availble to those who can’t attend – then it’s a useful thing. I’d say live-blogging/live-tweeting should be a part of a conference communication tactic, and not every delegate’s hobby. There is nothing useful in following the stream of the event just to see the same statement posted by 20 different people…

  4. I agree with your conclusions, Kristin. Though it’s not that the rapidfire liveblog activity doesn’t add value for me (it doesn’t, mostly), it’s that it forces me to focus less on the event and more on broadcasting my experience of it.

    There are undoubtedly occasions that has value. And your idea that we need to learn the act of live blogging/tweeting better is very true.

  5. My experience of live blogging is the polar opposite of yours. In order to be truly present and paying attention, I need to be blogging. I write my notes almost verbatim, and I remember – and comprehend – a lot more of the talks that I blog than those that I don’t. By listening intently and filtering what I hear through my fingers I find myself more immersed in the talk than if I sit passively. Indeed, sitting and listening often quickly turns into sitting and not hearing anything at all…

    The fact that my notes, which tend to be comprehensive, are also of use to others is a great side-effect, but it’s not why I do it. I do it because it helps me, right there, on the day. Of course, it also helps to have a permanent note of these things as I have a hideously poor memory!

    As for live-Tweeting, for me that’s not as rich of an experience, although it can have benefit for those not present when the topic at hand can be reduced to 140 ch. Often it bleeds the nuance out of things, of course, so one has to be careful what one tweets lest one wind up in a row with people on Twitter who are missing 99% of the context.

  6. It’s obviously a YMMV thing. I don’t think it’s and either/or. But, as Kristin said, we need to think more about how to do things like liveblogging. After all, it’s a relatively new phenomenon.

  7. Depends on the type of coverage, IMO.

    Agreeing with Svetlanla- If it’s a sentence by sentence account of what people are saying, then no, you don’t need 30 people all doing this. One would be ideal, ideally organised by the promoter in much the same way as one would organise to live-stream the event.

    Twitter is still great for back-channel chatter, questions and response ABOUT what speakers are saying though.

    I reckon my ideal set up these days would probably be to set up my iPhone on a tripod and leave it running ustream to live stream the event in low quality, covering the immediate aspect, while freeing up my time to take quotes, ask questions, and consider everything else for a higher-value story based on the event afterwards.

    This is assuming there’s no official live stream.

  8. It’s a really interesting debate Stephen, one that generated some interesting comments on my post back in January: http://tonyhollingsworth.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/should-people-tweet-in-front-of-the-speaker-who-is-presenting/

    I’m caught between your point of view which I can appreciate, and the value I get from the live-tweet/blog coverage when I cannot make an event in person.

    On balance I like live-tweeting an event – which I treat as a form of note-taking. If I focus on that alone, and ignore the tweetstream whilst the speaker is presenting, I minimise getting distracted. Later, I can review the tweetstream, and blog posts.

    Have a look at the comments my post generated and I’d be interested in your thoughts.

    Cheers
    Tony Hollingsworth

  9. Trib –

    I find taking notes forces me to stay involved and listening. I generally take fewer notes from smaller discussion type conferences because I can be physically involved in the dialogue.

    I never liked like live-tweeting because I find trying to edit to 140 characters and constantly hitting update button to be distracting. I prefer the longer form of a blog post.

    For me, writing a blog post is much more like taking notes and therefore not any more distracting or disconnecting than having a notebook and pen. The end product is more readable, findable and shareable than pen and paper.

    I also make sure I hit the save (or post) button when the speech ends so I can engage with other attendees.

  10. Liveblogging during the Australia Council for the Arts Marketing Summit recently (today and yesterday) I wore the following hats:

    – The ‘Community’ hat. I wore this hat knowing that some of my colleagues (either delegates or non delegates) may appreciate the event being liveblogged in real time, particularly for non delegates who cannot be there including a few people that I know who really wanted to attend some of the panel sessions but couldn’t due to work demands. This hat is all about what you as an attendee can give to the community or group – whether it is your Twitter followers, your blog readers, colleagues etc.

    – The ‘Promoter’ / ‘Online Marketer’ hat. I attended an AIMIA Queensland event after the Summit and as part of the committee, I was live tweeting (mainly posting twitpics) the event and also monitored the hashtag channel #AIMIA_MM to see what others were tweeting. So the value here is in promoting the event and organisation as well as sharing and communicating what was in the event.

    Some event organisers engage with certain individuals to attend events to blog/tweet (before and/or live) – I come from both ends as a past event coordinator and as someone who gets asked to do this. Live blogging is relatively a new ‘thing’ but I think that this, alongside activities like livestreaming events, is an interesting area to explore and experiment. It is fun for me to experiment with liveblogs and twitpics and if the fun dissipates because I was no longer finding value in doing so, I’ll stop. Alongside the whole fun thing, I also find that the longer it takes for me to do an event entry, the lower it goes down my priority list of Things To Write About and I find that live blogging, or at least posting a blog post as soon as I possibly can after the event, really helps.

    At the Summit, I saw quiet a few smartphones out. Some of the attendees were cheekily checking their emails and replying to them so I guess there other forms of distractions…

    Off to X Media Lab tomorrow! I still haven’t decided if I want to live blog but will certainly be tweeting.

  11. So when you went to university, did you ever take notes? When you are in a meeting do you take minutes? I’ll bet your clients expect you to be logging salient points of conversation/meetings. Live blogging is the same thing. It’s just a public version.

  12. Of course, Gavin. I did all those things.

    I’m just making the point that if I live blog, I fell the experience of the event gets diluted for me, and by inference, for those listening/watching. That’s why yesterday, at the event we were both at, I kept it to a minimum and will be writing something richer soon.

    By no means do I think this is everyone’s experience. Just mine.

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