Some thoughts on conference blogging

So the conference is over and we have all returned home (with the exception perhaps of our colleagues from across the other side of the Atlantic). What can we make of this first experience of ‘conference blogging’? Well, in short, whilst it has been an interesting experience and I will be adding some more posts in the next day or two as I digest some of the fascinating presentations I have to say I am somewhat sceptical.

The problem with conference blogs is, as one delegate put it succinctly, that conferences are for many academics a precious moment of face-to-face interaction. And neither I, nor my fellow bloggers, were keen to sacrifice this opportunity to retreat to a computer. Access was also a bit of any issue as we only had wifi access in the Maritime Museum, and we were only in this venue during the presentations.

So, what could be done to make conference blogging work better? Here are a few ideas:-

  1. Nominate dedicated reviewers for sessions (especially the keynotes) so everything is covered
  2. Include a longer break at some point during the day. This could be used for blogging, for writing up notes, or for visiting local sites of interest (of which Liverpool is frustratingly full). This could be made up for my an evening session (although obviously I understand there are logistical issues here).
  3. Hold a final plenary session where the blog can be reviewed. This would be a way of integrating it into the conference.
  4. Set up a terminal (e.g. a laptop) in the coffee room where delegates can consult the posts and add comments and reviews.

And maybe think harder in advance about purpose and audience (the golden rule of any web project). Thoughts?

Mary Stevens

5 responses to “Some thoughts on conference blogging

  1. I can only agree with you. Thanks for the great suggestions. I will be interested to hear from our American colleagues what their experiences were with the blog in Louisville.

  2. NCPH conference-goers are just getting home and catching their breath, too, but I thought I’d chime in with some preliminary thoughts on this first blog (and “co-blog”) experience to follow Mary’s.

    I think our expectations for the Louisville blog were perhaps less structured than what the Liverpool one was aiming for – i.e. we had decided in advance that our goal wasn’t to try to capture the entire conference content or experience online, but just to offer a kind of limited digital window into what was going on, through the experiences of a small number of participants. And my sense is that the blog may have a post-conference life in ways that we can’t yet anticipate (that is the wonder of the collective Web 2.0 mind, after all – it’s hard to say in advance what, if anything, it might produce). I know that there were at least a few non-attendees reading what was being posted from Louisville – one colleague mentioned to me that her students were reading it (and sending her email about it, despite her best efforts to get them to post comments directly on the blog – a new version of the age-old struggle to get people to contribute to class discussions!). So it may be that these materials will continue to have some relevance, in diffuse ways, in future educational, professional, and collegial settings.

    Our two on-site bloggers also found, I think, that while the blog responsibility ate into their social experiences of being at the conference somewhat, there was an upside in terms of being pushed to reflect more immediately on what was going on, which they said they found stimulating and valuable. This is maybe a step on the way to what we were envisioning for this project, which is to create another layer of reflection and exchange around the conference materials. I’m starting to think that this may not happen in quite the linear way I was first imagining (i.e. post a report, have people comment on it, extend the session conversations that way) but that these trial blogs may build on themselves gradually if we continue them in future years, to make another dispersed layer of professional discourse “out there” in the ether!

  3. Thanks Cathy. It is certainly true that the blogging experience forces you to be more reflective. It’s just a question of thinking how to make the blog a more holistic part of the conference experience, for both contributors and delegates.

  4. I would also recommend creating tags to help users search the posts more rapidly.

  5. I was unable to make it to the meeting this year, and greatly enjoyed getting a peak into some of the conference through the blogs. My suggestions for next year: open it up a bit more to encourage greater participation. Bring some suspense to the blogging by live-blogging during the course of a talk. Suggest that commentors at sessions present a summary of their comments on the blog. Add some pictures.

    –Steve

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