Blogs and wikis are now an established part of technology conferences like ETCon, with participants posting commentary to their own sites or a common space. But is that realistic for other events? Recently the British Council gave me a chance to find out - and it worked really well thanks to the enthusiasm of a group of international participants. Particularly since for most English was not their first language, and blogging was a new experience. You can see the results here.
The opportunity arose because Kevin Harris, of the Community Development Foundation, asked my colleague Drew Mackie and I run the first session of a four-day seminar in Social Inclusion in the Information Society. Kevin's day job now mainly focusses on Neighbourhoods (blogged here), but for the past 10 years or so he's been one of the key people in community technology policy in the UK. You can find a report of our 'game' session here.
Kevin was running the event for Sarah Metcalfe of the British Council, and I knew the Council had put a lot of effort and funding into a blog for the World Summit on the Information Society - The Daily Summit So why not try and run our own more modest blog at the seminar?
Sarah found some extra budget, and event organiser Sarah Perons made sure the Hilton hotel, Cardiff, had a wireless network running for our laptops, and other facilities.
I loaded all the pre-event biogs and speaker materials on to a blog, and set off for the event with cameras, other kit, and additional tech support in the form of my son Dan. Over the first evening and day we shot, filmed and wrote - then left Kevin, Sarah and the others to carry on blogging for a few days until I returned to do some tidying up and additional content at the end.
Dan concentrated on editing the pictures and Quicktime video - some shot on handheld cameras, some using iRecordNow with an iSight webcam and an iBook. Using a webcam and video capture means you can blog an interview in a couple of minutes.
The whole things was a bit of an experiment, and with more preparation and the experience of this event I'm sure we could do things better another time. My reminder checklist would include:
* More time to put together pre-event material from biogs and speaker notes
* Researching links to other relevant blogs and sites
* A well-lit place to get head shots of all participants, and time to do that well.
* Deciding formats and settings for pictures and video to web, and experimenting with those
* Organising who blogs what
* A session to introduce participants to blogging, with continued support available
* More computers
* More time to do cross links and summarising postings.
There's clearly a lot of scope for making events buzzier, longer lasting - and extending their reach - by adding appropriate technologies - and many examples around of 'smart' computer-assisted meetings. I'll be looking out for examples - and hopefully clients like the British Council prepared to back some innovation.