Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Wednesday, July 7, 2004day link 

 Blogtalk, Day 2
picture I'm back from Blogtalk in Vienna. But let me just comment a bit on the second day.

It is really too much to just listen to people talking for two days, so it is a bit of a blur on the second day. Would be much better with interactive parts in-between. Not just asking questions, but being able to have more of a dialogue amongst the participants. But the backchannel chat and wiki, etc., make it a good deal more bearable, at least for the audience. Not for the presenters, who are looking at several rows of people glued to their screens, making it hard for them to know if people are paying attention. Anyway, the most valuable parts are probably the breaks and meals and what one talks about over beer afterwards.

Mena and Ben Trott, creators of the Movable Type blogging software spoke first. Mostly on how they're moving in the direction of better supporting more private or small scale bloggers, who might not be looking towards attracting many strangers as readers, but who maybe are just trying to share family pictures and stories. A surprisingly large number of people configure their blogs so that they either are password protected or at least not being picked up by search engines.

Peter Praschl compared blogging with jam sessions. You know, when it works well, various kinds of improvisation come together in a pleasing manner.

Several speakers, like Horst Prillinger and Jane Perrone (who does a blog about blogs for The Guardian) talked about the relationship between blogging and journalism. Various people have otherwise put out the idea that blogging is essentially journalism. But now we hear that it really isn't. Journalists have to adhere to certain standards. They have to get multiple sources, verify the validity of their data, and try to be objective. And they'll usually have to try to write what people want to read. Where blogging really is the other way around. You write what YOU feel like writing, and there's no requirement to be objective or to double-check things. OK, if you really write something false, you'll usually hear about it. But many stories that spread around the blogosphere come from just one little unverified rumor posted somewhere, and then repeated over and over. Can't really call that journalism. It is more about attention. Showing what you have your attention on, and possibly feeding off of what other people have attention on.

Lee Bryant of Headshift gave a very impressive overview of a knowledge community project he's spearheading. Notes and slides here. Using blogs and syndication and aggregators widely in a bigger well-integrated whole. Everything is syndicated (has a feed) and everything can be aggregated (can be read in a uniform manner). I.e. you can use uniform tools for keeping an eye on a whole range of activities, people, projects, groups, etc., and sharing information about them. I'd like to study more what he's doing, as it sounded very right.

There were a bunch more speakers, but I'm not really an objective note taker, so I'm sticking with the ones that were sticking out the most for me.

Collaborative notes from a group of participants are here.

And postings from a bunch of other participants are still showing up at TopicExchange.
[ | 2004-07-07 15:45 | 2 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Better electronic tools for conferences
picture Inspired by the experience at Blogtalk, in part with the 'backchannel' interaction, I can't help but brainstorm a bit on how better tools and organizing can make it better.

First I must mention that there's of course not any panacea in all this computer use that is going on in a setting like that. No guarantee that it is all useful. I'd really much rather have some really good dialogues and small group discussion, without any particular need for computers. But no matter what goes on, there are certainly ways it can be made more rich through the information infrastructure that supports it.

Somebody mentioned that at the previous conference it was new to have WiFi networking and that kind of thing, so it wasn't really used as intensively. But here people really used a bunch of tools that way, in a more active manner. Which means that it is a key part of the conference itself, and should really more formally be made part of the process. I.e. not just try to provide an open connection and leave it at that. But also establish the necessary feedback loops.

The presenters felt a little left out, as they couldn't see what people were chatting about while they were speaking. And the people who didn't bring a laptop felt left out. Or the ones who hadn't discovered the wiki and the IRC channel. Or those who didn't know how to get on IRC. Or those who didn't have Macs so they were missing a couple of the tools used, Rendezvous and SubEthaEdit. So therefore various people got various parts of it, but maybe not all they wanted. OK, the collaborative tools like the wiki are meant for tying the strings together, and people can now go and see notes, and can read other people's postings, to see what they might have missed, etc. But should it maybe be more formally organized? Like a designated note organizer, and somebody who archives the chat transcripts. Somebody who makes links on the big screen available in clickable form in one of the side channels. Somebody who gets questions from those channels back to the presenters.

Anu Gupta has some good comments on some of these things.

Another subject. Despite a number of supporting ways of knowing participants, like them having listed their names and blogs in a wiki page, it can still be difficult to keep track of who people are. It would be useful if there were a uniform list with profiles. Little pictures of each person, liking to a profile with who they are and their blogs, etc. The information is mostly there, but it is scattered in various places. Like, even if I have a link to somebody's blog, it might or might not tell me quickly who they are. I might have to browse around for a while, which takes attention away from other things. I've done events where we took a picture of everybody at the entrance, if they didn't already have a participant profile, and the list of people was made available, and could be checked afterwards. I learned that from Sergio Lub of Friendly Favors and it can work very well.

Presenters put up slides on a big screen. I'd quite likely want to click on their links, but I'd have to type them in first, and the slide has probably changed before I get them all. They could be provided in a side channel, for example by somebody who had the job of typing in all the links as they happen. Or, better yet, the slides on the screen are presented in real-time by a feed, so that I can both click on it, and keep it, instead of trying to frantically re-type it. OK, I don't know how likely it is that one can export PowerPoint to a feed, but it is an idea.

The idea applies quite well here that everything should be a feed, and everything should be aggregatable. There could be one overall feed that shows everything that is happening. Who's speaking, what are they showing on the screen, updates to wiki or to notes, new blog postings from participants, new profile information about participants, etc. Instead of having to jump around and refresh pages, looking for things that are changed.

Self-organization can be fun and useful, but can also be messy and distracting and waste a lot of energy on duplicating efforts and trying to find out what is going on. The experiences acquired can well point out what emerges as being useful, and those things could well be phased into a more organized and stable form.
[ | 2004-07-07 16:50 | 5 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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