Last Thursday I presented at the Eduserv Symposium 2008. This was both a challenge and a rather interesting experience. The real plus for me was this was the first event that I’d attended outside the commercial sector where the wireless network worked really well. So full marks to the British Library in getting that right! A really good venue.
Then there was a social network setup for the event which actually worked reasonably well although it would probably have benefited from an even earlier seeding of contributions and ideas from the organisers … but they weren’t being helped much by the presenters (ie me) who didn’t finalise presentations until the very last minute. For an event social network to really work, I think there should be comment and discussion taking place before the event of substance. So as you will see from comments below, this leads me to the thought that with active participation from presenters you can change the very nature of a one-day symposium. For events of longer duration it would just not work – the effort would be too great and the focus would be lost. But all in all, some real support for ning and it’s use for such events (of course I don’t know how much effort it really took to set it up – you’ll have to ask Andy Powell that question).
Another real plus was that live videostreaming worked and worked well. I know it did because Jenny (Mrs DIH) found the site and watched parts of the event from Cardiff, as did some of my colleagues from INSRV (and elsewhere) in the University.
The real feature of the event that changed the experience and dynamics for me was the use of CoverItLive – a piece of software that allows live blogging for registered and guest participants. This really worked I felt. I think I know one reason why that was. The lecture theatre lights were kept low, or even switched off (I can’t recall) whilst presenters were doing their talks. As a presenter you weren’t aware of feverish laptop activity going on out in the audience, so it wasn’t distracting, and I can assure you there was a lot of laptop activity going on – along the front row of presenters themselves for a start. Was this a distraction to the audience, was anything lost? I think not. I feel it may even have improved concentration and attention for those actively blogging or twittering – it did for me! And the real win … well there were several:
- The videostream audience participated fully in the event. Indeed, it could be said that because they had active connection to the liveblog as well, they had a better more inter-active experience compared to the non-laptop “real” participants. For them, with the lights low, it would have been difficult to take notes.
- That question you want to ask, clarification … what did he just say? … the aside to the person sitting next to you … could be done without disruption to the liveblogging community, and what was more the builds that took place with sharing of URLs and examples of other practice/experience was extraordinarily interesting. Hence this blogpost – I knew I had to do it today before the thoughts had dimmed.
- As a presenter it was both unnerving (potentially) … is it being well-received? What is being said about the talk? but also rewarding. I knew some of my colleagues who’d helped with the presentation, especially Dr Joe Nicholls (who’s engaged in our JISC Lean Enterprise Architecture project), were following the event but what I couldn’t imagine was how powerful a force having your co-workers liveblogging whilst you were talking could be. Michael Webb has already indicated to me through twitter that “online chat at #efsym2008 changed the nature of q’s – you could ‘ask (part of) the audience’ instead of the speaker” – this was indeed true. After my talk I found that Cardiff had been active in answering questions about our MWE as the talk proceeded. You can read more of his thoughts on the event here. You might also wish to look at “Twitter ye not” on Rowin’s Blog.
So an interesting event. One to reflect upon. Congratulations to the team from Eduserv, and particularly Andy and Ed. Slides from the event are now available here. Video presentations are also now available here (well done Andy).