Following conferences online: the good

It has taken a long time to get to this post – partly as I struggled to catch up with ALT-C online.  However, I thought I would comment after seeing Brian Kelly’s post on Does Sharing on Mobile Devices Hinder Real World Discussions?

I would agree with Brian’s points:

In reality, I would argue that use of Twitter at conferences helps to develop new links and strengthen existing connections.

But also stress the value in extending the scope of the conference beyond those physically there.

In many ways the ‘social’ elements of a conference (dinners, etc) can therefore become more important – tweet during the day, meet during the evening so to speak.

(I wrote that last point before seeing the tweet copied in Brian’s post: we are sharing and building through twitter and online but maybe next year we say no tweeting over dinner? #ili2012)

Following conferences online: the bad

One problem I have is that I have too many interests, it is a reason why previous blogs have failed to have much of a ‘flow’ and it impacts on me in other ways.  For example, I fail to keep up with my Google Reader feeds and personal blogging.  It also means that there are more events I would like to attend than I possibly could (unless I won the lottery and could afford all the travel and fees).

Yet if I miss an event I will try and catch up online as much as possible – live streams, recorded sessions, twitter feeds, etc.  However, I have increasingly noticed problems with this approach.

(1) Live streams – increasingly I miss the conversations around the sessions, I used to think attendance and reflection were key but the conversation and collaboration are really what you miss out on.

(2) Recorded sessions – YouTube digests no longer really come in a format which easily exposes all that is new.  This is probably to make sure you visit YouTube rather than just view the email but it is difficult to see all the videos from a channel in the one you once could.  One solution might be for channels to ‘drip-feed’ the release of recordings over time.

(3) Twitter feeds – using TweekDeck I can try and keep on top of Twitter feeds.  However, the combination of spam, endless RTs and the growth of Twitter are causing problems.  In the latter case if you are not quick the feed can become polluted – for example #BBW12 initially used for this year’s Blackboard World conference was soon hijacked by the Baltimore Beer Week.  Now, I’d image @BaltBeerWeek was probably more fun that BBWorld but wouldn’t the organizers check online for tag use first?  Or perhaps they did and it it is perceived that it doesn’t matter if its an old tag as the main use is for real time collaboration?  Whatever the case, I have always used Google to check on hashtag use before recommending them and had presumed everyone does.  Do you?  What would then be a solution?  Lists, which are there in Twitter but probably not used by many, might offer one solution.  Alternatively some kind of index or perhaps a TweetDeck system with more intelligence that  can store and save tweets by identifying attributes such as topic (via keyword) and event (by location or date).  Of course tweet archiving solutions do exist and there is, evidently, a need for me to become more of an expert in that area.

My next post should cover the ‘good’ of following the ALT-C conference this past week.