At last week’s CILIPS Annual Conference, we tried a new approach to ‘amplifying’ the event using Web2.0 services and, in particular, liveblogging. For some time now we’ve been using SlideShare and flickr to amplify events but wanted to experiment with taking this further, following on from the #cilip2 and #CILIP-CYMRU09 events.
The main strategy was to offer a liveblog of the event, both to allow discussion between physical delegates and to offer coverage to those not attending in person (virtual delegates). For further discussion of the rationale and preparations see previous post. This involved a member of the SLIC/CILIPS information team blogging as scottishlibraries (or @scotlibraries on twitter), with other staff members and delegates also contributing via twitter (using the #cilips09 hashtag).
As a first attempt at trying out wider conference amplification, #cilips09 was an overwhelmingly positive experience; there were considerable contributions from both physical and virtual delegates and the functionality of the CoverItLive (CiL) liveblogging service was impressive. Using CiL offered two main advantages: easy embedding of the stream within the Slainte website and the potential for contributions from people who don’t use twitter. CiL also allows for twitter integration, using particular hashtags or user ids, or a combination of both.
However, we have taken away several learning points that would be built into future events of this type. Firstly, following the #cilips09 tag on CiL was effective; however, some users from our pool of blogging volunteers expressed concerns at their twitter id being tracked (since all posts would be included in the stream rather than just those with the #cilips09 tag). We, therefore, decided against this and would be inclined to restrict this practice to staff members in the future; if the hashtag is used consistently there will be no loss in terms of output.
In the early phase of the event we posted directly using the CiL interface (using the id “scottishlibraries”), however, this excluded our twitter followers since CiL posts do not feed back into twitter in any way. Thus, we switched to using twitter and the @scotlibraries id during the course of the event. This presented some challenges:
• Change of ids may have been confusing for followers, which could have been avoided if the CiL account was set up to match the twitter id in the first place
• Increased effort in maintaining the stream, since CiL still had to be monitored to allow comments (there is no option to allow all comments from all users but up to 25 readers can be marked as “allow all”) and to make use of the additional functionality, such as displaying images and polls.
In terms of taking this forward in the future, it is important to CILIPS, as a membership based organisation, that we are inclusive in our approach, thus it’s desirable to retain the potential for contribution from ‘non-twitterers’. The ‘packaged’ approach offered by CiL also has major appeal – bringing together text, photo and video that can be displayed in your own web space, where users (or members) are likely to visit, is certainly attractive. It may also be the case that constant conference coverage could annoy the average twitter follower so this is, perhaps, another benefit of CiL packaging. On balance, then, we would be inclined to use CiL as the main blogging channel in the future, perhaps with the occasional twitter post to alert followers to the activity.
In more general terms, the main overall difficulty was the low bandwidth at the venue which restricted uploads. The keynote sessions were recorded professionally, with the intention of streaming via CiL afterwards but this was not feasible given the bandwidth available. This is something that could be rectified in the future by using a different location, and we would welcome any feedback on this prospect. In the event, the file type turned out to be unsupported in CiL anyway. Greater testing and researching of CiL functionalities prior to the event could perhaps have prevented this. A further consideration for the future would be for the organisation (CILIPS) to buy the hardware required for amplification rather than depending on an external contractor.
In the future, we would also consider a more structured approach to co-ordinating liveblogging volunteers to complement the work of the CILIPS/SLIC information team (just two of us!). For example, appealing for volunteers to look after specific tasks such as taking photographs or making audio recordings. We had initially hoped this would be the case but the arrangement fell through due to intellectual property concerns being raised by the library institution involved. This may be less of a problem if the volunteers were drawn from individual delegates or CILIPS members rather than at institutional level.
The multi-strand nature of the conference could also have been confusing for virtual delegates, since quite different simultaneous sessions were being discussed with the #cilips09 tag. Brian Kelly of UKOLN has suggested using further session identifiers (#1, #2 and #3 for example) to add clarity. A numerical form would certainly seem the best option given the 140 character limit that applies in twitter. (See Brian’s post on #cilips09).
A final thought for the future is the potential impact of such amplification on physical delegates; will significant numbers be put off attending in person if they have access to liveblogs, presentations slides and video/audio coverage? Or will such tools make attending conferences more appealing by creating more meaningful professional networks?
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