This post was co-authored by Jennifer Carey and Beth Holland.
Live Blogging is a popular medium to convey information as it is announced. Unless you’ve been privileged enough to get an invitation to the latest Apple or Google Event, then you have likely seen the release of information via Twitter or other live blog platforms. Live Blogs include not only writing, but images, video, links, and more. In essence, they are multimedia publications. Most conferences have access to wireless, and their inherent nature and culture – engaging, interactive, and open – lend to a live blog platform.
Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) began live blogging a few years ago while attending conferences about educational technology. I discovered this via Twitter and began following Jen as she toured different events. Then, during the first EdTechTeacher iPad Summit in Boston, I was astounded to see these amazing posts magically appear on the #ettipad hashtag and tracked her down in person! After serving as her ad-hoc editor during the Atlanta iPad Summit last spring, I decided to accept the challenge to Live Blog with Jen this past November during iPad Summit Boston. First, let the record stand that Jen beat me handily (7-2) in this battle-of-the-blog. Not only did she hit publish faster than me, but she also incorporated more media to capture the overall experience.
If you would like to see some examples, check out my posts on the EdTechTeacher blog as compared to Jen’s posts on her blog. Given my virtual thrashing, I had to ask Jen how she accomplishes such prolific articles so quickly and efficiently. So, at the risk of demystifying what she does, here are her secret live blogging tips for events you attend – and my revelation for improvement.
Plan out the talks and sessions that you will attend in advance. Look up the speakers, the topics, examine the published material they have shared (often in session notes at conferences). Have this material open in your browser when you enter the talk. Make sure that you have your blogging platform open (I use WordPress, but there are multiple options). I enter the talk information as well as the tags I will use (e.g. #edtech or #ettipad) before the talk begins. Remember that everything you do before the talk begins is one more thing you do not have to do during the talk!
I did not do any of this. However, I did learn that it’s best to also have a copy of your post on your laptop in either a word processing or even HTML editor just in case you lose your network connection while trying to save or publish.
Now, I do happen to type particularly fast; thirteen years of piano lessons has given me about 100 wpm. However, that really is not necessary for capturing an event. Think of your blog as your “notes” – you write down the highlights, paraphrase the speaker, copy key quotes from PowerPoints, etc. Treat this is as you would something that is just for you – but perhaps finish your sentences! It’s not about capturing everything, it’s about getting to the meat of the matter.
This is one time when a laptop is a better tool than a tablet or phone. After losing in the first round, I switched from iPad to computer in order to take advantage of my middle school typing lessons.
Multitasking is not only vital, it’s key here. Open spare tabs in your browser that you will use to search: Google (key for searching), Wikipedia (great for quick information as well as open licensed images), and YouTube are the essentials for me. Using these three tools I can quickly look up information (fortunately, Google is generous with my spelling), Wikipedia is a great repository for images that I add, and YouTube is an excellent resource for videos! These are all great tools to help create a truly multimedia document.
It is also helpful to have a copy of the presentation materials open, as you can then incorporate slides as images or copy key quotes. I also found it helpful to have a smartphone as well. I could take pictures of the presenter and then pull them off of my photo stream (or Google Drive/Dropbox/any other system that quickly links my mobile device and computer) and into my post.
As painful as it is, these documents will not be perfect – ever. You’re putting them together on the go. Although you will get better with more practice and time, it’s never going to be the same as using an editor and submitting multiple revisions. I had the privilege one year of using Beth Holland as an ad hoc editor, but it was still not as focused and polished as a formally edited Piece. As a perfectionist (especially in published writing), this was a painful thing to surrender. But you know what? It’s also been freeing. I publish in the now – my thoughts, reactions, reflections… This in and of itself is a powerful tool. I may go back and correct a typo here and there, but ultimately my live blog posts are just that – LIVE!
While I loved hitting publish and then walking away, I only regretted that I only had time to tweet out the link once. I would add (and this ties back to preparation), that next time I would like to have tweets scheduled to go out in advance of actually publishing the post. Cramming titles into 140 characters while rushing off to the next session was challenging.
I always share my live blog post with the presenter (usually via Twitter or email). I invite them to comment and submit revisions. Out of the hundreds of posts that I have shared, I have only had a handful of speakers ask for an edit – all of which have been minor. For example, when I live-blogged Greg Kulowiec’s Keynote Talk, “What is the Answer with iPads?” he asked that I make a small edit for attributing a quote. Most of the time, speakers are flattered and will often share the post with others. It’s a great way to get more readers coming to your blog and share your ideas.
As a presenter who has had the privilege of being live blogged by Jen, it is an honor to have a session captured. As a neophyte live blogger, I also enjoyed being able to give something back to the presenter as proof that I truly valued the session.
For Jen, live blogging has become the means by which she records and reflects on the conferences that she attends, shares the information with her staff and PLN, as well as participates in the broader culture of the conference. Personally, I found it to be an incredible way to hone my attention on a few key topics rather than being divided between twitter hashtags and the person in the room. I hope that you find these tips as helpful as I did and will join others on the blogosphere – contributing your own experiences with your peers and PLN.
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