Back in the olden days (aka pre-Twitter) when blogs were THE social network, blogging conference sessions was the norm for many in the EdTech world. Then Twitter came along and slowly blogging conference sessions became a thing of the past as tweets and hashtags took over. The notes became shorter. More truncated. Fragmented. You would sometimes get a wrap-up post. But rarely anything that resembled the live-blogging of events past, although I still see the technique used outside of the conference world by news sites like The Guardian when covering live events.
This week I attended the Open Education conference. Like many conferences these days, it was fully virtual. Meaning a lot of Zoom time in sessions. I suspect that I am like many of you and have a bit of a love/hate relationship with virtual conferences. I love the flexibility and how virtual conferences are much more accessible and global, as was the case with this year’s OpenEd conference. Participants from over 50 countries is amazing for the OpenEd conference which has often been (rightly) criticized as being overly North America-centric. But it’s also pretty easy to wander when faced with neverending Zoom sessions.
So for this conference, I wanted to revisit the old days of blogging the sessions in an attempt to try to use blogging as a way to stay engaged over multiple days of virtual sessions. And it worked really well for me as an engagement technique this week.
It wasn’t quite the minute-by-minute live-blogging, but I did want to try to write and publish quickly – within minutes of a session ending, so it was a constant write/revise on the fly as I tried to keep up with the conference schedule.
To wrap up this week of blogging mania (15 posts in a week), I thought I’d finish with a listicle-style post on my observations blogging a conference this week.
- Writing for the world forces you to pay closer attention. I found myself fully engaged in every session I was blogging. And the important piece to this is the open publishing piece – the sharing at the end with a wider audience. I mean, taking notes is nothing new. But knowing your notes are going to be live and read by others forces you to pay even closer attention and write for a general audience as opposed to the lazy shortcuts you can sometimes take when writing your own notes. This isn’t really news to me, but it certainly was reinforced this week that writing with a potential audience of the world makes you pay attention and add in an extra level of care to ensure you do justice to the material, which segues nicely to…..
- There is a challenge of inadvertently misrepresenting someones point. This is a big one and one I try to work hard at mitigating. Having a section at the end of the post for my own thoughts and takeaways that I can add to as the talk happens is a good place to post my own interpretations of the sessions. I also used presenter slides as a second source when the presenters made them available at the start of the session (thank you to presenters who started off their session with links to the slides).
- You sacrifice a bit of your the ability to fully participate in Q&A or chat sessions. I usually like to participate in the chat, or to post questions or contribute to crowdsource activities. While blogging I wasn’t able to do that as I was often head down writing.
- My own notes (aka blog posts) feel more detailed, complete and accurate than scattered about as tweets, although the introduction of threads on Twitter does make this easier to do than it once was.
- I missed the immediate conversation that can sometimes spontaneously occur on Twitte or in the session chats. But blogging can also have this conversational element and in a much richer way. Thank you CogDog for your comments (here and here) to underscore this point.
- I sat. A lot. But then I also sit a lot and get very little movement during the day when I am at a face to face conference. I am sometimes 2 days into a confeence when I realize I have not left the hotel. And my hands are quite sore as my body is not conditioned for banging out words quickly for hours at a time.
Overall what I liked the most, however, was that it gave me a good excuse to do nothing but write for 5 days straight. I had been in a bit of a blogging rut lately and this proved to be a perfect opportunity to get back to doing something that I love to do, but don’t seem to do often enough these days. Perhaps it is because I share some of Martin’s feelings about the art of STFU.
And I really don’t want to be that guy. And I don’t want to appropriate the voices of the newer ed tech gang in a bid to stay relevant (like an ageing rock act suddenly deciding they can do rap too). So, I’ve often found myself having some thoughts, mentally composing a blog post and then thinking “no-one needs to hear this. It doesn’t add anything”. In short, STFU is an active choice, and in my view, one that perhaps more people should exercise (and yes, I do get the irony that this is a post about not posting, like all those lectures about the death of the lecture).
(thanks to my BCcampus colleague Arianna Cheveldave. I posted in our BCcampus Teams channel on day 4 of the conference that I was running out of blog steam and it was her suggestion to do it listicle style)