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The Art of Live Blogging

Originally posted by Beth Kanter for the 2006 NCDD Conference…

I’m gearing up to do some live blogging at the NCDD.

Live blogging is basically taking notes, photos, or recordings at lectures, conferences, and presentations of what was said and posting it to your blog.

I ended up doing live blogging because I think through fingers anyway, so why not share it with others on my blog?

So, here are some pointers:

First of all, live blogging takes a certain chutzpah.    Someone said that live bloggers should carry around a hip flask in their tool box!  So, you can’t be afraid of making mistakes publically. The nice thing about live blogging is that it is written in electricity, not stone – so you can always fix things later.

Because I’ve had such bad luck with wifi connections at conferences, I use blogging software that let’s me save my work offline.  I started off just using notepad, but then I learned about FireFox Performing and ecto and have used both of them.

I’m now using FireFox Peforming more these days because it is what I use at my desktop and I’m used to its little quirks or perhaps my bad habits.  (Like you better save your work as a note before you close your browser or you will loose your work.)  Ecto on the PC is okay, but far superior on the MAC.  There are other blog editor tools, but if you’re on a PC and already use FireFox – the performing can’t be beat.  Just be careful about closing the browser before you save your work.

The value to using one of these tools is that it doesn’t matter if the wifi goes down – you can still save your work and past it later.

Before the conference, I decide which sessions I’m going to live blog.  I create a post draft and cut and paste the description into as well as gather up any useful background links.  I put a live blogging disclaimer at the top of the post that says “I’m live blogging, excuse lapses of grammar, spelling errors, and typos.   I will clean this up later.”   I also add in the conference technorati tag at the bottem as well as any trackback urls.

I get to the room early so I can park myself in a strategic location so I can hear and see the speakers. When the session begins, I take notes and hit the publish button at various points to save my work. I usually do this after each speaker.

I’m a fast, very fast typist. I learned how to type while I was in music school so I could temp to make some extra money.   I approached typing like practicing the piano.  Using a metronome, I did all the exercises very slowly and gradully went from largo to allegro to motto allegro.  So for me, when I take notes, I do a combination of vertbaim transcript and summary.  What I do is summarize the points and if there is a juicy quote I take it down verbaitem.

I also try to get several photos that capture the essence of what it was like to be in the room.  I’ll photograph the speaker, selected slides or fipchart notes, and people in the room. If someone asks a particularly compelling question or says something, I will photograph that as well.  I upload the flickr photos using the uploader tool into their own set and annotate them with notes.

However, now that I’ve recently upgraded my camera phone – I will play with using email to flickr option.

At the end of the session, I will clean up my post and photos.  Add a photo to the post with a link to the photo set.

I might add a paragraph or two later on with some reflections about what I learned personally or what I might apply.

What live blogging tips do you have?

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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