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The 2011 JISC conference took place on 14-15 March in Liverpool. All stops were pulled out in terms of amplification, although a few ideas used in the past were dropped as they showed poor ROI (specifically an event network and a live blog). This is probably still my key question about event amplification in general – what and where is the return on investment (ROI)? All too often it remains a cross between ‘build it and they will come’ and tools for geeks.
Information on the event website was comprehensive. Alongside the programme a virtual goody bag was made available, with links to further information and presentations. This was not particularly well advertised in the ru-nup to the conference, which was a shame, as all too often organisers neglect to ‘curate’ pre-conference and then have to run to catch up later. The contents per session also varied substantially – sometimes there was just a link to the abstract. It was also not clear how far the contents were being updated over the event lifecyle – for example, if a presenter tweeted a link to their slides, would it get added here? There was also a set of #jisc11 presentations on Slideshare, which did not appear to be the same. All rather confusing, demonstrating just how much curatorial effort is required to pull all the resources from a conference of this scale together.
Two third party services were used for the first time in 2011 - Lanyrd and LinkedIn. Both offered networking to an extent, and thus are perhaps the logical successor to a conference specific network, aiming to build on the assumption that participants may already be active on those networks.
Two days after the conference Lanyrd showed 11 speakers, 92 attendees and 64 trackers. The schedule linked to 45 items of coverage, although 37 of these are links, added around a month previously, and look like a good portion of the official conference goody bag. Was this duplication strictly necessary? Little has been added post-conference, and there is little consistency or reliability, dependent on the enthusiasm of the presenter. As it happens I am a big Lanyrd fan, but it’s not going to work as a coverage tool built bottom up. Its potential may be more for organisers who do not have similar facilities on their own websites.
The conference LinkedIn group attracted 132 members – more than Lanyrd, however with little in the way of discussion. As with Lanyrd, there was a lone enthusiast. It seems I was not the only attendee who is not a heavy LinkedIn user.
It would be interesting to know how successful JISC judged the use of these tools – they seem no more popular than the previous year’s Ning network, in fact perhaps less so. But if the conference were taking place in Denmark there would certainly have been a Facebook presence as well – perhaps something to be grateful for!
The remote experience
The organisers bent over backwards to cater for remote attendance, with an ampification guide and a specific online programme (Powerpoint, for some reason). On the day a one stop shop/aggregator was offered by Mediasite.
I have no doubt that the logistics and resources required for this were considerable, however I find myself puzzled by the comment from one remote participant, that online attendance at #jisc11 “delivered 60-70% of the value of F2F attendance”. For starters, the online programme did not cover the mini-workshops on the first day of the conference, and only one session was streamed at a time. This felt a bit scanty, given all the effort. The online programme offered an online host and live studio chats during breaks, but there were no links from the ‘live’ programme to these features. Why not offer a combined – or blended – programme?
Unlike some I got access to the stream without problems. The set up offered the ‘official’ Twitter commentary down one side and the backchannel down the other, with slides plus a lille talking head in the middle and the online programe beneath. Apparently it was possible to view the stream in a pop-out window to minimise distractions from two scrolling columns of tweets (actually I think I would prefer to freeze them), but that was not obvious to me, nor was how to comment – maybe I should have taken a look at the Mediasite instructions (another slideshow) after all, but let’s face it, that shouldn’t be necessary.
There were also opportunities to ask questions, take part in polls and contribute to sessions…all in all too much. I’m not sure about these smart automated aggregator thingies - a plain vanilla video stream with the option to comment would suit me, at least, fine while an event is going on. Shouldn’t it be about the content? On which note, the recorded video, when it did arrive, only consisted of the streamed sessions. Several people chased this, and like me were disappointed that coverage was so limited.
One session at the conference dealt with event amplification issues, and was itself almost fully amplified:
- pre-session blog post (includes slides)
- post-session blog post, reflecting on the conference amplification as a whole, plus Twitter stats
- session review, highighting the value of synching tweets with video for speakers post-event and the pros and cons of livetweeting
- curation of tweets (using Storify)
The intention was to produce a DIY stream of the session using Bambuser, however this proved not to be possible due to the lack of consistent wireless coverage at the venue.
Towards the hybrid event?
A post-conference press release described the conference as JISC’s first ‘hybrid’ event, reaching 300 remote and 600 RL participants on as equal a footing as possible, albeit with differing experiences. Hybrid events can be seen as falling on a spectrum between physical and digital events (this view is disputed by Kirsty Pitkin in Amplified, hybrid or virtual?), with the implication that all three types can be amplified. Amplification enables an event to escape the constraints of space and time, or more prosaically, to reach audiences beyond the primary audience and enable the curation of event assets.
Whether to make your event hybrid or not may depend on who you view the amplification as being for and what form it can take, given resource and technical constraints. Hybrid events seem ideal where the is a large potentia remote audience in the ‘tribe’ who will benefit from participating live, in particular if given the care and attention of those at #jisc11.