Web 2.0 serendipity

An earlier post reflected upon my impressions and experience of presenting at the Eduserv Symposium in London. Now I want to spend a few moments describing how the virtual and real worlds can collide and produce synergy and promote activity that would not have happened in any other circumstance, or at least not so forcefully.

I’ve explained how the event was being streamed on the web, and how CoverItLive was being used to provide a live micro-blogging channel so that participants and attendees could take part in a discourse with the presenters and conference organisers. What perhaps was not obvious was that some of us were also using Twitter as a separate back-channel (sometimes also using Direct Messaging) which allowed us to communicate together using the hashtag #efsym2008.

What I want to describe is how a communication on the back-channel at that event led to lunch today with a colleague from our School of Journalism, Media & Cultural Studies (JOMEC) – “@egrommet” – and then on to discussions on how we could use the Collaboration Tools within our Modern IT Working Environment (MWE) to affect change in the way we work and the way we deliver learning and teaching at the University as well as the possibilities for partnership between Information Services (INSRV) and JOMEC. On CoverItLive it looked like this …

Pete Johnston – OK, slight reorganisation, so next up is Geoffrey Bilder from CrossRef
[Comment From David Harrison]
Would be good to be able to identify actual from virtual attendees
[Comment From David Harrison]
Great start – hits at stuff we’ve been talking about in Cardiff in terms of trust/credibility
[Comment From egrommet]
@David Harrison I’m a virt
[Comment From egrommet]
@David Harrison – where do you work, I’m Cardiff Uni
[Comment From David Harrison]
@egronmet – real – INSRV in CU
[Comment From egrommet]

… colleagues of mine who were also following the event on CoverItLive then advised me through Twitter who @egrommet was and by the end of the event we were “following” each other on Twitter, had effectively brought two parts of the University together and had agreed we needed to meet up to chat more about our respective areas of work and interests.

The upshot of all this is that today we discussed the use of socialmedia in Journalism, the structure of blogs/wikis and other collaboration tools that will very shortly be available in the MWE, some ideas of creating a team blog for those in the School interested in technology, and an exchange of contact details of others working in this area that I might be interested in following and most important to me the knowledge that we had the possibility of a partner who would work closely with us to achieve benefit and start to change the way we do things in the University. So really the subtitle of the talk, “making sense out of nonsense” couldn’t have been more apt. The real learning point is however that social software (whatever you call it), or Web 2.0 opens up whole rafts of possibilities that you cannot imagine. It breaks down silos, it creates new communication pathways that are very direct, it creates new alliances, it puts like people in touch with each other and most importantly it fosters co-operation and collaboration.

When’s my next lunch … ?

Reflections upon #efsym2008

Last Thursday I presented at the Eduserv Symposium 2008. This was both a challenge and a rather interesting experience. The real plus for me was this was the first event that I’d attended outside the commercial sector where the wireless network worked really well. So full marks to the British Library in getting that right! A really good venue.

Then there was a social network setup for the event which actually worked reasonably well although it would probably have benefited from an even earlier seeding of contributions and ideas from the organisers … but they weren’t being helped much by the presenters (ie me) who didn’t finalise presentations until the very last minute. For an event social network to really work, I think there should be comment and discussion taking place before the event of substance. So as you will see from comments below, this leads me to the thought that with active participation from presenters you can change the very nature of a one-day symposium. For events of longer duration it would just not work – the effort would be too great and the focus would be lost. But all in all, some real support for ning and it’s use for such events (of course I don’t know how much effort it really took to set it up – you’ll have to ask Andy Powell that question).

Another real plus was that live videostreaming worked and worked well. I know it did because Jenny (Mrs DIH) found the site and watched parts of the event from Cardiff, as did some of my colleagues from INSRV (and elsewhere) in the University.

The real feature of the event that changed the experience and dynamics for me was the use of CoverItLive – a piece of software that allows live blogging for registered and guest participants. This really worked I felt. I think I know one reason why that was. The lecture theatre lights were kept low, or even switched off (I can’t recall) whilst presenters were doing their talks. As a presenter you weren’t aware of feverish laptop activity going on out in the audience, so it wasn’t distracting, and I can assure you there was a lot of laptop activity going on – along the front row of presenters themselves for a start. Was this a distraction to the audience, was anything lost? I think not. I feel it may even have improved concentration and attention for those actively blogging or twittering – it did for me! And the real win … well there were several:

  1. The videostream audience participated fully in the event. Indeed, it could be said that because they had active connection to the liveblog as well, they had a better more inter-active experience compared to the non-laptop “real” participants. For them, with the lights low, it would have been difficult to take notes.
  2. That question you want to ask, clarification … what did he just say? … the aside to the person sitting next to you … could be done without disruption to the liveblogging community, and what was more the builds that took place with sharing of URLs and examples of other practice/experience was extraordinarily interesting. Hence this blogpost – I knew I had to do it today before the thoughts had dimmed.
  3. As a presenter it was both unnerving (potentially) … is it being well-received? What is being said about the talk? but also rewarding. I knew some of my colleagues who’d helped with the presentation, especially Dr Joe Nicholls (who’s engaged in our JISC Lean Enterprise Architecture project), were following the event but what I couldn’t imagine was how powerful a force having your co-workers liveblogging whilst you were talking could be. Michael Webb has already indicated to me through twitter that “online chat at #efsym2008 changed the nature of q’s – you could ‘ask (part of) the audience’ instead of the speaker” – this was indeed true. After my talk I found that Cardiff had been active in answering questions about our MWE as the talk proceeded. You can read more of his thoughts on the event here. You might also wish to look at “Twitter ye not” on Rowin’s Blog.

So an interesting event. One to reflect upon. Congratulations to the team from Eduserv, and particularly Andy and Ed. Slides from the event are now available here. Video presentations are also now available here (well done Andy).