Ethan Zuckerman has a detailed and insightful post on blogging conferences, where he explains why and how he does it and the difficulties of it and shares some practical wisdom. He is indubitably the top conference blogger around -- he attends more gatherings than most, and writes elegantly and generously and fast about (almost) each speaker and happening, although he pretends he's "emulating" David Weinberger and myself -- thanks for the undeserved praise, Ethan. If you haven't perused Ethan's blog yet (main topics: innovation; media; development, especially Africa) you should.
I blog conferences for pretty much the same reasons Ethan does it (am quoting from his post):
- Because it gives me a record of a gathering that I can work from, quoting speakers and ideas in later blog posts.
- Because it forces me to pay attention to whatâs going on at a conference, not just to visit with my friends, chat in the hallways, enjoying the spectacle.
- Because it gets me invited to conferences I couldnât otherwise afford to go to, and which I enjoy being present at.
- Because other bloggers link to my conference posts, which raises my Technorati profile, my google juice, etc., and makes it more likely people will read my original writing.
- Because people expect me to. (This is a good and bad thing.)
Ethan has lots of detailed advice on how to blog at conferences (toolkit, preparation, tricks of the trade) and how to collaborate with other bloggers (as they did at the recent TEDGLOBAL in Tanzania). Let me just add that using the blog as a (public) notepad, rather than taking notes with pen and paper, has had a significant impact on the way I can use that information further, hence magnifying its value to me: itâs âcleanâ (written in a readable/immediately usable form); itâs organized (includes links, references, pictures, graphs, embedded videos); and -- key -- itâs searchable. While notes from distant conferences are confined to the Moleskine notepads on my shelves, rarely to be used again (it takes too much time to dig out a quote or a figure from hundreds of handwritten pages), the most recent ones are just a keyword search away. For someone who writes, speaks and consults for a living, thatâs no small advantage. And Iâm happy if incidentally this can be of service to others.
A side note if you're a blogger and take your laptop to conferences or other gatherings. Ethan suggests to use overflow or simulcast rooms, where it's easier to find power plugs and it's less likely that you disturb other attendees. But some conferences don't have overflow rooms, so you will find yourself sitting beside people whoâre not blogging. The imperative is therefore to minimize the disturbance to them, and sitting on the side or on the back row is certainly advisable. But itâs also advisable to let people know what youâre doing: at least twice in the last months, at LIFT in Geneva and at Telekommarkt in Zurich, people had the impression that I was typing away and not paying attention to the conference. For example, this comment on Scobleizer:
"I sat next to Bruno during a session at the LIFT conference. He didnât seem to be paying attention - he was busy typing on his computer. I began to get annoyed and I wondered why he bother to attend."
Busy with setting up my stuff and starting blogging, I hadnât had the politeness to introduce myself (the "anti-social" side of blogging, as Ethan points out). Only later, when I went on stage to moderate a panel, my neighbor understood what I was doing, and apparently found it valuable. So, if you sit in the main room blogging, let people around you know that youâre not just e-mailing.
If you're part of the conference blogging brigade and have any advice or suggestion to share, all it takes is a click on "comment". See you at the next conference.