Real-time conference blogging: reporting vs. reflecting
I'm sitting in the plane on my way back from Vienna. I wasn't posting from yesterday's morning. The network was down in the afternoon and evening/night face-to-face time was too valuable to go on-line. So these are some of the yesterday's impressions revised and reflected while talking with many people late at night.
I think that there are two modes of conference blogging: reporting and reflecting. Reporting provides a summary of a presentation/discussion with a bit of impressions. Reflection goes deeper to analyse what was said and to build on it (Phil Wolff also distinguished between "three levels of reflection" and "twenty levels of reflection").
Dan Gillmor provided a great example of impact that real-time conference reporting can have. He blogged about an executive presenting and soon received a comment pointing that this guy was playing with a company stocks. This was posted as well and had an impact of an audience reactions to the presentation. Another example was about real-time corrections after he posted misinterpreted summary of presenter's words.
This mode of conference blogging is not really different from note-taking, it's only about changing medium and making notes available for others. The best of real-time conference reporting comes from the opportunity to provide reacher feedback. But it's also requires that presentations are more-or-less long and that a blogger has substantial number of readers reading his blog real time.
Reflecting mode of conference blogging is different. I believe that reflection requires more attention than reporting, so if you do it real-time you tend to switch from active listening and participating in a discussion to your own thinking. This is provides much richer ground for a conversation, but I doubt that it can have real-time impact (because in most of the cases discussion will move faster than your writing). It may be more valuable to formulate your emerging reflective ideas as a question and ask it.
From one side a conference gets an on-line mirror with many people posting, commenting and linking to each other. This mirror can change and enhance the conference reality (using Gilbert's words – it can direct reality). From another side, the process of creating and supporting this mirror takes our attention and energy, so we have less energy for creating the reality that mirror is supposed to reflect. This is an interesting and very strange phenomena.
I agree with others that conference blogging is there to stay like SMSing during lectures. I agree that it can make our experiences more interesting by providing a real-time mirror. Still, I feel that rich discussions require our attention and that it's quite stupid to change opportunities of talking to real people into virtual conference. At the end our face-to-face time is limited and blogs are there for long.