Blogging Conferential

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It's been a remarkably unconferential spring for me--I bailed on CCCC this year, am not going next year, and currently, RSA and C&W are happening without me, and doing just fine, I imagine. But over round Blogora way, Rosa asks, "who is livebloggin RSA in Seattle?" and the answer would appear to be no one. I've seen a couple of entries, and a handful of tweets, about C&W, but nothing steady. So I'm breaking prose silence to offer up a modest proposal, one I think I may have talked about before...

If I were hosting a conference, I think I'd see about raising money in order to have a bunch of folk blog the sessions. I know that there used to be something similar for CCCC, but I think that that was strictly a volunteer effort. So here's my proposal:

Offer 5 travel stipends to graduate students at $1000 apiece. To earn that money, they must commit to blogging at least one panel during the majority of sessions during the conference. (I can't be more specific, because it would depend greatly on the conference format, breaks between sessions, keynotes, etc.) For the sake of argument, let's say that that number is 10. So $100 per session.

In an ideal world, the organization would provide the laptops. That is coming closer and closer to becoming a reality, financially. My ultra set-up cost less than $300, and the prices on these things will only drop as Intel gets further into the game. But for the sake of argument, I'm going to assume that most would have their own or one they can borrow.

Also, lap desks. They don't need to be from Levenger or anything. You can get a good one at B&N for $30. It's worth it.

Also, a lounge/room set aside for them to store coats, bags, gear, laptops, with Wifi, cable hookups if they need, and bottles of water and bagels/muffins. Also, if they prefer to type up handwritten notes, they could do that here as well.

Someone from the organization would coordinate with them, so that all 5 aren't blogging the same panel during a given session, of course. But otherwise, they'd just be turned loose on the conference.

The upside? It'd be awfully nice for the majority of people in any organization who don't come to the conference, yes. But it would also provide a means of archiving what is now our #1 source of almost completely disposable scholarship. I've given some interesting papers now and then, and the only record of them outside of my hard drive is the paper title in the program. It would give all of us access to a largely untapped area of our disciplinary scholarship.

I'm not talking about posting the papers themselves, although I sometimes will do that for myself, so it wouldn't be an issue of a pre-print threatening those who want to publish longer versions later on. But a good blog summary of a panel would be enough to let researchers know if they'd like to follow up and email a presenter for a copy of the paper.

Or, imagine that you're putting together a panel on X for a future conference. It'd be nice to be able to do a search for folks working on that topic. Or to gather some ideas about possible folk for an edited collection. Or to get some idea about whose work you might want to follow up on for an article of your own about X.

Right now, the scholarship we do for conferences vanishes into the ether for the most part. Blogging the conference in a semi-systematic fashion would mitigate against that, and it would make all of us who don't attend every single conference feel a lot more connected. That wouldn't be a horrible thing, either.

Let's say that we have 1000 people in an organization, which is probably an overestimate for some and under for others. But given 1000 dues-paying members, it would take and extra $5 a year to pull this off, and the result would be access to a cumulative database of 150 presentations per conference (5 bloggers x 10 panels x 3 presenters/panel).

Finally, it would be a nice way to support our graduate students and it would be, I imagine, a really valuable introduction to the breadth of our discipline for those who participated. At conferences like RSA and C&W, the majority of the panels could be blogged. It would be a little more of a drop in the bucket at a conference like Cs, but that's the organization most capable of scaling this up beyond just 5 bloggers, too.

Seriously, I'd pay $5 or $10 more a year if a database from each year of the conference was the result. If someone could get on that for me...heh.

That is all.


Great idea! Of course the conferences I go to are streamed, blogged, twittered, and posted afterwards. Would that academia would catch up.

I think you're definitely on to something here. My dad came to see my panel yesterday, and his comments were compelling. He asked, "what is the purpose of coming to a conference like this? Why do you present a paper? Why do the people come to the session? What happens when it is all over - what is the outcome of the conference?" It was kind of unnerving to explain that for the most part, papers are offered in a disinterested fashion, with no particular relationship to the immediate hearing audience, and no particular call for engagement with that audience, and then after the conference is over, some papers are published in the proceedings, but most on the information shared just remains there in the air.

My panel members and I joked that it would be nice to have video at each session so presenters could see the panels they missed that were concurrent with their own. But I like your idea better. It would be great to create a culture of reporting out from conferences. There is a lot of work going, and it would be great to have a wider awareness of it.

Great thought about the lounge space, too. Having to schlep gear around a conference gets really tiring.

- Chris :)

Thanks, John. I hope it didn't sound like I was grousing about the lack of posts--that wasn't my intention at all. Goodness knows my own conference blogging depends heavily on my energy, time, inclination, etc....


i think it's a great idea collin and think that if one can get it to work with one conference it can easily go viral to other conferences.

my only suggestion is to make sure that folks understand they don't have to live-blog. i appreciate live-blogging but there's also something wonderful about a blog post written a few hours or a a few days after the event.

You're absolutely right, David. I wasn't thinking live-blogging so much as a good set of notes that could serve as a reference later on. That's why I think a blogger's lounge would be important, so folks could have a place to type up notes...


There was someone-- Bob Whipple, I think-- who was trying to organize reviews of various panels at this year's conference. I don't know where that's at or anything like that....

I'm going to post my thoughts and hopefully some pictures at some point today or tomorrow. I'm not going to pretend that I went to a ton of panels and/or that I took a bunch of notes, but what I did go to I liked. And as always, the non-panel activities of C&W were splendid-- a very nice town, some good eating and drinking, I met some new folks/hung out with some old folks, played a little golf, etc. Thumbs up on this year's event for sure.

i love the idea of a blogger's lounge. as for the stipends, though, believe me, if RSA had that kind of money to throw around, we would already be throwing it at graduate students for travel awards. we started a nice trend with travel awards in (I believe) Memphis, and those are growing, but the sum is still quite modest, of course.

Might it work just as well to set up fast-track conference proceedings? In other words, the conference proceedings could be posted online within a week after the conference ends. I suppose this would rustle up other problems (e.g., whether publishing one's paper in a minimally vetted online proceedings counts as publishing), but it is the pervasive model in fields such as computer science. It wouldn't be as well suited to works-in-progress, perhaps, but it would offer a modest, manageable solution to the problem of the fast-vanishing record of what happened. Plus it would eliminate any issues involving blogging graduate students who report badly or with glaring degrees of partiality on panels.

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This page contains a single entry by cgbrooke published on May 23, 2008 11:35 PM.

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