I live blog conferences I attend. It helps me remember things and blogs are so much more searchable than my notebooks. (One of these days I’m going to go through all my notebooks and type in my notes and post them. Retroactive live blogging!)
If you read my blog regularly, you know that I blog conferences. However, if you don’t, if you come in based on a single search, you may not find my discussion of the conference or my posts. Then a kerfuffle ensues.
This happened today.
One of the live-blogged presenters’ SIL found the post I made on the presentation. She let her SIL know about it. (Perhaps thrilled that someone listened or perhaps concerned about the post.) The presenter was upset/worried because she thought the blog post might count as publication, which would endanger the publication of her work later on. She sent an email to the chair of that section of the conference, who also passed the email on to other people involved in the conference.
One of them, the conference’s webmaster, knew about the blog posts specifically, since I had spoken with him about using the links to publicize the conference, and noted that both he and the editor of the relevant work (who had provided me with school-allotted access to the internet) had known that I was live blogging.
It never occurred to me that anyone would be upset by my blogging about their presentation. Today’s was the second issue brought to my attention. (The first was the clicking of computer keys being too loud.)
I also did not realize that others might not understand the concept of live blogging.
When the webmaster wrote back to the presenter, he copied me on the email. He did an excellent job of explaining the concept, but he can’t know all the folks who might read my blog and get confused. He, however, was also confused by a line in my post and asked the presenter about it.
The misunderstanding about the meaning of the line was totally my fault. It was one of those examples of I know what I mean, but other people don’t. So I went back into the post and took two fragments and turned them into two complete sentences, which corrected the mis-impression I had left on the webmaster.
I began to write the presenter, saying that I would tag the post as live blogged. Then I decided I needed to link to a definition of live blogging. This is what I finally decided to add:
This is a live blogging of the session.
I decided that I would go ahead and tag all the conference posts, prior to sending the email, so I could say it was already done. Since I had about twenty or so posts from that conference, that meant a lot of tags needed to be added. It took me a little while, because when I was doing that I decided I should read through each one making sure I hadn’t put anything in that was easily misunderstood, like the fragment which had confused the webmaster. (Sometimes time makes those kinds of things more obvious.)
The presenter re-searches.
Before I could send the email saying that it was a live blog post and that I had tagged the posts, the presenter wrote back to everyone, saying that she had totally missed the tag saying the post was live blogged.
Er, no, she didn’t. It hadn’t been there.
So I immediately responded, telling her I had tagged it upon receiving a copy of the emails from the webmaster.
It’s been kind of a comedy of errors, but an upsetting one. The presenter was upset, because she thought her essay would not be published. The chair was upset. I was upset that folks would think I would do something that would be unprofessional, pre-publishing work.
The purpose of live blogging is to 1) have a searchable record of my conference experience and 2) encourage others to go to conferences, especially those I like.
The reason #2 is of special interest to me is that I found PCA because of someone else’s blog post. (The link goes to my discussion of it, because the original blogger took down her website.) An example of this second purpose being met can be seen in Dr. Lee Skallerup Bessette’s post “My (Virtual) Experience at MLA ’11.”
I have used the first when I am getting ready to teach a work. I’ve used it specifically for “The Yellow Wallpaper” and I am sure I will again, especially now that I have another good conference paper blogged on Teaching College English.
Because of this misunderstanding, I went looking for discussions of conference blogging etiquette that I could post.
This great six-page PDF explains how to blog a conference. The blogger whose post I found it on, and one of the authors, Bruno Giussani, is the European Director of the TED Conferences. He refers in the post which introduces the PDF to this post by Ethan Zuckerman. In Zuckerman’s post he said something I can relate to:
Iâ€™ve developed something of a reputation for blogging the conferences I attend with fairly obsessive detail. Some of my colleages are grateful for this â€œserviceâ€; some of my readers have stopped subscribing to this blog due to the volume of conference posts.
In his introduction to the PDF, Giussani says:
An e-mail correspondence ensued [between Zuckerman and Giussani], and we ended up putting together a small 6-pages document, “Tips for conference bloggers”, that anyone can freely download and use (it’s under a Creative Commons license).
One thing both Zuckerman’s post and the PDF include that I found revelatory was how to prepare beforehand to live blog.
Until the last conference I live blogged, I had not ever prepared beforehand. And, in fact, even on that one, I only began preparing a small amount for the second day: finding the author names and linking to them on various websites.
I learned a lot from Tips for Conference Bloggers. I highly recommend it for reading.
Bloggers that Giussani links to as relevant to the PDF:
Dan Karleen (note the two blog posts you can click on for him)
Josh Hallett’s post discusses how a team of live bloggers would work together to cover an entire conference. This might be a good thing to put together for the conference that I am on the council for. The conference is small enough that four bloggers could cover it all.
One thing I learned from this experience could be added to a best practices for live blogging list.
One thing I learned from this experience is that not everyone is as clear on what constitutes infringement of copyright or violation of intellectual property (really a term used to describe copyright, patents, trade secrets, trademarks, etc).
Ideas are not copyrightable; see http://www.rbs2.com/cidea.pdf, for example. Copyright includes the way a person expresses their ideas, but not the ideas themselves. In my blog posts I clearly identify the source of the ideas, so there is no question of attribution either. I give the names of the people who presented the ideas I am blogging.
Images are copyrightable. I have used free images, such as Phillip Martin’s drawings; public domain or attributable images, such as those from Wikimedia Commons; purchased images, which I have purchased from various places including iStock photo, Classroom Clipart, and the artists themselves (including art students from my college who were thrilled to have their work purchased and attributed so that they would have a tear). For public domain images, this is sometimes noted where I find the image or the date the image was published makes it obvious that it no longer is copyrighted.
Even with copyright, fair use is allowed. Reporting (as on a blog), educational use (as for this blog which is designed to reach and help instructors of college English), and commentary (which I often add to the works, though less so for conference presentations, since the speakers don’t always comment) are all fair use.
Make clear that the post is live blogged.
I am beginning to think that I should post a link to this explanation on all my live blogging. It appears that despite the ubiquitousness of technology, as argued by Computers & Writing 2009, many academics do not understand the internet and/or blogging.
On the Value of Academic Blogging is well worth reading.
You are exposed. People will read your blog, and they will respond. I would never suggest blogging as a replacement for other forms of scholarship any more than the conference presentation replaces the article or the monograph replaces the presentation. I do think that blogging and/or other means of digital-networked communication can be an important mechanism for sharing academic work, for connecting to a new, and likely larger, audience.