Thoughts from #UKOLNeim

by | Jul 13, 2011

On Monday we were invited to help amplify the Metrics and Social Web Services: Quantitative Evidence for their Use and Impact workshop (#ukolneim), organised by Brian Kelly.

Whilst I find the vast majority of events I cover fascinating, it is quite rare to cover an event where the topic is directly relevant to my work. Measuring the impact of amplifying an event is becoming increasingly important, and I was keen to hear not just the tips and tricks, but also different perspectives on the issues associated with collecting and using statistics.

The key message I took away was the need to work out what you want to know, then measure that. Many of the things you can measure may sound impressive, but may not actually show you have achieved your aims. The idea that most appealed to me was the idea of telling the story of your data to help put the numbers into a real world context.

Summarizr Statistics for #UKOLNeim Hash Tag

We are currently in the process of editing the HD video footage of the event, which will appear shortly on Vimeo, and writing up the event report, which will appear as a guest post on Brian’s UK Web Focus blog. However, I wanted to have a quick brain dump to explore some of the issues that arose from an amplification perspective when tackling this event…

Technical Issues

We were live streaming the event using Livestream and two camera angles. For production, we used CamTwist for Mac. We’ve never used this set up before, so there were obviously some teething problems to get around.

The main problem was that we were unable to obtain a wired internet connection, which meant we were streaming over wifi. This is always far from ideal. We used the Livestream standard settings for the morning session, but adjusted these in the afternoon to try to improve the image quality. We were complimented on the sound quality, but the poor image quality meant that speakers slides were not always particularly readable via the stream. Our initial camera angle did little to help, but moving the second camera over the lunch break to get a better view of the slides improved the situation. It is worth noting that several of the slides were difficult for the people in the room to read in any detail, so were not really suitable for transmitting via the live stream. This meant that anyone wanting to see the slides in greater detail needed to open another tab or window in their browser and navigate to the slides on Slideshare.

Luckily, we were aware that many of these issues were likely to occur, and therefore had clear strategies in place to manage audience expectation and resolve issues. We told remote participants to use the chat facility provided within Livestream to report any technical issues with the stream, whilst using Twitter to participate in an integrated discussion of the subject matter. This separated out support from conversation, and allowed our camera man to monitor and respond to technical issues, whilst I monitored the Twitter discussions. The remote audience had also been forewarned that we would not know until the day what would be possible in terms of streaming, and were supplied with supplementary links to the resources as they were required via Twitter.

The Remote Experience

Miquel Duran from the University of Girona blogged about his experience as a remote participant in the event. He observed on Twitter that it really made a difference when speakers looked at the camera and addressed the remote audience, which unfortunately happened only occasionally. For me, this emphasised the need to really brief your speakers carefully about making a connection with the remote audience in the same way as they would aim to connect with the physical audience using eye contact. I had not really considered this as a priority myself when I have watch live video streams remotely, as I normally just listen to the audio.

Ann Priestly also highlighted the amount of window switching required to access the different materials. This helped me to think a bit more about the, albeit sketchy, line between the amplified event and the hybrid event. Amplification can be applied to any type of event (traditional, hybrid or virtual) and is really about using multiple channels – particularly social/sharing channels – to get a message out to the widest possible audience across time and space. A hybrid event does the same thing, often with the same channels, but normally presents the material in a more co-ordinated way to create a crafted event experience, in much the same way as the experience of in-person participants is crafted by the event organiser. The more hybridised an event becomes, the more centralised the focus becomes, making attendance as a remote participant more about going to a fixed location at a fixed time and receiving a tailored experience. The picture I have in my head at the moment is of an amplified event organiser scattering seeds over a wide area, whilst a hybrid event organiser plants bulbs in a very specific way.

The Event Amplifier as a Guide

During the event there were multiple channels used to amplify the #ukolneim workshop, including Twitter, CoverItLive, Slideshare, Livestream and the iPhone app Shhmooze (as reviewed by Brian). Post-event we also used Vimeo and Storify. The unification strategy involved links to these materials from various pages on the event website, and guidance tweets from me via my @eventamplifier account, directing participants to the different resources as and when they became relevant. However, you couldn’t see all of these resources together simultaneously unless you organised these things in different windows on your screen.

Whilst this gave remote participants flexibility, particularly for those who were following along on the periphery whilst working on other things, I appreciate that those trying to follow in a more complete and active way may have found the navigation between distributed materials a barrier. I think this really kicks in when you provide a live video stream, which makes the timeliness of finding resources more crucial.

My take away from this is that when a live stream is provided, that is the point when there needs to be some kind of co-ordinated dashboard or page where remote participants can see everything they need in one place, rather than across disparate windows. I also need to emphasise my role as a guide through the materials available more, in addition to providing the commentary, so that remote participants have everything they need, when they need it.
Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus.
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