Editorial: Live blogging – not so easy

I am now back from two weeks in Italy where I experimented with live blogging. You have probably noticed that some presentations from the meeting at CoSBi in Trento were covered on Buried Treasure within a matter of minutes of them ending. Also, quite a number of pictures were posted in the associated Picasa web album while the presentations were still ongoing. Here is a brief explanation of how I planned to pull this off and how it worked in practice.

My original plan was to use WordPress through the web browser on my smartphone together with a foldable bluetooth keyboard. This was how I first imagined that my live-blogging platform would look:

Live blogging - WordPress, HTC S710, and bluetooth keyboard

It seemed a good idea at the time, but there were a couple of “minor” problems:

I thus started looking around for alternative clients for WordPress and eventually found ShoZu, which allows you to upload pictures from your phone to a variety of services including WordPress blogs and Picasa web albums. However, it is not a true blogging tool and only enables you to write a short description for each picture. I thus accepted to the real blog posts would be written on my laptop, whereas the following platform would be used for live blogging in the form of images with short descriptions:

Live blogging - ShoZu and HTC S710

This seemed like an even better idea at the time, but again I ran into a few technical problems:

  • Due to strange combinations of firewalls, HTTP proxies, and complex login web pages, I never managed to get my smartphone reliably connected to the internet.
  • The camera in the smartphone was unable to take even half decent picture under the poor light conditions.

In reality, I thus ended up using my old Apple PowerBook G4 and my Lumix TZ3 camera. They got the job done in terms of covering the presentations, but live blogging from poster sessions was practically impossible.

I have now put on my thinking cap to come up with a live-blogging platform that would work for poster sessions. You generally have too little time for too many posters, so it has to be very fast to snap a photo and post it. The light is often poor and people tend to use too small fonts on their posters, so you need a good camera to get a readable result. Finally, the lack of space and tables prevents you from using a laptop. The Eye-Fi Card  might be a solution as it would enable me to upload images directly from my camera to, for example, a Picasa web album or Flickr. Please let me know if you have any ideas, experiences, or thoughts on this.

4 thoughts on “Editorial: Live blogging – not so easy

  1. nsaunders

    I like the idea of live blogging posters – it would be an interesting, personal record of those posters that interested the blogger – but it sounds really impractical.

    Maybe a better solution would be for conferences to require that posters be submitted in digital form, so they can be made available on the web. Or encourage people to upload their posters to a community website such as slideshare or eposters. You could then at least make a live note and link to the resource later.

  2. Lars Juhl Jensen Post author

    It would obviously be better if everyone uploaded their posters to some site as you suggest. To start with, the graphics quality would be better than what anyone would ever be able to produce with a camera. The problem are that it requires that the conference organizers take the initiative to do so, and that it requires additional work on behalf of the poster presenter.

    For the past couple of years, I have always used a digital camera to capture fully readable versions of the posters that caught my interest and emailed some of them to my colleagues when I got back. The photography side of things is thus already routine to me. Trying to blog about each of them while at the poster session would not be realistic. That is why I am looking for a solution that would allow me to immediately post pictures online with a minimum of extra work for me. If I can find that, then I think that live coverage from poster sessions is practical – otherwise, I have to agree with you that it would be really impractical. Which is why I didn’t do it so far ;-)

  3. scilib

    I’ve found that my Nokia N82 cellphone is good for “liveflickring” since it has a reasonable camera and built-in WiFi and Flickr upload software. I do have a keyboard for it but I’ve found the cellphone blogging applications are just not powerful enough and reliable enough for what I want to do in a quick liveblog. So far I’ve used my 12″ PowerBook for conference blogging, but I’m thinking about trying an Asus Eee 7″ Windows XP laptop. I think the PowerBook may still be the winner due to having a full keyboard plus the fact I have two batteries for it.

    There’s some info on my N82 blogging experimentation at http://scilib.typepad.com/techreviews/2008/03/nokia-n82-with.html

  4. Lars Juhl Jensen Post author

    I was also thinking about buying an Asus Eee PC for a while, but I dropped that idea after trying the keyboard. It is too small for touch typing and too large for thumb typing, which leaves “hunt and peck” as the only viable option.

    Instead, I now consider the MSI Wind and/or the Nokia N810. The former has a 10″ display and a keyboard that is large enough to allow touch typing. The latter fits in a (large) pocket and has a 4.1″ screen and a thumb keyboard. Since they can both run Firefox, I hope that all the web interfaces will work properly.


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