Despite not making it to ALT-C this year, I still felt more involved than I have at some events that I actually attended thanks to the formal and informal amplifcation of the event. These are my notes on the pros and cons of being a remote participant in a tech-enhanced conference.

In an attempt to give the live sessions my full attention, as I would at the conference, I booked out time in my diary as being ‘at‘ ALT-C. However, there were still lots of ‘…but you’re not really there, are you?‘ interruptions (quick questions, phone calls…) that you avoid when you’re actually away. So my first lesson learned for next time is to get out of the office and watch somewhere away from these distractions.

I’ll confess I didn’t help myself here either by giving in to the temptation of checking the occassional email or getting on with my ‘real work’ that I would have felt guilty about doing in a live audience. I consider myself to have a reasonable attention span, so was disapppointed by my lack of discipline online. I think this, like the last point, highlights the need to change peoples perception of what being ‘at an online conference’ means – including my own.

The onscreen experience of the live sessions was pretty good – certainly better than I’ve had from the back of some conferences. Using Elluminate for this was perhaps a case of sledgehammer to crack a nut, but it worked once you’d jumped through the hoops. Just as useful though was the informal streaming from participants, like that of the VLE is dead debate, by James Clay. This was a far simpler approach, but arguably a better experience. I’ve been skeptical about the quality of this approach, but in the right circumstances and with a bit of thought, it can be very effective.

As always, Twitter enabled commentary from the live audience and those watching remotely, giving an insight into their thoughts. The conference #hastag was very active, as shown by Brian Kelly’s analysis. A downside of this was that it provoked the worst influx of trending topic spam I’ve seen, but I think this remains a price worth paying to keep the discussion public.

However, for me, the real difference was not what happenend at the conference, but what happened next. The reflection and discussion taking place after the event have in some ways been of more value than the conference itself. Reading blogs posts from different viewpoints, seeing what I thought to be minor details be picked up and expanded into detailed arguments, commenting and discussing the issues, has all helped to consolidate my learning.

What this has also made me realise is that the value I place on the social web for helping me feel part of the community is in part an inditement of the fact that until recently I haven’t been – or at least, not part of the right community. With conferences and events being one way to achieve that, I think it’s clear I need to get out more!

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