Best practices for live blogging

Recently, the sweet @akuhn asked me for share some of my best practices for live blogging. Which is a bit strange, since he was the one to get me into live blogging in the first place. But I am indebted to Adrian for a loads of fun and wisdom, so how could I deny his bidding? 🙂

I have been having a blast blogging these past months and you deserve the same, so here goes. My take on how I live blog a conference talk.

1) Capture the story

Don’t try to write up everything that is begin said, you won’t be able to keep up. I try to follow the story of the speaker, because just writing down bullet points is boring and hard. For example: if a specific case is used to illustrate a point, I skip it, but if it is used to build up to a point, it is part of the story. I promise this will get easier if you start blogging, I have actually found that blogging has made me a better listener.

2) Be ruthless

Basically, this is an extension of 1. If the story is the most important, other things will have to go. Story over everything. Story over typing and grammar errors, story over completeness, story over correctness even. What matters is that you describe what you got from the talk, sometimes, you will misquote or misunderstand, that’s fine. Speakers can correct you in person, via mail or in the comments of your blog, that’s fine. This interaction is even what you want.

Recently, I blogged about a talk and the speaker told me that I missed a part that she really liked. I did remember that she was very enthusiastic at that point in the talk, but somehow I missed the content. I learned from this to pay more attention to what parts the speaker is actually excited about (story) and she learned to stress this part even more. This is why blogging (and to a lesser extent tweeting) is so so useful for speakers, you get a sense of what the audience has taken away from your talk.

3) Use pictures

Pictures are your friend: it is just to hard to type up everything, especially complex examples with code. The ideal situation is when you have the slides of the talk available digitally, then you can just make use the snipping tool to paste in a slide and concentrate on the narrative. This is actually a hint to speakers and not to live bloggers. Second best is just making pictures with your mobile phone. Yeah, I know the quality sucks and there are nerd heads in the way, but see 2)

4) Have a look at the paper during the talk

If the corresponding paper is available online (again, authors, are you getting this?), it can help to peek in the paper. Often, unfortunately, the abstract and conclusion are more clarifying than the talk, so if I lose track of the story, the paper has sometimes got me back on track. However, I also have a few unfinished posts where I just lost track of the speaker. But that also happens if you are not blogging, I guess. For me personally, even more frequently.

5) Opinionate

I am not always possible to do so, but if you can cram your opinion into the post that is really the best. It can be simple, such as explaining what you liked about the talk or why it is relevant for your own work or as bold as disagreeing with the speaker, but adding your own opinion will make your blog more than just notes of a talk.

If you have additions or questions, post below or give me a shout out on Twitter.

Keep blogging!