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Last weekend witnessed the hotly anticipated #islandgovcamp in Kirkwall, Orkney. I was one of the lucky in-person attendees getting the full island experience with wonderful hosts, stunning views, glorious weather and loads of great chat. I hope to blog more about the various discussions soon.

A teleconference

Sue (in Christchurch, New Zealand) chats with Fran (in Orkney)

But I wanted to quickly mention one of the main (I think) triumphs of the weekend – showcasing the potential for technology to facilitate meaningful, engaging remote attendance.

Yes, there were technical issues. And I suspect the lessons learned will be equally as valuable. No doubt the organisers will have more to say on that subject soon, probably on the official blog.

But as a participant, I felt the event benefited hugely from the efforts we went to, in order to include the remote attendees tuning in from all around the world. For example:

Many of the sessions were broadcast live, using a variety of technical solutions (from enterprise level web conferencing such as WebEx, to rough and ready personal live streaming services like Bambuser). Links were sent out just before the sessions started.

Sign saying "Mainland #isleGC12"

Hashtag reminders were posted everywhere

All sessions had unique hashtags to help structure the Twitter chat, in addition to the event-wide #isleGC12 tag, and a “master” account (@islandgovcamp) provided a central place for all messages about the event.

Every session aimed to have a dedicated Session Tweeter (or Twitter Transmitter – responsible for “live-tweeting” the conversations to the world) and a Twitter Monitor (to act as spokesperson for remote attendees tweeting questions and comments). The former isn’t a new thing – I do it at almost every event I attend nowadays. But the latter was something special; someone to actively seek feedback coming through and vocalise it, literally giving remote attendees a voice. In some cases, we were able to facilitate a full exchange, raising points seconds after they were tweeted.

You can read the full remote attendance participation plan which outlines the efforts in more detail.

Sign saying "Speak up, remember the camera and be wary of the shadow"

Handy advice for in-person contributors

We had loads of people tuning in, with hundreds of tweets coming in from remote participants. The ideas, comments and questions that people contributed added huge value to the sessions, and also lent an urgent feel to procedings – our discussions were being watched, scrutinised; they mattered to the wider world.

The relative remoteness of Orkney provided a wonderful setting for this ambitious undertaking, and I’d once again like to thank the organisers, the in-person attendees, and of course all the remote attendees, for bringing the whole thing to life.

Remote attendance isn’t a new idea, but has never really reached its full potential. With a little extra effort, and by making sure that remote attendees are considered as equals to those there in person, collaboration and sharing can quickly reach new levels.

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3 Responses to IslandGovCamp shows potential of remote attendance

  1. Chris Conder says:

    I was a remote attendee, and it was a brilliant conference. I especially liked the way they left the stream running when they were having all the ordinary bits – showing exactly how difficult it can be to get on top of the tech. It was an online lesson on what happens at every conference. They really shared. I just wish the connectivity had been better, because many of the sessions couldn’t stream and so you had to watch them later, so you couldn’t contribute. They tried really hard, and the sessions that did work and streamed ok had lots of participation from all over the globe. The session with New Zealand by skype was fantastic, but again we could only watch it on archive as the skype call must have used most of the bandwidth available. It was a first. For Orkney. Well done all.

  2. Sweyn Hunter says:

    Thanks for your post, Janes – and for your comment, Chris. We are reflecting on how our efforts to treat remote attendance on an equal footing with inperson attendance, and will (as you suggest, James) post on the subject on the blog in due course.

    In the meantime, I’m pleased that our efforts went some way towards achieving our ambitions for the weekend, and that this came across to remote and inperson participants. Getting remote attendance right is a very important subject, not just for islanders, but for anyone aiming to make events fully inclusive and accessible, and it is to be hoped that the various barriers to achieving the provision of suitable options for remote attendance can soon be generalky understood and, where appropriate, dismantled.

  3. Fran Hollinrake says:

    Thanks for this post James – quick off the mark and spot on! As a newcomer to the whole #IslandGovCamp idea, but an enthusiastic tweeter, I enjoyed interacting with the on-site and remote attendees very much – high point was definitely talking to Sue in New Zealand. Credit to all those who made it happen – can’t wait for the next one!

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