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.
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.
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.
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.