Creating a super-mobile conference blog

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You know the old saying, ‘It never rains, but it pours’? Well, I’ve had one of those weeks … nice and slow for ages and suddenly, a bloggy downpour. At times during the week I found myself flipping backwards and forwards from one blog to another whilst fielding emails, telephone, and Skype calls from clients and collaborators. Oh the idiocy of multitasking!

I’ve been working for about ten days or so creating two new blogs, one for a private client, the other to serve as a hub for a conference project. The blog for the client is designed to highlight a niche family horse-breeding business; the challenge lay in finding the right balance between the personable and the business-like, and in creating the right feel via its layout, colourways and so on … to reflect the owner’s own style or business brand. It took a while to craft the site, and to teach the client how to blog. Apart from the occasional ‘help’ email or phone call, she’s now on her way, delighted with the result, and in being able to call herself a blogger.   The other blog is for a conference, and had an altogether different set of requirements in setting up.

I wanted to bolt-together the components to create a central hub for the media we’ll be creating at next week’s AUC (Apple University Consortium) Create World Conference at Griffith University College of Art, Brisbane.  It’s the third gathering of digital creatives from around Australia, and is always worth the effort. Brisbane’s Southbank in spring is a delightful place to be with its close access to the library, galleries, and performing arts venues via the river boardwalk. There are little cafes and restaurants along the way, and a couple of river footbridges to get you across river and into the CBD … if you must. This is the second year I’ll be working with a couple of colleagues from the University of South Australia at Create World. Last year we audio podcasted interviews with conference presenters and participants, and embedded the files in a blog … all pretty straight forward. How far we’ve come in a year … at least how many more possibilities there are to create intertwined channels of communication aka social networks.

When thinking about how we would develop our podcasting process from last year, we decided to pick up the conference theme ‘mobile me: creativity on the go’ and use it as an underlying principle for our workflow.  We challenged ourselves to capture, create and publish with our 3GS iPhones, and have the output flow into the blog hub via outlier, third-party application sites.  It was important therefore to set up a blog site that could do this effectively and simply, and in a way that would cut back on the necessity for post-production.  We want to get the material published quickly, and engage people while the event being covered was still fresh.

In this instance we have a WordPress.org, self-hosted blog hub, while You Tube, and Audioboo are the applications holding uploaded content.  This is essentially a podcasting site, though the traditional blogpost will feature strongly as a commentary platform and to hold embedded media like images, and perhaps video and audio.  Audio and video podcasts uploaded to Audioboo and You Tube directly from our iPhones are streamed back via widgets on to the blog’s homepage.  We’re using code from our Vodpod homepage to create a video placeholder widget in the blog sidebar, and the Audioboo Plugin available for download in WordPress to hold the latest sound files.  Twitter is set up to post a notification as soon as  a video or audio podcast is uploaded to You Tube or Audioboo, or a new blog post is published.  There’s also a Twitter widget holding an updated stream on the homepage.

Conferences are about communication, so we’ve tried to set things up so that delegates can do so easily and via an app of their choice, whilst still maintaining the integrity of the central blog hub by capturing the communication.  Participants can comment and converse or micro-blog via Twitter on their phones or computers and receive updates when new blog material is available;  Twitter hashtagging (#cw09) makes searching a snap. Longer discussions are still available through the blog’s commenting capability, or if they wish, delegates can choose to comment directly on YouTube or Audioboo.

Quick and easy collaborative publication like this is now possible with the plethora of digital software available to us.  The blog and its outlier sites combine to provide a communication platform and a digital repository for research, as well as a creative mashup of the conference experience.  All that remains now is to get the stream flowing. Here it is.

Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.