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Conferences as Spam? Liveblogging science hits the mainstream

29 June 2009 13 views 8 Comments

I am probably supposed to be writing up some weighty blog post on some issue of importance but this is much more fun. Last year’s International Conference on Intelligent Systems for Molecular Biology (ISMB) kicked off one of the first major live blogging exercises in a mainstream biology conference. It was so successful that the main instigators were invited to write up the exercise and the conference in a paper in PLoS Comp Biol. This year, the conference organizers, with significant work from Michael Kuhn and many others, have set up a Friendfeed room and publicised this from the off, with the idea of supporting a more “official”, or at least coordinated process of disseminating the conference to the wider world. Many have been waiting in anticipation for the live blogging to start due to logistical or financial difficulties in attending in person.

However, there were also concerns. Many of the original ring leaders were not attending. With the usual suspects confined to their home computers would the general populace take up the challenge and provide the rich feed of information the world was craving? Things started well, then moved on rapidly as the room filled up. But the question as to whether it was sustainable was answered pretty effectively when the Friendfeed room went suddenly quiet. Fear gripped the microbloggers. Could the conference go on? Gradually the technorati figured out they could still post by VPNing to somewhere else. Friendfeed was blocking the IP corresponding to the conference wireless network. So much traffic was being generated it looked like spam! This has now been corrected, and normal service resumed, but in a funny and disturbing kind of way it seems to me like a watershed. There were enough people, and certainly not just the usual suspects, live blogging a scientific conference that the traffic looked like spam. Ladies and Gentleman. Welcome to the mainstream.

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  • Gabriel Cavalli

    That’s funny. I thought it was about all the spam I get to register to conferences I don’t want to attent to in Cancun, though.

  • Gabriel Cavalli

    That’s funny. I thought it was about all the spam I get to register to conferences I don’t want to attent to in Cancun, though.

  • Jim Procter

    Thanks a lot, Cameron – personally, I definitely feel like I’m getting more out of ISMB when I’m amongst the friendfeed as well as the talk. It’s great to know how the other (occasionally somewhat related) talks in other parallel sessions are doing too!

  • Jim Procter

    Thanks a lot, Cameron – personally, I definitely feel like I’m getting more out of ISMB when I’m amongst the friendfeed as well as the talk. It’s great to know how the other (occasionally somewhat related) talks in other parallel sessions are doing too!

  • http://chem-bla-ics.blogspot.com/ Egon Willighagen

    I was enjoying the wireless near the registration desk, when the block happened… but the ‘Gradually’ you mentioned, in real-time, was merely minutes… :)

  • http://chem-bla-ics.blogspot.com/ Egon Willighagen

    I was enjoying the wireless near the registration desk, when the block happened… but the ‘Gradually’ you mentioned, in real-time, was merely minutes… :)

  • http://openwetware.org/wiki/User:Cameron_Neylon Cameron Neylon

    Ah, but it was more dramatic that way…never let the facts get in the way of a good story etc…

  • http://openwetware.org/wiki/User:Cameron_Neylon Cameron Neylon

    Ah, but it was more dramatic that way…never let the facts get in the way of a good story etc…