This is the fourth in a series of posts about a recent trip to Orkney. Previous posts:
- Covered my visit from a personal perspective
- Talked about Northern BlueLightCamp; and
- A mini-post with an interactive Puffin-shaped word cloud
This post covers some of the Island GovCamp sessions which took place over the weekend.
Blogs and articles
I’m not the first to blog about IslandGovCamp, and James Coltham makes some really interesting points in his post: IslandGovCamp shows potential of remote attendance. Ann Priestley also covers it briefly in her May events roundup at Danegeld.
The first session I attended was an “all together”, which focused on making events work for remote attendees. It was a little ironic, as the afternoon was plagued with technical problems which affected all participants:
- physical attendees (particularly Apple users) had difficulty connecting to the college wireless network
- remotees experienced problems with patchy video picture quality and sound
Sean Lewis, of Magnetic North Films made heroic efforts to sort out the broadcasting issues, and Jem Taylor and Bob Brandie acted as expert on-site technical suport for those (particularly Apple users) who were having problems connecting to the guest wifi.
You can find all the mainUniversity of the Highlands and Islands footage here.
2G or not 2G
Normally, when faced with wifi issues at events, attendees revert to their own mobile connections and can access a variety of networks between them. A few carry their own portable wireless routers (products like 3′s MiFi), and many have smartphones which are capable of providing personal hotspots.
In my own case, I subscribe to Vodafone on my ‘phone and 3 on my iPad. When on the UK mainland I can generally get a signal on one or the other, which enables me to set-up a personal hotspot, thereby getting use out of both devices through one connection.
However, there’s no 3G coverage in Orkney, and some of the big mobile networks are barely represented. The lack of network connection for many of the physical attendees had a knock-on effect for remote attendees, as there was less output for them to see and comment on.
Glass two-thirds full
It was amazing to witness the up-beat way that everyone dealt with the issues. The mood – both on-site and remote – was really positive and understanding, with people making the most of the experience. Conversations continued via whatever means possible, and were relayed via Twitter. John Fox and Kate Deans did an amazing job of keeping everyone informed via the @IslandGovCamp twitter account.
Remotees also talked directly with each other on Twitter using the #isleGC12 hashtag. In some cases, sessions were recorded and content uploaded later via Bambuser and/or the college video stream.
Here are some of the comments and questions that I noted during the session:
- Travel and expense makes it difficult to attend events, particularly for those living in remote areas (or on islands)
- Opportunities to make the remote experience more ‘real’ were discussed, including using virtual reality platforms like “Second Life”
- Twitter helps remote attendees to ‘put their hand up’ to ask questions – but someone onsite needs to monitor the stream and ask questions on their behalf
- Remote attendees can feel left out if they can’t see others’ body language. They also don’t get to eat cake (unless they provide their own).
- Is a remote meeting more valuable and useful when it’s done with people you have already met?
- Webinars and video conferencing facilities might help for future events (multi-user Skype video chats?)
- Can patients in island communities have virtual meetings with consultants/GPs?
- When remote participation is easy, more people will do it
- Good quality sound is more important than video
#isleGC12 Twitter conversation
I set-up a Google spreadsheet which is automatically storing all Tweets which include the #isleGC12 hashtag (up to a maximum of 1500). It also contains a couple of charts with twitter stats. Many thanks to Martin Hawksey for making it so easy to set-up. Full instructions on how to automatically store tweets in a spreadsheet can be found here.
I’m intending to do some more work looking at the Twitter content, but haven’t had time to blog about it yet. Here are a couple more example visualisations of what’s currently available in Twitter using free tools:
- TAGSExplorer (note that it’s another great too from Martin Hawksey)
- The Archivist (quite a nice dashboard)
- Sentiment140 (don’t get too hung up on the detail, but I reckon it captures the mood on the day pretty well)
Pause for breath
There was then a break before the next session. Judging from comments on Twitter, I think it was a bit unclear to remote attendees what was happening at this point, and several asked what sessions were taking place, and how to follow them. The confusion didn’t last long, as Sweyn broadcast an update specifically for remotees, and left the camera recording.
The footage gives a pretty good indication of how chaotic unconferences can seem whilst:
- sessions are pitched
- participants try to work out which they are most interested in attending
- less popular sessions are scrapped, combined or subsumed in to others
- rooms are selected based on size, facilities and level of interest
Due to the amount of time the camera had been rolling, filming was switched off and I was intrigued to see a tweet from one of the remote attendees Sasha Taylor, complaining as it had helped him feel part of the group. I watched the footage again today, and I know exactly what he means – one to note for future events.
The next session I attended was pitched by Amy May from the RSPB. Amy, who specialises in the Corncrake, is interested in how wildlife and conservation groups might use social media for promotion and education.
It was a useful discussion, and suggestions came from both those in the room and those attending remotely:
That was pretty much it for this post. In my next (and hopefully last!) instalment I will cover the sessions I attended on Sunday. I will also take a look back at some of the lessons learned from this and other camps, and make some suggestions for future events.