IBM CASCON 2006 and conference backchannels

I got so carried away making lunch that I nearly missed the planning conference call for IBM CASCON 2006's social computing workshops. I dropped in just in time to hear Stephen Perelgut and Steve Easterbrook talk about real-time collaborative note-taking, and I chimed in with my two cents about how wonderful it is to have backchannels during the conference.

A backchannel is an informal way for participants to talk to each other in the background while the speakers are talking. Backchannel chat is a great way to find out about other interesting sessions and meet other people who are into similar things. We've also used the backchannel to coordinate our attendance at sessions. ("I'm heading over to session A." "If you're blogging that, then I can go to session B...")

If the backchannels are logged, they can be the start of collaborative notetaking. We tried backchannel transcription at one session during Mesh. People were distracted because the backchannel was projected onto the main screen behind the panelists. Most people have a hard time keeping track of two or more streams of information, particularly as they were both verbal. In addition, the IRC channel used for the backchannel chat also included people in other sessions, which made it hard for many people to separate the messages that were related to the current session. Still, it was a good experiment, and that resulted in a number of side-conversations during the session.

I think one of the things that would be great to have for IBM CASCON 2006 is a backchannel that people can get to through IRC and the Web. I'd love to set up one of those, but it needs to be promoted somewhere so that everyone with wireless can hear about it.

An alternative would be to encourage everyone to liveblog it and to use Technorati or a similar web service to aggregate all the posts tagged, say, cascon2006 and the session's tag.

HEY! There's an idea! If we suggest tags for each session and a tag for the entire conference, then we make it easy for external bloggers to make their posts discoverable. And I can so totally modify the CASCON blog to make it easier for people to "BLOG THIS SESSION" - they can post their content on the session blog and then retrieve it for crossposting onto their blog... That _would_ be totally sweet.

Think!Friday's tomorrow. Let's make it happen!

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