Collaborative Conference Sessions

David Jakes has a post about the use of Skype during NECC sessions to capture thoughts and ideas of audience members (both in and out of the hall). He calls this ChatCast. On the way out of Atlanta, I ran into David at the airport and we talked about this and I mentioned to him a program called SubEthaEdit (you Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fans like Jim Gates might recognize the name... :-) ). Basically SubEthaEdit is a text editor, but it has the ability to allow folks to connect to, and edit simultaneously, a document. One user creates the document, and allows others to connect to it. The users can connect via an Internet connection, or using Apple's Zero Config Bonjour protocol, connect via a local network. Users can export their document in a number of formats, including HTML which color codes the document additions. It comes with a few nice additions including a note taking template that helps collaborators organize their work.

Subethaedit Chat Log

A nice write up about how this is done with SubEthaEdit, can be found here. Another nice aspect about Bonjour is that you can easily set it up on a local network such as in a classroom, so that if the Internet connection goes down, you can still take advantage of the collaborative nature of this kind of software.

I first saw this used at the O'Reilly Emerging Technologies Conference. I also saw it used at edBlogger SF 2003 (Hosted and organized by Pat Delaney...) . Folks were using this to take collaborative notes and have discussions during talks and panel sessions. It adds an interesting perspective to a conference session, especially if the panel members are also in on the fun. :-)

The collaborative nature of software such as Skype, SubEthaEdit, Instiki (example of use here.) and others, and how we utilize it, can, is, and should change the conference experience. What we saw at NECC this year, was participants beginning to take control of their learning during sessions (rather than just leaving and looking for another talk.)