I’m liveblogging this

Enter a new verb. Liveblogging.

When I was in college, WBCN in Boston tried an experiment. They sent DJs to report live from rock concerts. "We’re here in the Gahden, listening to Bruce Springsteen…" The thing is, the promoters wouldn’t let them play any of the performances on the radio. So all you heard was breathless commentary on what was happening on stage. "Oh, could it be? Yes, it is, YES YES Little Stevie is back on stage…" As you can imagine, the experiment didn’t last long. The DJs had fun, but we were bored.

A few times over the last week, I’ve spoken at conferences where laptops were open and people were online. They were liveblogging, taking notes in real time and posting them online for all to see. At first, this sounds like a fantastic idea. Now, thousands of people can listen on what’s happening in a smaller group.

On closer inspection, it doesn’t work particularly well. I mean, not only was I there, but I was speaking, yet I can’t make sense at all of the posts. That’s because most people don’t take notes to be read. They take notes to write them. The act of writing things down triggers different areas of our brain, it focuses attention, it makes it easier to remember things. You can read your blog notes later and say, "yeah, I remember that slide…" But for an outsider who’s not there, the amount of information that’s imparted is small indeed.

Compare these liveblog posts to posts written an hour later, ones that digest and reflect and chunk the information. These are deliberately designed to inform the reader, not to remind the writer.

I don’t mean to pick on the medium. I think it’s incredibly valuable–for the poster. We’re finding a growing dichotomy now, between blogs that help the reader and blogs that helps the writer. And there’s room for both.