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Tactics for Making Real-Time Work

Stephen Biernacki

Yesterday, most people online probably noticed that Apple was up to something. That something turned out to be the second iteration of the iPad. While a lot of people relied solely on their Twitter, Facebook, or other social media stream to feed them at least top-level news on the subject, those more interested in the specifics no doubt turned to one or more of the websites offering a liveblogging of the event.

Off the bat, I’d like to ask, what instances on your campus most benefit (or could most benefit) from liveblogging? Where would your audience appreciate quick, efficient updates… that are both faster, streamlined, and focused than Twitter, and on a single page? Large events come to mind, but I can envision real-time technology being used for athletics, special orientation events, higher profile on-campus speakers, and much more. Especially if you have your student body paying attention by promoting decently, at least via social media ahead of time. But to make such an effort, it’s important to understand what makes these liveblogs work so well. Yes, Apple’s topic has the advantage of being the iPad 2, but visitors continue coming back for more than that. There’s no better place to look for inspiration than a few of the websites that regularly stream Apple’s events.

So What Features Are Desirable?
If there are so many different websites liveblogging the event, what factors encourage visitors to choose one site over another? One factor in this case is related to allegiance, and that simply can’t be related to higher ed. Many visitors simply love Gizmodo, so they’re going to follow Gizmodo’s liveblogging for no other reason than that. But throwing that idea out the window, what really decides whether someone goes to Engadget, TechCrunch, or Mashable (to name a few) for coverage? Here’s a few enticing features liveblogging an event reporting to keep in mind:

  • Images – Everyone loves images because they help to tell a story. They tell the story of being there. Providing frequent, high-quality photo uploads during an event will do wonders.
  • Precise updates – If updates are going to come in bursts, they should make sense and be to the point.
  • Fast updates – This is much less important to an institution than it is to a technology blog liveblogging Apple, but it’s important nevertheless. Since you’re the only source, there’s no competition! But it is moderately important for higher ed.
  • Auto-refresh – If you aren’t using something akin to the next bullet point, such as a widget, auto-refresh eases the pressure of folks who don’t want to keep hitting that refresh button.
  • Real-time software – Related to the iPad 2 announcement, this is what caught my attention most this year. More on this in the coming paragraph.
  • Automatic collection across social media – Though this is certainly getting more into aggregating existing information about your event, which isn’t really what this post is about, I wanted to mention it because Storify has emerged as a leader in this area. Here’s an example of the iPad event.

At Some Point, Real-Time Will be Widely Adopted
Of the time I spent following Apple’s event, I spent most of my time on MobileCrunch because of their usage of ScribbleLive. The service is worth researching, though it’s not free. If you have a potential event on the horizon and are looking to try something new, there is a 30-day trial you can take advantage of. Watching the updates come in through this platform felt very quick. I had Engadget up at the same time to compare (and I like their larger photos), since seemed to be updating information a bit more quickly. Strangely though, I stuck with MobileCrunch.

The point of this post, is to venture out and try liveblogging some real events, if you aren’t already. It doesn’t take many resources, and there are innovative tools that can make it a great experience. If you have any kind of audience to test this with, give it a shot!

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