onsdag 14 november 2012

On conference blogging

I recently (only 10 days ago) wrote about the fact that I will get to go to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation's (SSNC) upcoming autumn conference for free. Or, I will rather go "for free" in exchange for me blogging about the conference. The deal is more specifically that I have to write a pre-conference blog post (advertising the conference) and a post-conference blog post (summarizing the conference). This blog post is a "bonus" blog post that I write 100% by my own volition (no additional incentives by conference organizer SSNC).

The deadline for registering for the conference was Friday last week (Nov 9), and we have now thus entered the post-registration pre-conference phase (us academics just love to say simple things in complicated ways). A friend of mine who tried to register for the conference Friday last week is on the waiting list, so I now know for sure that by inviting me to the conference for free, SSNC lost a paying customer (600 SEK for SSNC members, more for non-members). That is apparently the price of, or rather, how much SSNC value my writing and my blog posts. You dear readers of course get to read it for free.

In my previous blog post, I commented on the practice and the economics of allowing bloggers to go to the conference for free in return for them (us!) covering the event. Is this a really good idea or is it actually a pretty crappy idea? I personally think it is very interesting, and probably also very smart. I actually thought it was interesting enough to follow up with a mini-research project. Do note that the process of conducting such a mini-research project would never ever had happened had it not been for this blog and the opportunity it provides me to publish the results here. I think that's an interesting thought to keep in mind. This blog makes me do things I wouldn't otherwise have done.

The conference organizers had - probably accidentally - sent an acceptance mail to me and to the other conference bloggers where we could actually see each other's email addresses. That mail (it turns out) was not sent to only seven conference bloggers, but rather to no less than 25 bloggers! I know that all were bloggers because I wrote and asked them! More specifically, I wrote an email to the other 24 bloggers and asked a few questions I was really curious about in regards to the official conference blogging SSNC seemed so willing to pay (a non-substantial amount of money (in lost income)) for. Below are the (shortened) results of this small survey of mine.

- My previous blog post about the conference was published on Nov 4.
- I sent my email to 24 other bloggers on Nov 4 and 11 of them answered my request/questions.
- I sent a reminder to remaining 13 blogger on Nov 12 and got 3 additional answers. That means the response frequency was 14/24, i.e. 58% (pretty high)
- 18 or the 24 bloggers (75%) were women, 6 were men. No less than 12 of the 14 persons (86%) who answered my suvey were women. Is "the environment" a women's issue? Or is blogging? Or writing?

Question 1, "Why did you apply to blog about the conference? What are the pros and what are the cons?"

Pros/why I want to go:
- I planned to go anyway, this way I can listen a little more attentively and become a little more engaged in the event.
- It was expensive, it's great to be able to go to the conference for free (written by among others a student).
- It's in line with what I study at the university.
- To learn things!
- I was at the previous conference - an excellent source of information from leading researchers, politicians and other interesting persons for my twitter account and my blog!
- I would like to disseminate important ideas to my readers who work in the energy industry.
- To market the association I am active in.
- To meet interesting people, to network.
- To get more readers on twitter and on my blog, get more contacts, and more assignments/jobs for me through my company.
- I didn't apply, I was contacted!
- They have to allow me to be free to write whatever I want to write - I would charge money otherwise!

- There is already so much media noise - reading and writing about stuff seldom leads to action. We tend to think that we are engaged in important issues just because we click "like" on Facebook
- Do I really have time to go to the conference?

Question 2, "Have you been, or heard of "official conference bloggers" (or similar concepts) before? Tell me about it!"

- Yes, I've been to different event several times as blogger, twitterer and journalist.
- Yes, some news organizations have started to regularly refer to/cover blogosphere buzz (it's bigger in the US).
- I blogged at the conference last year.
- I was an official conference twitterer at another event.
- I've done similar things at other events in order to spread information to those who weren't there.
- No, but I've been to many PR events (and I'm getting tired of them). This set-up felt more honest.
- No/this is a totally new concept for me (several answers)

Question 3, "How do you regard SSNC's concept of "official conference bloggers"? Is it, from your perspective, and OK concept and an OK deal? What advantages/disadvantages can you see on SSNC's behalf?"

- SSNC get extra attention and "free advertising" in social media - and this is easier for a NGO than for a company (they motives will be perceived to be suspicious).
- I creates buzz around the SSNC, around the conference theme and around questions that are raised at the conference. I creates discussions around the topic in social media channels and that is great.
- I can't see any disadvantages for SSNC, only advantages.
- I think it's great and also a little brave for SSNC to do this.
- SSNC can't control the info, but I don't think they want to do that either... they ought to be open for critical debate and scrutiny.
- It could be a disadvantage for SSNC if the blogger in question is ignorant about important issues.
- There will be a stronger bond between me and SSNC after we have been in contact "in person".
- I think it's great that "ordinary people" get the chance to express themselves.
- I would like to contribute to SSNC and to this cause.
- It costs a lot to go to the conference for many people - bloggers can share info that can be read by many persons who couldn't (afford to) come.
- It leads to a better debate, increased understanding for each other's views.
- It's a great way to lean more about what others thought about the conference's structure, the conference's content and the conference's execution.
- I think it's great if they manage to get people to read blogs that are outside of people's normal comfort zone.
- This is the first time they announce this and have a selection process in place [which is good]. I have communicated my interest in blogging to other conference organizers - often with positive results.
- I don't know yet, get back afterwards!

Someone commented that it was great that SSNC engaged "people like her" who are genuinely engaged in these issues. Someone else reasoned about the possibility of bloggers "stealing jobs" from freelance journalists.

Question 4 , "Where can I find your blog?". In no particular order:

Miljöbloggen (at Linköpings University) (on the conference)
- Rules of Green  (on the conference)
- Stabil ekonomi  (on the conference)
- Hippihäxan  (on the conference)
- Supermiljöbloggen (on the conference)
- It's easy being green  (on the conference)
- Ingen människa är en ö (on the conference)
- Katarinas projekt  (on the conference)
Toxic stopper  (on the conference)
Miljöbloggen  (on the conference)
U&We  (on the conference)
Sustopia  (on the conference)

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