Fertile Failure: Live Blogging Class Discussion

January 14th, 2010; 9:47 am by Ryan Thornburg

Updated: 2:51 p.m. ET

Fail fast, fail cheap. Isn’t that what they say? Well, today I did it. My first attempt to live blog a class discussion didn’t work out. But neither did my first attempt to … well, do just about anything…

No matter. Here’s what I learned… 1. If you have a network of professional journalists they WILL follow you if you live blog a class, but …

2. They won’t say anything unless you have prompts for them. Prompts should be prepared in advanced so that you can simply hit a “send” button at the same moment you move the class discussion to that question, but…

3. That only creates a “simulcast” of the discussion — two parallel chats, one happening in person and one happening online. What you really need to do is have your TA in the class with you, as the producer of the chat. This is the same way it worked at washingtonpost.com — there is a host, a guest and a producer. The producer keeps the flow going, adds relevant links in real time, and cleans up typos.

Why is this important? Not just because it’s an effort to connect students in North Carolina with experienced professionals around the world, but because it has implications for the increasing number of people who are pondering and proposing the creation of news places — cafes and other physical locations in which the audience can come to participate in the creation and collective consumption of news and community information. It’s an interesting idea, but one that won’t work without an effective way to integrate meatspace conversation with online conversation.

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