The 14th INFORUM conference is happening in Prague this week. Produced by Albertina icome Praha, it attracts librarians and information professionals primarily from the Czech Republic and Slovak Republic. This year it has speakers from those countries as well as the USA, UK, Croatia, Germany, Bulgaria, and Serbia. I was in Prague in February for Albertina’s new INSOURCE conference, which I reviewed in the May 2008 issue of Information Today. During that conference, Karen Blakeman and I experimented with Twitter as a mechanism of conference reporting. I wrote up that experience in the April 2008 issue of Information Today. Karen is in Prague for INFORUM and posting regular tweets about the conference sessions and workshops. I have to admit I wasn’t altogether thrilled with Twitter for conference coverage, but since Karen remains quite taken with it, I thought I’d give it another try. One big obstacle: I’m thousands of miles and a 6-hour time difference away from Prague. Not to worry, Albertina arranged for the conference to be streamed on the internet –"implemented by the IKAROS professional electronic journal in cooperation in cooperation with students of New Media Studies and kindly supported by these companies: Oxford University Press and SAGE. Multidata supports interviews with leading personalities attending Inforum, and interviews post production and archiving. Cosmotron supports technical equipment and photo-documentation."
So I tuned in, listened to the speakers, viewed their slides (when available), and posted my own tweets. I skipped the morning sessions, since I didn’t really want to be up at 3 a.m., virtually "attending" a conference. It’s a peculiar experience to cover a conference you’re not physically attending. You can’t look around at attendees’ reactions. With this conference, some talks are given in Czech (which I don’t understand) and some in English. The streaming offered both language options. However, if I was tuned into the English translation, I couldn’t see the slides. If I tuned to the Czech version, I could see the slides but couldn’t understand the speaker. This morning (afternoon in Prague) suddenly the Czech channel started broadcasting the English translation, so I could both hear and see. Meanwhile, Karen and I had some back-channel conversations going on, just as we did in February when we were sitting next to each other.
An interesting, invigorating experiment. And fun, too. But I’d still rather be in Prague covering the conference in person rather than twittering it from abroad.