After a most wonderful lunch (thanks Science Online sponsors!), it was time for the first of two sessions I was co-moderating. This session was a fun one to plan and execute on how to post from strange places. Co-organizer Karen James of the Beagle Project did most of the moderating and talked from the perspective of someone that will blog from a strange place (like the crow’s nest of the new HMS Beagle). Vanessa Woods, Meredith Barrett, Anne-Marie Hodge, Talia Page, Rick MacPherson and myself discussed our own experiences with blogging from strange places. For myself, it is while at sea. Rick discussed being in remote parts of Papua New Guinea where cell phones fall out of grass skirts. Vanessa blogs from the Congo where she studies bonobos. Talia blogged from India where a nasty case of diarrhea cause her to spend too much time on the potty, in the meantime her notes were stolen! Anne-Marie talked about the challenges of blogging from tropical stations in Central America. Meredith followed furry primates through the surreal landscape of Madagascar.
The common hindrance to blogging was time and electricity. For most of us, being out in the field means getting a lot of work done over a small period of time. For myself, this involves 12-20 hours of work a day while at sea. It costs lots of money to be out in the remote wildernesses and this is the only chance to get the data you need. Its now or never! Sitting down to write a blog post can be a lot of effort when you are crunched for time and short of energy. For most of the jungle hippies, finding electricity and a decent internet connection were no trivial task. There were several questions, suggestions for using microblogs and audio/video podcasting options that were thrown out by audience members. I think we all learned alot from the participants about effective and efficient tools that might make blogging adventure a bit easier.
We had a pretty full room which I was very excited about. As an icebreaker, we asked the audience to write a blog post about the conference while imagining they are in a submarine at the bottom of the ocean. Karen queued up some ocean and ship noise on the computer, while I walked around with an angler fish puppet and attacked people, stole their pens, “swam” in front of their monitors and otherwise distract. The other turned the lights on and off, open and closed the doors, went around the room shaking chairs, talking loudly and then we broke into a sea shanty (of course!), where I sang the chorus of South Australia loudly and I must admit, quite stunningly. It was lots of fun and though it probably freaked out some participants, it certainly set the tone for the session. Chris Rowan from Highly Allochthonous was in attendance and actually posted his “live-blog” of experience. His post kicked off a great discussion in the comment thread about blogging from the field!
Thanks to everyone who participated and thanks to my co-panelists for sharing their fasctinating experiences!