Monday, 6 December 2010

My First Live Blog

Cover it LiveLAST FRIDAY I decided to bite the bullet and hold the Canvey Beat’s first live Blog – at 9:00am when most of its readers would be at work!

I had decided to cover my local MP, Rebecca Harris, as she led the debate on her Daylight Saving Bill’s second reading in Parliament; and, in case my own performance dried-up, I decided to invite a number of local councillors as panellists.

CoverItLive promote their system as taking just two minutes to set up; but, in reality, I found it to take much less. The interface is a breeze to use and I had all the relevant settings for my first broadcast defined in under a minute.

It took around 15 seconds to copy and paste the resulting embed code from my control panel to the Canvey Beat site, and an immediate refresh of that Blog’s home page in my browser instantly produced the Upcoming Event panel shown here.

This is a lovely piece of software that, enclosed in its own <iframe>, integrates seamlessly with the Canvey Beat’s BlogSpot host. I had expected there to be some bugs; some problems resizing the CoveritLive panel or being limited by the free, basic version of the system that I had chosen; but there were no problems at all.

The only glitch, when the Canvey Beat went live, originated from idiot me

I had set-up the feature using its default settings that included the use of a veil over the contents of the CoveritLive panel. Readers had either to click-in to the live coverage or hover their mouse pointers over the screen for it to display a three-second count-down to revealing the panel’s contents. And, despite being encouraged to view, many visitors (according to the site’s StatCounter) just sat on the homepage without doing anything.

Many, it appears, had accessed the site early to be confronted with the Forthcoming Event veil; but had not taken the trouble to click into the live event or refresh their page if the Forthcoming Event message was still displayed when the coverage was due to commence. It seems that many just expected the CoveritLive panel to automatically open onto the content when the proceedings were underway.

Well, it could not do that until the guest had accepted the live connection. And what I had not foreseen was that, from a casual glance, the ‘Now live’ veil was very similar to the ‘Forthcoming event’ image.

My first live Blog’s statistics should be a warning for any other Blogger that wishes to conduct a similar event. (They still make me cringe).

I had 48 visitors sat on the home page, waiting for something to happen, by the start time of 9:00am. By 9:15, the CoveritLive control panel was recording just two participants and when I wound-up the proceedings some six hours later it was showing eight guests. (CoveritLive uses Google Analytics to count visitors, which means those stats are some five-minutes behind – the final number whom had viewed my first broadcast in real time was just 12).

By my own stupidity: I lost three-quarters of my potential audience…

It need not have been that way. What I should have done was cancel the option of using a veil, and make the event live some 30 minutes before the event was due to start. CoveritLive even provides a ‘Back soon’ feature that you can use to display a count-down timer on the live feed that would have proved perfect for this task (had I had the intelligence to use it).

I should have anticipated that some guests would arrive up to half an hour early, and made sure that the live content was immediately available to those other guests arriving after my coverage had started.

I will not make the same error again – and I bare my soul here in the hope that no one else makes the same mistakes as I did.

If there is one thing to be learned here: never assume that your Blog’s readers are as competent with the technology as you are. As far as Canvey Beat readers are concerned, it seems most are technophobes whom need considerable encouragement to use any modern features…

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