Capturing Stuff, Conversations and Stories

A round of social reporting at conferences and other events leaves me with a simple classification for the content I may capture or create: there’s Stuff, Conversations, and Stories.

Stuff is Powerpoints, papers, speeches. It is delivered, usually from a platform, by Important People.

Conversations are what happens in the breaks between Stuff, or in small groups if the event is Open Space, Unconference, Barcamp or similar setup where participants are considered important people too.

Stories are the interesting bits you may remember from Stuff, and are also conversations that you wish to retell to other people.

Stories may also be constructed by hard-working social reporters after listening to Stuff and conversation,  for those not attending. These may or may not be the same stories participants tell each other.

The DC10plus conference about digital inclusion, which I blogged here with Dave Briggs, definitely had plenty of Stuff, and we also managed to capture conversations at coffee and lunch.

By contrast the Shine conference, and two Ideas days that I helped record for the Innovation Exchange – here and here – were designed to generate lots of conversations. Everyone  had a chance to tell their stories, and then talk to each other. In this case the stories were about helping older people with independent living, and excluded young people.

At 2gether08, which happens next week, the event has been designed partly by the organising team, and partly by those attending. As you’ll from the main site, and our networking space, there are already plenty of stories and conversation around. We’ll be using a whole range of methods to capture what happens on the two days.

I’m using pre-event interviews like this one with Tracey Todhunter to help her and others create a really good story: how social media can help communities share ideas on tackling climate change.

So what’s the most useful role for the social reporter on these different occasions?

I don’t think there’s much additional value in capturing Stuff. That can easily be published online as papers, slide shows, webcasts or podcasts. It doesn’t require much reporting skill.

On the other hand, I’ve found that most speakers are happy to provide a short video interview summarising their key points. This makes it easier for the reporter to turn Stuff into a Story if they ask sensible  questions, pull out some good quotes, and add some context for a blog post.

Capturing conversation is a bit more challenging. I’ve been using a Nokia 82 phone and Qik a lot for that, as you can see here with the Innovation Exchange and here at the Ruralnet Collaborate 2008 event.

I have found it much easier, holding a small phone, to say to people “that sounds interesting, would you mind if I captured some of what you are saying?” In some cases I’ve found it can add to the conversation, because people begin to tell stories to each other.

Good reporters have always found and developed stories that help people make sense of the world … and of course, bad reporters have just made up stories. How can social reporters help people have better conversations, and create the stories that they want to be part of?


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  • July 16, 2008 - 2:00 pm | Permalink

    Social reporter ideally must shun events/news that will be picked by mainstream media and must focus on news at the grassroots.
    Me and a few friends have come up with, an online platform that connects people/orgs who want help with those who would like to help.

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