I'm LiveBlogging This RIGHT NOW

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January 06, 2009

Liveblogging may very well be the future of traditional news media and blogging. Now you can stream information live on the internet and Twitter while an event is happening using nothing more than your laptop and free LiveBlogging software.

People have been doing it on a widespread basis for the past year, thanks to a plethora of free LiveBlogging tools that have sprung up almost overnight.

Whether you are a business striving to build a name and reputation in your industry or you are a web designer or web dev pro building a reputation, you need to be aware of Liveblogging and the tools used to conduct it.

We have moved from the "I'm blogging this" world to the "I'm Liveblogging this" world very quickly. People are no longer satisfied with hearing news after it has happened - they want access to news while it is happening.

If you don't want to commit to sitting at a conference or a lecture typing out what the speaker is saying verbatim, you can opt instead to do Twitter updates that you can send out to any Twitter users that you care to enter into your LiveBlog software package. This gives you the opportunity to get your feet wet with Liveblogging.

Do I Have to Liveblog?

Liveblogging is a great way to build up a following and to network. Invite fellow professionals who you will be attending a conference with to Liveblog with you, thus forging an immediate network and possibly making some good friends along the way as well. We don't recommend Liveblogging a day at the office, but a day that your company spends at a trade show or a Liveblog of an industry conference are great ways to show people you are immersed and interested in your industry. By the time you've checked out any LiveBlogging software you'll probably want to go to a trade show or event just so you can liveblog it.

How Will LiveBlogging Change Blogging?

A Liveblog of an event will get more hits the day of the event than any other time. Let's face it, we are a society of instant media gratification junkies and this provides an instant fix. Liveblogging won't replace traditional blogging, but it may encourage it to become lengthier and meatier than it has been in the past. Instead of offering just the quick breakdown that the Liveblog offers, bloggers will have to inject more qualified statistics and observations in their post-event content to make people want to read their posts in addition to the Liveblog coverage.

My first exposure to LiveBlogging came from Stephen Del Percio, an environmental real estate lawyer who runs his own blog at greenbuildingsnyc.com. Stephen LiveBlogged GreenBuild, an environmentally friendly building conference. What I found interesting about his LiveBlog is that I kept receiving his updates real time through my Twitter feed, which was both interesting and exciting. It made me feel like I was at an event that I would have loved to have gone to. I asked him how he was doing it and he responded with a url: www.coveritlive.com.

Cover It Live

While there are a number of Liveblogging platforms out there, Cover It Live is one of the best known and most widely used. It is also completely free. Their rationale is that they are live testing the platform before they start charging for the service. Cover It Live is far from a beta, although those at 2008's MacWorld conference would probably beg to differ. Despite this somewhat epic fail, the Cover It Live service has worked reliably for other news outlets and bloggers quite well. Readers can post comments and questions in real time on your LiveBlog, making it a truly interactive experience.

Signing up for Cover It Live is just like signing up for any online service. Once you've entered your details, you'll get a box like below giving you the code to cut and paste to put in your site. You can see that we've checked the Wordpress code, which simply gives you a link instead of an iframe. Note the huge warning at the top of the screen that you can only use Firefox 2.0 plus or Internet Explorer 6.0 plus to use Cover It Live; any browser may be used to view your Liveblog but Safari users must sadly switch.

The Additional Options box below the code gives you some interesting things to do. You can add Twitter users, although this is a tedious process of going in and adding a bunch of Twitter user names. Here's hoping in the next version you can just put in your user name and it will automatically just import all of your followers. This will mean that all of your liveblogging will go out to your Twitter users as tweets, something to keep in mind when you are actually liveblogging - try to make sure some of your transmissions are under 140 characters to keep it interesting for them - if not don't worry about it, as they can just go to your live blog to read it if they want more.

You can also e-mail your readers, enter the address of the Liveblog, and get the code for a "Coming Soon" reminder to add to your site. All very cool stuff.

Launch Your Live Blog

The interface is extremely fluid and easy to use. It has the feel of a more advanced instant messaging client. You can go from inserting emoticons to streaming video and audio alongside your liveblog. This is how it looks to you:

This is how it looks to the world:

If you want to customize the Live Blog window, you can do so in the "Custom Templates" menu that you access from your Account area. You simply sign in, go to "My Account" and then click on "My Viewer Window". This will then give you a few options, including uploading a background image (which must be 380 pixels by 150 pixels).

If you are embedding the code in Wordpress, it simply gives you a link to a popup window rather than a window that embeds the Liveblog on your site.

If I were using Cover It Live on a Wordpress site, I would take a screenshot of the Live Blog and include a thumbnail image in the link in order to make it more attractive. If you are installing it in a website, use of an Iframe makes it more accessible and readable within the site itself without needing to click on a link as you have to in a Wordpress blog. If you are planning on making extensive use of Liveblogging, you may want to consider the addition of a static page specifically for your Live blogs in order to incorporate the iframe.


One of the more exciting features of Cover It Live is the ability to have multiple citizen journalists, or Panelists in the Cover It Live world. ou can all contribute to the same LiveBlog without risk of anything crashing. This allows you to function as a team, with some people hopefully adding content that others may miss. For any events that are happening live, such as the US election, this is an excellent tool to have a live conversation about an event among people in different geographic locations.

Tools & Settings

The Tools menu covers some basic items, such as getting embed code in order to embed your LiveBlog in a website or blog. It also features the important Live Edit, which lets you go back and edit items live that you feel that you made mistakes on. You can also view reader statistics in real time, which can be encouraging or discouraging depending on who shows up. You can also invite more readers via e-mail, although you probably want to do this in advance of the event.

The Settings menu allows you to show and edit both your Panelists and Twitter users. In both cases, you are best advised to set these up before you start, but the options are there for you to add them on the fly if you need to. You can also disable reader comments, something to consider if you want the entire LiveBlog to be about what you are writing instead of having attention drawn away to the comments of readers.

Media Library & Video

The Media Library is a very powerful tool that allows you to add multimedia to your live blog. You can insert ads on the fly, links to other sites, and create polls. You can also insert text that you have prewritten and post video and audio within your live blog. ShowPrep is a feature within the media library that allows you to create a playlist for your media prior to your Live blog and it functions much like iTunes. While the media library allows you to organize your multimedia, ShowPrep allows you to further organize it by allowing you to organize your media in advance of your presentation. Keep in mind when uploading images that you are limited to a size of 25 mb per image.

You can post both live video and video that you find on YouTube. In order to incorporate live video, you need to use one of three services; USstreamTV, Mogulus, or Qik. This will allow you to live stream an event that you are attending, if you have received the proper permissions from the people holding the event to do so. When you drop the video link into your live blog, your users will see a small window that they can move around and resize however they wish.

How to Liveblog Effectively

Now that you understand how to use everything and have booked yourself in at a conference or event, lets go over the ins and outs of Liveblogging:

Ensure Internet access
If you are working a trade show or attending a presentation in a cavernous building, you may actually not have wireless internet access. Contact the event staff in advance to arrange for proper internet access in order to stave off disaster - it really isn't a Live blog if you're not, well, blogging live. If disaster strikes, call a friend and have them put up a notice that you are experiencing difficulties on your Live blog.

Scheduling most popular events
Arrange your time at the event so that you are blogging presentations that you know will be popular. At a Search Engine Marketing event, more people are going to want to hear Matt Cutts from Google speak than Joe Schmoe from Klamath, Oregon no matter what the subject is. Treat the event like it is a collection of websites and go to the presentations that you have mentally assigned the highest Pagerank to. Then publicize the events that you will be Liveblogging on your company website or blog.

Promote it
Notify the event organizers and see if they will put up a link to your Liveblog from their website, unless you are attending something like MacWorld where LiveBloggers are a dime a dozen. If there are a number of you, spread out and try to cover all of the events and presentations - don't all blog one event or speaker. Use your numbers to cover more, not jaw about the same presentation together online.

Use images
Pictures are a great adjunct to your Liveblog. Clear the use of digital cameras and recording devices with event staff beforehand. If you can record live video or audio, that would be ideal. Don't use live video or audio as a substitute, but post it alongside your Liveblog. You can go back afterwards and cut out the more interesting bits to post on your website later. This will also cement you as a professional in the eyes of anyone viewing your Liveblog.

Follow up
Don't forget to go back over your Liveblog later and use it as research material to put together more cohesive blog posts for your website. It can be argued that a Liveblog may at the very least have a place as a research tool if you aren't comfortable in broadcasting the results online quite yet. As with everything, there's no time like the present to try it out.

The most important thing is to not be afraid to make a mistake. Most platforms feature a live edit feature, including Cover it Live. If you misspell something or get something a speaker said wrong, don't sweat it - just edit it and move on. Once you step into the world of liveblogging, you probably wont' be able to go back.

Written exclusively for WDD by Angela West and edited by WDD.

Have you tried liveblogging an event? Do you think this is a tool that you will use? Please have your say below...

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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