The rather contentious result of my live-blogging of the Biology of Genomes meeting last month made it very clear to me that the scientific community needs to do a better job of communicating in advance whether a presentation is off-limits to audience live-bloggers. I’ve since been involved in a number of discussions about this issue both on- and off-line.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (the host of the Biology of Genomes meeting) has clarified its own position
, stating that potential live-bloggers (or tweeters) need to explicitly seek permission from speakers before writing about their presentations. This fits with CSHL’s policy of encouraging the presentation of unpublished data by preventing unauthorised reporting of results, but it puts potential bloggers in an awkward position: it’s not always clear in advance which talks will be interesting enough to discuss online, and finding speakers before their presentation to ask them for permission can be both logistically challenging and socially awkward (especially in the cases where it requires explaining to the presenter what this “blogging” business is all about).
Far better would be a situation where presenters stated in writing whether they were happy for their work to be live-blogged in an official format: ideally, stating a preference would be part of the registration process for all attendees, and every entry in the conference abstract book (whether presentation or poster) would indicate explicitly whether the presenter was happy for their results to be freely discussed online. I hope that any conference organisers reading this consider setting up something along these lines for their next meeting.
In the interim, it strikes me that there is room for a more individual approach for speakers who are happy to have their work live-blogged: some sort of standard icon that could be added to a title slide or the corner of a poster, quietly indicating that the presented data is “blog-safe” – i.e. can be blogged/tweeted freely. Such an icon would obviously only be used by the small sub-set of researchers web-savvy enough to know about it, but it might nonetheless help to raise awareness of the issue among the broader scientific community.
The question is, what icon can we use?
I’ve put this question forward on Friendfeed and Twitter to get some initial suggestions and hopefully get the ball rolling. If anyone has other suggestions for icons (or even the graphic design skills to create their own), or arguments for which icon they prefer please add them in the comments below.
The suggestions so far are:
3. Two variations on the “wi fi” theme. Firstly, this image
(suggested by Nash
I personally like the last two the best so far; they come closest to capturing the message in an intuitive way, although they’re still not quite perfect. There’s also the question of whether any icon should incorporate words explicitly spelling out its purpose (e.g. Blog Safe). Any further comments/suggestions?
It would also be interesting to think about whether it would be feasible for presenters to seal off specific sections of their presentations (e.g. gene names) while still making it clear that the remainder of their talk is freely bloggable.
I also have some thoughts on the creation of a sort of generic and voluntary code of conduct for conference live-bloggers that conferences could cut and paste into the registration process, but I’ll save that for a separate post.