Conference blogs and the conference blog

In my work with NECTAR, the University of Northampton’s research repository, I frequently encounter entries for presentations made at academic conferences by our staff and researchers. We encourage our contributors to add links to conference websites where possible, so I get to see a fair few of those and, as you might expect, some are better than others.

The best conference sites serve as a permanent record of the event. This isn’t always possible with the resources available, but it’s a shame to visit a site for a conference that took place a year ago and find that it still refers to the event in the future tense, with vague details of smaller contributions and a handful of selected abstracts. We wanted the LLS conference to have a comprehensive home on the web, a place where we could not only publicise and promote the day, but archive and reflect on it.

We’ve chosen a WordPress blog (you’re reading it), which lets the team create, upload and collaborate on content in a single, dedicated location. We’ve used the standard hosted blog option, which costs nothing and allows enough customisation for our needs. We’ve also stuck with the default Twenty Eleven theme (with a custom banner), and added a handful of stock widgets to pull in our Twitter feed, provide a countdown and post a few links. The limitations on free WordPress blogs don’t affect what we’re trying to achieve, but it’s easy to export our content to a custom install should we want to in the future.

Vital content such as the conference programme and presentation details (with author biographies and abstract PDFs) are created as static pages, while standard blog entries give us an opportunity to discuss and highlight aspects of the conference more informally – we’ve already met the team and looked at the roles of research in LLS, and we have more posts to come.

Rather than link each team member’s blog profile to our Twitter account I turned to one of my current favourite web tools, ifttt, and set up a recipe to post to Twitter when a new entry appears on our WordPress RSS feed. This isn’t the most sophisticated use of the service, but it did provide a fast fire-and-forget solution. When you can’t work out how to glue several parts of the internet together, or it looks like a lot of hard work, ifttt may well be the solution.

When the conference is over (and after we’ve recorded and reflected on the day) the blog site will stand as an archive – we’ll be encouraging our speakers to add their papers, presentations and posters to NECTAR as a permanent and official record but, as well as providing a broader overview of the event, we hope the blog will be an interesting insight into our methods and motivations, and a resource worth preserving.

Photo by BetterBizIdeas on Flickr (Creative Commons)


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