Saturday, January 24, 2009

Defeated by fundamental economics

I had paid for my WiFi access in my hotel here in California. It was expensive and I didn’t want t do it but I figured I was in a hotel that catered to businesses so I expected that there’d be some extra fees for things that as a regular consumer I’d probably get for free – like the WiFi access in my room. I pressed that “I agree” button on the log in screen and committed myself to about $25 in fees for WiFi. (The cost was $12 and change for each day of access and I was staying for two days.)

I figured, hell, if I can live blog from my event, then it would be worth it for myself and for my company. Chances are, if you’re a tech reporter at a national conference you’ve had your woes with inadequate WiFi access in conference rooms because of poor design or a strain on the system by hundreds of others trying to blog, Twitter and email all at the same time some using multiple devices and others hogging up bandwidth streaming live video to boot. Me? I was at the national conference for my employer the ALS Association. We are a non-profit and as everyone knows, we have also felt the pain of the current economic downturn. Most of our employees are not Social Media people. They could care less about having WiFi in the conference room so that option was never taken by the organizers. But I thought, so what, I have my personally bought and paid for WiFi access so I’m safe.

That turned out not to be the case. I assumed, naively it turns out, that my room access would pervade throughout the hotel but the WiFi ironically does not reach all the way to the conference room, although a few steps outside of the door, I get a mostly full signal.

This was going to be my first live blogging/Twittering event. I wanted to push the limits of my communication strategy for my chapter to see if we could incorporate live, up-to-the-minute news on events for our patients, families and employees. See, many ALS patients are very hooked into their computers and on the Internet. They connect via Social Networks like Facebook, MySpace, a site called Patients Like Me and even Twitter. I thought I could start incorporating a live stream to our web presence to give these people the vital information they desire about the state of ALS research, patient services, advocacy and even our newest initiatives in fundraising to support our efforts.

Alas, I was defeated by a little thing called economics. I was forced to grab a pad of lined paper and one of those cheap free pens lying all over the place at these conferences and scribble my notes longhand. Don't get me wrong, I like taking notes. It's how I conduct all my interviews and meetings. I never take notes on my laptop but there was something special about reporting on our newest scientific research in stem cells that just begged to be put out by live blogging or through our Twitter account.

When I expressed my dissatisfaction about my predicament on Twitter, a follower of mine commented, “I hear you. Not surprising, tho. They make a killing in conference rms.” So unlike our patients who are conquered ever so slowly by the failure of their own motor neurons, I was conquered by a more pervasive nemesis: economics.


Fern Cohen said...

As one of those patients who is hooked into my twitter, facebook, myspace, etc, I hear your pain, Lon. I am anxious to hear about the conference myself.

ObilonKenobi said...

Thanks Fern. I am hugely disappointed that I couldn't live feed all the research and other info out. Sure, this time I may have an audience of one very important person (that's you) but in the future there may be hundreds of people looking to the website for this type of up to the minute info on not only our national conference but for those who can't or didn't get out there for our symposia and other events. Alas, they won this round, but I will not give up!