Community coverage at WWW2003

by Edd Dumbill

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This week I'm going to be reporting from the WWW2003 conference in Hungary -- as will a large number of other delegates, thanks to the increasing popularity of virtual backchannels at conferences.

Love it or hate it, the presence of 802.11b internet access has changed the way delegates consume technical conferences.
The WWW series of conferences was one of the first to provide wireless internet access. Last year in Hawaii quite a few delegates gathered on IRC to comment on and report the talks they attended, and at this year's Emerging Technologies conference we saw this trend accelerated.

By and large, I found this sort of commentary helpful. Links to subjects related to the talk can be shared in real time. Furthermore, the problems of a schedule clash were mitigated somewhat by being able to consume others' notes on the session.

The W3C RDF Interest Group has long used an IRC channel and weblogging bot (the Chump) to record notes and commentary. It's proved a useful tool for simple annotation and information sharing. So for WWW2003 this year, together with Dave Beckett, I've set up a chump weblogging bot and chat logs on a special IRC channel dedicated to conference coverage.

The site is at, and contains instructions as to how delegates can join in the community note-taking on IRC. It's my hope that the channel will provide a central point where those that are writing can drop off the URL of their articles or blog entries, so others can share.

If you're attending the conference, I hope to see you there. If not, try not to be too jealous of our café lifestyle by the Danube, and satisfy yourself with the community coverage!

Is a virtual backchannel good or bad for conference-goers?