Posted by: Christine | April 16, 2012

Virtual Conference

This last weekend I attended the Guild of One-Name Studies Conference and AGM – all without leaving my computer. I had wanted to attend this three-day event but eventually decided that I couldn’t go. Imagine my delight when a few days before it was due to start I heard that the Guild was going to attempt a live broadcast of the event via their Internet channel at

The Guild has been very forward-looking and recently experimented with Google+ hangouts, which enabled members from around the world to get together and discuss how they run their one-name studies. Although from what I saw, it mainly consisted of a discussion about what equipment they were using! I expect it will settle down eventually.

So how was the live broadcast? I tried having a look on Friday evening when there were to be demonstrations of Google+ but nothing seemed to being shown. Logging in on Saturday I was able to watch the AGM. Since the camera was pointed just at the screen and lectern, anything happening outside this view was difficult to hear and we were unable to see the presentations of Awards. And of course I couldn’t vote on Resolutions. I then had to leave, to hang out some washing and do some shopping.

I was back in time to catch the end of Richard Heaton’s talk about “Data collection: Newspaper Sites.” There were problems with Peter Christian’s talk on “The One-Namer’s Internet”, so I gave up and returned at 2.30 for a talk on “Surname distributions and the hearth tax returns”. This talk, by David Hey, was very interesting and I was really getting into it, when the feed started breaking up. I tried to stick with it but had to give up. The final talk of the day, about Custodian 2 and 3 was not broadcast at all.

At this point I should mention the fact that alongside the video feed, there was a chat room, so those of us watching online could send messages and discuss what was going on – very useful to know that when the picture failed, everyone else was getting the same, so it was not problems at my end. On the Saturday afternoon there were around 50 people watching, which I think was the limit and we thought we were to blame for the problems.

My feelings by the end of Saturday were of mild frustration. The sound was variable and it was difficult to see the slides on the screen, quite apart from the interruptions. But I decided to stick with it and gave it another try on Sunday.

Some things had improved – the screen was a bit easier to read – there was some argument between the hall and the online viewers as to whether lights should be on or off. The first talk at 10.30 was Teresa Pask on “Publishing Your Study: Seven Ways to Publish on the Web” and everything ran smoothly. For me this was the most interesting talk, covering Blogs, Websites, Facebook etc, even covering publishing books online. It gave me a lot to think about. I really must set up a Madder one-Name Facebook page – I already have a personal page and one for Rugby Family History Group – can I cope with another? As for publishing books, as Teresa said, the most difficult part is writing them.

This talk was followed my one about organising a Family Gathering by Colin Ulph. Interesting, but not something I’ll be doing – not in the near future anyway! There was then a break for lunch, but I was back in front of the computer at 1.30. What followed was about 15 minutes of confusion. The slide on the screen was announcing the afternoon’s second talk, people were moving around and there was a lot of noise, but the online group, which during the day numbered about 30, was in the dark about what was happening.

Eventually we were told that the lunch queues at the hotel had been very long and there was a delay. Finally the next speaker got his title on the screen. This was Bruce Margrett talking about Writing a One-Name Journal. A very entertaining talk, the only one without a slide show. Perhaps the projector should have been turned off, as, standing in front of the screen, Bruce had a rather distracting pattern superimposed on him. At points during this talk there were occasional breaks in the broadcast. Since it was about the same time as the problems the previous day, we decided it was something to do with the hotel. I don’t know if anything was done but things improved again, without spoiling the talk too much.

The final talk was a double act, Janet Few and Chris Braund, talking about their Braund Society “Thirty years on and still a One-Name Society”. A fascinating look at how their Society has developed over the years and looking into how it might develop in the future. A very thought provoking point on which to finish the Conference.

So – how was it for me? And how did it compare with being there?

I haven’t actually attended a Guild Conference, but I have been to Seminars. I didn’t miss the travelling – it was nice to get up from my computer at the end and go and get on with some of the jobs I should have been doing, instead of having a long drive home.

 I could have attended, but there were several people watching from other countries, who would have had no chance of attending.

Obviously I missed out on the meals and meeting other members in person – I think there was a banquet on Saturday night – and all the networking that goes on at these events. And I heard a mention of the Book Stall – perhaps I saved some money there!

As for the actual Broadcast, considering it was a very last minute arrangement, I thought it was amazing. It took you right into the event and enabled you to watch some useful talks.

Could it be improved?

Obviously the Internet connection was not reliable, but the venue had not been chosen with that in mind.

A less restricted view would be nice. I didn’t realise till I looked at the pictures (which can be seen here ) that the audience was sitting at tables with white tablecloths – I imagined them on lines of chairs. And we missed everything that was “off camera”. So perhaps a couple of viewpoints – one of the talk and one of the Hall.

The main problem was seeing the slides on the screen. Perhaps in future the projector could be connected to the feed – but I’m not sure if that is practical or not.

Finally more contact with the one-line viewers. There were times when we were left not knowing what was going on. At one point after Teresa Pask’s talk, a book was held up in front of the camera for us to see, which was useful.

In conclusion, it was a fantastic experience, and I look forward to future broadcasts. However, a warning. If everyone starts following these events online, will they stop going to the events, leaving nothing to film? I hope not, because it will always be better to be there in person – but at least those who cannot, for various reasons, attend “in the flesh” can now be there virtually.

The whole daily broadcasts are now available on YouTube and details can be found on the Guild website here.


  1. […] regular readers of this blog might remember that this time last year I wrote about my experience trying to watch the Guild of One-Name Studies Conference on-line. This year I […]

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