Many conferences have wifi for the audience these days. People blog the conferences or chat during the conferences. There is definitely a back channel and a lot of people who track conferences online. At a recent conference in Helsinki, Kevin Marks, who was in California, wrote a limerick heckling Tom Coates on IRC. The difficulty is feeding some of the good stuff back to the speakers. This is where HeckleBot comes in. HeckleBot is an IRC bot that sits in the IRC channel for a conference. You give it commands like "?heckle Stop pointificating!" on IRC. The bot talks to a linux box connected to an LED display facing the speakers. The LED displays the message to the speakers. This way, the speakers can get immediate feedback from the audience as well people watching a video stream or reading people blogging the event.

I promise to try to get the HeckleBot set up at as many conferences I attend if people will help me build it. There are some links to the various pieces on the wiki page about HeckleBot. Please sign up or contribute on the Wiki.

3 Comments

Oh, boy. New contest for conferences: Make the Speaker giggle. Awards for quickest giggle, loudest guffaw, and absolutely demolishing any chance of finishing a presentation.

Interesting idea, but I think it would have to be filtered pretty well to be useful.

Most speakers need to concentrate on giving a good presentation rather than on continuous feedback.

It would probably be most useful if it simply showed up a list of the top questions or the most difficult things to understand for the audience...

I think you should turn off the Hecklebot until the scheduled conclusion of the speaker's time. Let the speaker concentrate on presenting instead of responding but let the audience participate in the flow at the scheduled time. Otherwise you risk replicating the British House of Commons during every tech conference and what's the benefit in that?

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Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: HeckleBot - A project to support heckling at conferences.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://joi.ito.com/MT-4.35-en/mt-tb.cgi/851

IRC heckling meets the real world from Emergent Report: The Emerging Technology Weblog
July 17, 2003 2:56 PM

Joi Ito asked for an IRC bot that would allow people on IRC to heckle speakers and the audience at a conference, and David Beckemeyer went and built one: "IRC users on the channel with the bot can cause a message to appear on the LED sign, showing the ... Read More

Some readers who ought to have something better to do with their time may remember that last spring, when Ben and Mena Trott visited Seabury, I served as a medium for the inquiring spirit of Liz Lawley — a sort of animated Joi Ito-hecklebot avant... Read More

My mind is ablaze with uses for the new Mac Mini. After some calculations, I've decided I will need about 100 million. Beowulf cluster. Beowulf cluster. Beowulf cluster. Remember those things they used to put in the road, the rocks,... Read More

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