Questionable Question Tool

More conferences and lectures are engaging the use of a live online question tool (or live interview tool), enabling participants to post comments/questions and reply to other posts. While this is an amazing service that lets you be more interactive, I find it difficult to use the question tool in a live mode if the speaker is extremely interesting.

On the other hand, if the speaker loses my attention for more than thirty seconds, I find myself bored, out of patience, and heading for the question tool. There, I can easily divert my attention by “pseudo- Twittering” with other people in the audience. Many times, the discussion taking place on the live question tool is far more interesting than what the speaker is talking about.

No doubt the live question tool creates an alternative parallel forum that could easily foster quality discussion. The question that I have, however, is how to use that so that it is in good balance with the main speaker. As a speaker, would it be better not to have your audience’s attention 100% of the time? In cases where I found the speaker wholly engaging, the question tool became useless as a means of simultaneous dialog, only becoming an archive of side thoughts. And as the nature of the live question tool is very much like a multiple chatting session, it has a very short shelf life, which is a shame since many of the discussions are worth fleshing out over the long term. It is also a shame that when I am immersed in the speaker, I can only minimally participate through the question tool; and yet it is the text on the question tool that lives on, with no record of my output.

Of course, one could always have a moderator, who could manually “move” good sessions in the live question tool to a more permanent online forum; it would be nice if that could be automatically done, based on some sort of gauge such as user ratings, but then users sometimes place their ratings on funny, witty comments, not on the serious discussions.

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