Despite being personally responsible for the big news story to come out of David Miliband’s trip to No10 yesterday, I’ve never really been a big fan of ‘live webchats’. There’s an undeniable buzz at realising that your question held the attention of Mr or Mrs Celebrity, if only for a few brief moments. And I have fond recollections of the first live (telnet) chat I ever took part in, back in 1995 I think, during which I asked Sex Pistols svengali Malcolm MacLaren if he thought Britain was obsessed with its past (and he did). But there’s a problem.
I don’t often think you get more by watching the responses being typed live, compared to reading the transcript later. So how do you make it an exciting live event? A couple of quick ideas… Webcam-style imagery, either stills or video. If the celebrity is there, let’s see him/her. Or how about taking a lead from Digg, and allowing the users to drive the selection of the next question?
Disappointingly, I doubt either will ever happen. In reality, the celebs want to control what they’re asked. And for many, perhaps a majority, there will be an intermediary typing the answers – and quite probably giving the answers too. The truth is, a live webchat is generally neither truly a chat, nor truly live. (Although for what it’s worth, I hear Miliband is a notable exception on both counts.)