Cameron goes direct

The Tories‘ latest engagement initiative, Cameron Direct takes its ‘town hall meeting’ roadshow to a Plymouth primary school tonight. The event will be broadcast live, and then ‘on demand’, in video via the UK-based It also looks like they’ll be liveblogging the event through, guess what, CoverItLive. I’m not entirely sure it’s worth doing both, unless they’re planning on involving the liveblog-watchers in the proceedings somehow..? Proceedings start at 6.30pm, and should be done in time for kick-off in tonight’s football.
Here’s the recording of last week’s event in Truro. Whether you like Cameron or not, you have to admit he’s very good at this sort of thing.

CoverItLive adds branding options

Hosted live-blogging service CoverItLive, by far the best way to liveblog, always came with a catch. You could set it up, and drop it into your website, in minutes… but it was very obviously a rather crude embedding of ‘someone else’s service’. Their logo, their font, not yours. But not any more.
Effective today, there’s an option on the CoverItLive admin interface for ‘My Viewer Window’, allowing you to create your own presentation style by uploading your own logos, resizing the window to fit your design, and selecting one of the web’s ‘usual suspects’ fonts. The images must be a specific pixel size, which isn’t actually a bad thing in my book… and must be GIF, JPG, PNG or (intriguingly!) Flash. There’s still a small ‘powered by CoverItLive’ message in the corner, but hey – give them a break!
The ‘main image’ is effectively a ‘splash screen’, for when the liveblogging isn’t ‘on’ – so you probably don’t need to worry too much about it, frankly. (Maybe do a cute ‘please wait’ message or something?) The ‘secondary image’ appears at the bottom of the iframe, and sits on top of a grey strip with a background image applied. To make it look most natural, I’d suggest you use a transparent 24-bit PNG: that should sit beautifully and seamlessly on top.
I’m talking to a couple of clients who are excited by the possibilities of live-blogging. I wholeheartedly recommended CoverItLive as the solution, but with a (single) caveat about the lack of visual integration with the client site. That problem has gone away overnight. The CoverItLive guys are doing everything you could ask of them, and they entirely deserve their top spot in this emerging field.

Liveblogging alternatives

With Twitter continuing to struggle with the basics, web-based liveblogging continues to march ahead, with news of several new apps out there. But whether they will rival the current (clear) leader, CoverItLive, remains to be seen.
ScribbleLive is interesting from the very start: yes, you have to log in… but using existing logins from services like Facebook, Windows Live / Hotmail or (apparently) OpenID. Makes a huge amount of sense for a tiny startup to outsource one of the major annoyances to these big players: top marks already.
But whereas CoverItLive feels like a hosted broadcast event, ScribbleLive feels more like a conventional blog with instant commenting enabled (and yes, I mean ‘instant’). There’s no sense of ownership; it looks like everyone can edit/delete anyone’s entries. You can upload images into the comment stream, and even reference YouTube clips (with URLs automatically converted to embedded video… nice). You can email comments and pictures in, which is cool. he catch? – it all takes place on ScribbleLive’s site, with no easy ’embedding’ options as yet.
Writing in the comments on TechCrunch, co-founder Michael Monte describes it in terms of chat amongst friends. ‘You go to a concert or a conference, and you want to invite your colleges to contribute to the event or the last episode of Lost is on and you and your friends what to discuss as the plot unfolds.’ And whilst that’s fair enough, it doesn’t (currently) amount to much more than Instant Messaging on the web.
Backnoise has even fewer strings attached. There’s no sign-in whatsoever: you just need to know the name of the ‘chat’, and you’re there. All updates are posted anonymously, with input windows refreshing on a timer: no Ajax here yet. There’s a basic ’embed’ option, using IFRAMEs. But most remarkably, there’s a ‘wipe it and start afresh’ button (labelled ‘buzzkill’) available to every user?! One for the anarchists, I’d say.
And yes, inevitably, there’s talk of a WordPress-based solution. Currently in development, wpliveblog promises a ‘similar feature set to ScribbleLive’: and on reflection, it’s easy to see how that might work. WordPress has several levels of user rights, allowing one person (or several) to be designated as the lead blogger and/or comment moderator, with a few selected ‘guest panellists’ given lower-level rights to bypass moderation. I guess you’d use a similar technique to a plugin like Official Comments to apply a different presentational (CSS) style to ‘hosts’ comments’ and ‘contributions from the floor’. The normal WordPress admin interface might be slick enough to manage it already.
If I was liveblogging something in the near future, I see no reason not to use CoverItLive. But the competition is heating up, and there’s unquestionable appeal in a WordPress plugin. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action.

Sky News covers threesome live

There’s no stopping CoverItLive, the specialised live-blogging app. It’s becoming a regular feature on some of the leading political blogs… and now the Sky News website has arrived at the CIL party, carrying a live three-way interview (you can’t really call it a ‘chat’) with the leading candidates in the Crewe & Nantwich by-election this morning.
They’ve used it as a pseudo-chat application, which (as I’ve said before) isn’t its optimal use case. It’s a live blogging tool, intended for one individual to post rapid-fire comments, with occasional contributions from readers. Yes, you can use the same functions to deliver a moderated chat function, but that’s really not the point. To be honest, reading back through the chat transcript, it’s really quite hard to follow without the strong leadership of an active moderator/host.
Still, it’s quite interesting to see the very different approaches to the live chat medium. Lengthy contributions from an eager LibDem candidate, occasionally too eager on the copy-and-paste a few times; mind you, host Martin Stanford did the same a few times. Snappy – almost too snappy? – answers from Labour’s Dunwoody Jr. And (it must be said) very rare contributions from the Tory, who appears to have arrived late.
PS: I’m just sorry they didn’t invite the Monster Raving Loony candidate, The Flying Brick (?) to participate. My favourite from the list of policies on his website: ‘I will introduce piranha to the river Weaver, this will make fishing a spectator sport. Tourism would be increased tenfold and jobs increased in the Leighton Hospital. I propose a new, world leading, ward opened specialising in fish bites.’

More Gov live blogging

There’s no doubt what the hot trend in blogging is: real time, thanks largely (or perhaps solely?) to the superb CoverItLive application/service. And following the apparent success of the Progressive Governance Summit last month, we’ll be seeing another e-government example today.
More than 80 MDs, CEOs, chairmen and Presidents from big-name global companies, plus a few heads of government (including our own) and various other dignitaries are attending ‘Business Call To Action’ – a London conference, backed by the UK government and UN Development Programme, to talk about what business can do to reduce poverty in the developing world, and get the Millennium Development Goals back on track. It’s quite an illustrious guest list, even if it’s only published in PDF.
The web component isn’t Downing Street-branded, but it’s being managed by the Downing Street team, with some Puffbox assistance (although most of the work has been handled by someone else). The plan is to run another liveblog of the proceedings, again using CoverItLive… plus a bit of video, and Flickr/Twitter mashing if schedules allow.
On my last post on the subject, Paul Canning queried the value of liveblogging, in the context of election coverage… and I take his point, in that context. But for something like this, it can provide an excellent channel for colour commentary, or even ‘context sensitive links’: when we did the ProGov event, people were contributing URLs providing additional background on the points being raised, for people who didn’t know the subjects. (Like, for example, me.)

Liveblogging the election results

Interesting to note some of the attempts to ‘live blog’ the election results last week – with Guido Fawkes, Slugger O’Toole and ConservativeHome all using CoverItLive‘s fantastic liveblogging ‘app’. Needless to say, there’s significant variation in the tone of each site’s usage.
Of course, it’s ironic to note both having a pop at Gordon Brown’s leadership when, dare I mention it, it was a Downing Street website – produced by yours truly – which first brought this technology to the attention of the UK political scene.
Now Iain Dale’s gone a bit CoverItLive-crazy, using it as an ad-hoc chatroom facility. It’s not really what it was intended for, and it’s probably quite hard work for Iain and colleague Shane Greer to moderate, but it does the job I suppose. They’re making good use of the popup polling mechanism, it must be said.
Correction: It took a heck of a lot of digging to find it, but I discover that ConservativeHome did use the CoverItLive tool back in January. My apologies; a straightforward Google search didn’t reveal it. I’m grateful to Guido for the advice to the contrary.