This weekend the Urban Explorers festival is organized in the city of Dordrecht, Netherlands. It’s a three day city-festival about art and electronic music. The main acts for this year are by Plaid and Murcof. It’s a small festival with a very good atmosphere and lovely people.
Eclectro is a festival partner and we (a few Eclectro bloggers) will be covering the event on the Eclectro blog by writing reviews, doing interviews, making photos and videos as the festival happens. And we have some other exiting plans.
This is great, but not something we haven’t done before. We report while we are there. This time we want to take it a step further and make the coverage more personal. Urban Explorers is a small, diverse and very distributed festival. This makes it difficult to ask or explain visitors to contribute to the live coverage by using a mobile phone. This year we will try to make visible how we experience the festival.
Making it personal
For me Twitter was the first service that made the web more interesting as a live medium. Blogs are good for a recap, but microblogs can really give you a better live experience and it’s a more social and more personal experience. There often isn’t much value in the individual messages it’s the collection that builds a story and a character.
So this is what we want to do for the festival as well. We will also be reporting about where we are, packing my bag, how we sleep, what we are doing, what we are eating and who we are talking to. Short talks, photos and video interviews. All the small pieces of information aggregated in one spot.
The problem with building aggregators is that it often ends up in something that is difficult to follow for outsiders or people unfamiliar with the technology. We (Inge, Renier and myself) try to make it personal. And this weekend I’ve been making a website that just does that. I used WordPress Prologue, a theme that is based on Twitter and took out even more options like tags and feeds to make it look clean and simple.
The Eclectro Urban Explorers 2008 festival microblog: www.eclectro.nl/live
The secret is in the back-end
The power of WordPress is that is has a xmlrpc back-end. This is a secure gate that makes it possible for other websites like YouTube or Flickr to talk directly to WordPress, like you wrote the message on the blog. Ad some extra open source plug-ins to WordPress and you have an incredible powerful system that is an aggregated channel centralizing information from distributed web-services.
Post from Flickr to a WordPress blog
Or from YouTube to a WordPress blog
Or record a Seesmic video in your WordPress blog
Last weekend I first played with Seesmic and I really like what it does. The videoplayer could use some enhancement, but the WordPress plug-in is a bless. You enter the WordPress admin section, click on the Seesmic logo in a new post and can directly start recording a video using your webcam. When done, all you have to do is hit publish in WordPress and you have just written a new blog post including a video.
Keep it simple
We can easily post to the website using mobile phones, laptops, webcams and websites like Flickr, YouTube, Mobypicture, Twitter, and Seesmic. Everything is automatically collected on the microblog and connected to our user accounts, connecting our names and avatars to the messages published.
Authors see an orange box on the front page, this makes it easy to directly write a message when visiting the website.
Will it work?
All these enhancements make it easy to read for visitors and easy to maintain for us while we are busy at the festival. We have a few more days to finish it, but I think we made a great tool. This weekend we will see if it works.
I’m very exited to play with this.
You can join the festival coverage as well. Use UE08 in your Twitter updates and they will show up in the stream, or post an image to Flickr with the tag UE08 and it will automatically show up in the header of the website.
Your ideas and thoughts are very welcome. How can we make it more personal or more clear? What would you like to see or what is difficult to understand? And do you know other great (web)services that could be integrated?