How Fared the EcoChat

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March 11, 2010 at 6:03 pm

Alicia Ontiveros hosts a Monday night (8 p.m.) chat on ecology called, appropriately, EcoChat (www.ecochicago.blogspot.com). For her inaugural show using a chat/video conference tool called Vokle, she invited Jim Slama, of FamilyFarmed.org to speak about the conference (taking place today, tomorrow and Saturday), as well as other farmers (conventional and otherwise) and an audience of chatters who were largely polite, despite the fact that there was a mix of gung-ho big Agra representatives as well as slow foodies and organic food fans.

My role was to help moderate the chat, although there was little for me to do. I approved a few questions and tried rallying the audience into asking more. Unfortunately, I think we were bedeviled with technical issues. We lost Jim 20 minutes into the program and Alicia was unable to bring him back. Another speaker was unable to get her video working, although her audio was fine. And the chat room, well, was as chaotic as a chat room can be. Although there was no swearing, slamming or scamming going on, there were a couple civil conversations transpiring on top of one another, making it extremely difficult to follow the thread of any single line of reasoning.

It was terrific having so many experts and interested parties in the same virtual room talking about organic vs. conventional farming in a polite, rational manner. I think once the computer/networking kinks are worked out it’s going to be an even better show. I found myself wishing there was a chat room tool that allowed a person or two (or three) to maybe color code their conversation so that if their sentences were interrupted by 10 other people talking about something else, it would still be easy to follow their dialog visually.

What I was most pleased about was the fact that the entire conversation was calm and cordial. Although there were several strong advocates for “factory farming” techniques in the crowd, those who disagreed with them did not do so in an angry manner, and there was no contempt apparent from either side against the other.

I wish Alicia all the best in this new venture and look forward to following many more EcoChats in the future.

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One Comment

  1. Great to hear your feedback in more detail, Brad. I spoke to Vokle about the color-coding idea and they said they are working on a way to make individual conversations in the chat more distinguishable- but it won’t involve color-coding. I’m excited to see what they will debut. It will probably take several months before it’s functional, though. Our next show will be dedicated to Earth Hour on March 22 at 8PM CT. Hope to see you there!

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