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Panel Session 2.0

2:00 PM -- This was interesting: At the Parks Associates Connections conference, panel sessions accepted questions via text or Web (or, yes, Twitter). The results got shown on the presentation screen at the front of the room:

It sounded like just a gimmick at first, but it had its usefulness. The questions piled up quickly without anybody having to interrupt the current question. The moderator, Parks analyst Jaysant Dasari in this case, could pick and choose topics.

While he didn't get to most of the questions, the concept seemed to work. Attendees even answered each other's questions, in cases where the answers were simple. And Dasari said at the end that he'd be posting the unanswered questions to the Web, with answers provided by Parks analysts or, in a few cases, the panelists.

As the panel wore on, all sorts of possible complications came to mind. The screen filled quickly, pushing questions off the bottom -- meaning this wouldn't work at a large venue like a Supercomm keynote.

Nor could you do it at a fanboy show like CES or E3, where you'd get questions like "LOL you guyz suck!!!" And in any case, you run the risk of one impatient guy asking a question over and over. (Dasari did tell us we were welcome to use the old-fashioned method of raising one's hand and yelling. No one took him up on it.)

The interface also lets the audience virtually boo the proceedings. This arose at a session called "TV 2.0," but when discussion bogged down on the subject of transcoding, someone posted a comment that it felt more like "TV 1.1."

I'm not sold, but I give Parks a lot of credit for trying out this idea. For this audience numbering around 70, it seemed appropriate, but there was still the danger of the audience paying more attention to each other's comments than to the panel. Nice idea on paper, letting the audience take over the discussion, but given that panelists often pay to sit up there, I'm not sure the in-conference Twitter stream has a long life ahead of it.

[For a different take on this gimmick, check this recent Internet Evolution Editor's Blog.]

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

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