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Seth Zenz | Imperial College London | UK

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How Can We Hangout Better?

Yesterday we had one of our regular Hangouts with CERN, live from ICHEP, at which we took questions from around the Internet and updated everyone on the latest results, live here at the ICEHP 2014 conference. You can see a replay here:

I sent it to my wife, like I usually do. (“Look, I’m on ‘TV’ again!”) And she told me something interesting: she didn’t really get too much out of it. As we discussed it, it became clear that that was because we really did try to give the latest news on different analyses from ICHEP. Although we (hopefully) kept the level of the discussion general, the importance of the different things we look for would be tough to follow unless you keep up with particle physics regularly. We do tend to get more viewers and more enthusiasm when the message is more general, and a lot of the questions we get are quite general as well. Sometimes it seems like we get “Do extra dimensions really exist?” almost every time we have a hangout. We don’t want to answer that every time!

So the question is: how do we provide you with an engaging discussion while also covering new ground? We want people who watch every hangout to learn something new, but people who haven’t probably would prefer to hear the most exciting and general stuff. The best answer I can come up with is that every hangout should have a balance of the basics with a few new details. But then, part of the fun of the hangouts is that they’re unscripted and have specialist guests who can report directly on what they’ve been doing, so we actually can’t balance anything too carefully.

So are we doing the best we can with a tough but interesting format? Should we organize our discussions and the questions we choose differently? Your suggestions are appreciated!


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  • doubledodge

    Actually I wanted to hear the comments about the possible anomalies in WW production and what you all thought it might mean – however the sound was so bad I couldn’t even tell if this was discussed.

    I think you would get a bigger audience if you sorted out good microphones for the commentators and gave them a little instruction in how to speak into them. The background noise may make for dramatic effect but it ruins the content. I suspect the group around the laptop were just using the laptops built in microphone – not good! At least if you got them to plug in a mike then that could be passed around rather than expecting people to lean over the laptop.

    However full marks for trying and getting such a potentially interesting bunch of experts to participate. I just wish we could have heard them!

  • Ver Greeneyes

    I think you’re always going to have to strike a balance between providing specific information and appealing to the widest possible audience. If you know you’re going to get a fair amount of viewers, you should probably decide on your target audience in advance, maybe even announce it in the description as you’re setting up the event. If you always get people of a certain demographic tuning in, then cater to them! As long as you’re not talking at the level of your peers, you’re still disseminating information; the people watching can then use that to educate others.

    On the flip side, not everyone is going to be good at explaining things at a certain level. Some people will stumble trying to qualify what they say (when the people watching really don’t care if it’s 100% correct or just ‘close enough’), and others will dumb things down to the point that their explanation starts to feel patronizing. Ideally you want people who can strike the right balance for the audience you’re trying to reach – of course, things like accents and enunciation might play into that as well.

    At the end of the day, though, nobody’s perfect. It’s just as important that you and the other people doing these hangouts have fun doing them as it is that people have fun watching them 😉