@undecided: It’s true that for many speakers and many audience members—and for many types of content—the idea of doing anything else besides paying close attention to the talk might seem entirely inappropriate. There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving a speaker your undivided attention.
But it does raise the question: if you’re just sitting there listening, how is a live presentation any different from reading an article by yourself in a quiet room?
Of course part of the appeal of live conferences is the energy of the public space, and of course the speaker’s passion and emphasis (if they have this). And in a way conferences are designed to *eliminate* the kinds of distractions you might be tempted by sitting at your desk reading a blog post containing the exact same words.
We’re still experimenting with this concept, too. Respecting the diversity of attention styles is going to be a challenge. Even among those who participated on Twitter and appreciated the value of it, for example, we found some people liked the volume of tweet chatter while others wanted a little more focus.
But we strongly believe that there is a lot of opportunity to improve learning and the quality of the thinking that emerges from live presentations, specifically by letting audiences let their minds wander the way they want to. The devil may well be in the details: simple things like, as you mention, the difference between tapping on clicky keys versus tapping on a glass screen. Similarly, we gave Donahue a dark UI specifically to prevent lighting up people’s faces.