I was intrigued by the email sent by Rose Molloy in September inviting AQR members to attend a 'Qcast' from the QRCA in Atlanta. It was an invitation to listen to Kevin McLean, Geoff Bayley and Nick Southgate speak at the annual conference, without having to travel. "So how does that work?" I asked myself.

On receiving the pre-registration e-mail I checked my volume settings to ensure that I would hear the broadcast. Then, just before 1600 hours GMT and 1100 hours US time, I clicked on the QCast link. A notice popped up saying that the conference would start 'in a few moments', accompanied by operatic arpeggios 'Ah-aahaaaahh'. By 16.08 I was starting to worry. The screen had not changed and the music had stopped. All I could hear was muffled noises. But then at 16.09 came a loud, clear voice "Ladies and gentlemen if we could please get started." It was working, hoorah!

There followed announcements about where attendees could sign up for dinner and a plug for Paramount books. None of this was relevant to me, but it was exciting being able to hear it.

Next there came the familiar voice of Peter Lovett introducing the first speaker, Kevin McLean. He also welcomed us. 170 people were apparently logged on and listening from the UK.

Unfortunately Kevin's slides had not up-loaded. This made listening hard, especially when Kevin pointed to things which we could not see. So I decided to venture into the chat room. Here I found 17 other web-casters. They had been 'chatting' about the technical fault: "I can't see the slides, can anyone else?" Trish, the chat-room hostess, reassured us that we would have slides for the next presentation (which we did). She also greeted people as they logged on "Hi Fiona!" As a newcomer to chat-rooms I found this quite weird, and wonderful.

Having not known what to expect from the QCast I found it thoroughly rewarding. Having slides for the second two talks made the experience far more engaging. However, all the presentations were thought-provoking and I felt only a little lost for not being there. Indeed I may have listened more intently than otherwise from my office with nothing (other than the chat-room) to distract me.

I hope that the AQR will do more. Web-casts clearly offer an excellent means of mass live communication, even for a technophobe like me. I mean if David Cameron's caught on then there must be something in it mustn't there?

The QRCA archives a selection of presentations, which are accessed by using the following link in which the three presentations mentioned above are featured: http://www.qrca.org/displaycommon.cfm?an=8