Tweeting at a conference, not rude, just ineffective?

Learn one thing about Twitter: it is a unique medium of 140 character
or less communications. It’s like the haiku of the real-time Web. If
what you have to say is often longer than those 140 characters, maybe
you’re using the wrong medium.

Dig this. When you’re at a large conference with (say) 20 people live
tweeting every interesting sentence from every speaker, are you
thinking about your audience? I seriously hope not, because you’re
often delivering them a bundle of jumbled thoughts. And when you start
retweeting each other, and then people not at the conference start
retweeting *that* everything stops being real-time and becomes
wrong-time. We don’t yet have filters and interfaces that can make
sense of this stuff.

Dig this too. There are alternatives. While celebrations of YouTube
and Twitter happen at dedicated events, you’re overlooking less-used
social technologies with great features, like Viddler and Posterous.
Look at my last few Posterous posts: they were from a conference I
attended. But instead of burying my nose in my BlackBerry for two
days, I listened and took notes, and when I saw something worthy of
250 or so words, I wrote a short post for Posterous and pushed the
info to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Xanga, Plurk, and more. What’s up.

Experiment with Web 2.0 technologies. Think about your audience. Do
what’s valuable for your community. Engage.

This was worth quoting in full. Mark Drapeau raises some good points. There is no doubt social media is changing how with interact at conferences and other events. But now that we’ve had a bit of time to experiment with Twitter, which was fine, perhaps it is time to step back and look at what actually works best?


10 thoughts on “Tweeting at a conference, not rude, just ineffective?

  1. Hear, hear!I find it fascinating to see the behaviours at different conferences. At some, everyone is madly Twittering, encouraged by a live display of the “back channel”. But at two other conferences recently, there were no laptops at all. Eeek! More people with their Blackberries, and plenty of slides with bullet points ;-)A “two speed” conference scene perhaps?

  2. I must admit, at the last conference I attended, I did find it hard at times to keep up while trying to use Twitter, its not as easy as it looks, my concentration was swayed away from the conference intermittently trying to fit my thoughts into 140 characters!

  3. Yet when I tweet at conferences it also becomes my notes & extends the convo beyond the boundaries of the room

  4. I generally don’t tweet a conference with the purpose of interacting with others at the conference. For me twiitering a conference real time enhances my concentration and note taking and others benefit from the tweets too. I’ve also been on the other end (like today with #lski) benefiting from other’s tweeting too.Having said all that… I don’t mind exploring other options too.

  5. Recently I’ve used both, Posterous and Twitter, especially when I’m trying to create a more visual record.Over all I tweet and post for me to remind me of what I find interesting and hope others do too.

  6. Have been experimenting with Twitter, sometimes have found it really effective way to take notes and love to integrate others tweets with mine and reflect on the day. that being said your comments give me an alternative and are worth exploring. will let you know how it goes

  7. Just thinking out loud, would removing the 140 character limit help? That’s an artificial construct that services like Posterous overcome to a degree, but an in-between microblogging option might be even more flexible – like Yahoo! Meme, perhaps?

  8. It is really interesting how this plays out at different types of events. At your more traditional ‘panel-style’ events Twitter can be an excellent and much needed backchannel outlet, while at more connected events like unconferences it can often be overwhelming. Measuring effectiveness comes back to your intention, and YOUR intention may be completely different to mine. At #trampoline last week I used twitter as a log of thoughts that I can form into more exploratory blog posts later. At the time they may or may not have been useful to others, that doesn’t bother me – follow or unfollow 🙂 Simple.

  9. I am afraid I don’t get it. It looks like the only real point of the post is that if you cannot express your thoughts or feedback in 140 chars or if you cannot make a quote fit 140 chars then you are better with a longer blog-like post. But that doesn’t really make any difference to the noise-to-signal ratio or to real-time vs non real-time.

  10. It is a gross over-simplification and not productive to make generalizations about twitter (or other back-channels) being effective or ineffective or rude at conferences. Obviously things got out of hand at Danah’s talk. I also witnessed a brutal back-channel commentary of David Weinberger at Le Web in Paris a few months ago. Watching the stream in the middle of the night, it was clear the international techie audience had no knowledge of or appreciation for his scholarly work, or even any idea who he was. Maybe that was also true for Danah at Web 2.0. The set-up on stage was not what she expected or is used to. Communication was a big problem at several levels.I first witnessed (and was blown away by) the amazing twitter back-channel shared among those in the EdTech community at their conferences. Members who are there “live” tweet talks for those who could not attend, engage in discussion, and relay questions to the speaker. Their shared agenda makes the process effective and engaging. Most speakers are aware of the back-channel, and resume being a part of it as soon as they leave their speaker role and return to the audience.Some communities are early adopters of twitter and have evolved shared values. At other conferences, the audience is mixed and there can be a culture clash, as happened to Danah and David. But I hate to see pronouncements made about all tweeting at conferences and talks based on rocky attempts at adoption. Perhaps some education and is in order. Certainly better communication and more tolerance is.

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