Why I’m over people Twittering Conferences, Meetings

twitterlogoand anywhere else two Twitter users happen to run into each other.

Its seems like a day doesn’t go by without signing into my Twitter account to see a stream of tweets from someone going by with a #hashtag I don’t recognize. I’m not talking about a couple of tweets, I mean the full-on stream. I’m begging you, please stop!

I’m all for the idea of sending a Tweet when you hear something remarkable, moving, or innovative, but based on the number of Tweets I see flying by every other sentence is worth exclaiming over, somehow I doubt this.

What it really looks like is too many people are using Twitter as their personal note taking system.  Get a notebook, a netbook, or a pen and paper, whatever, just stop Tweeting!

If you’re Twittering:

  • You’re not paying attention – mulitasking is a myth – you can not text as fast as you type, so whatever you are texting likely happened 30 seconds or more ago, meaning you are not paying attention to what is being said now.  Stop texting and pay attention, its what you’re there for. Even if you’re tweeting from a computer…
  • You’re not contributing.  Yes, I know there are a few cases where some awesome back channel conversations* happen, and someone rushes off to write an article or a post about it, but most likely you’re not.
  • You’re crying wolf – If you’re sending 20 tweets an hour, the really awesome super duper things got lost in the crowd of the bagillion others you sent you sent.  Pick and choose the really exceptional things to Tweet.
  • Someone else is saying the SAME thing at the SAME time (most likely). Instead say something new, say something of value, pick the one or two really good pieces and Tweet those, it is much more useful for your followers.
  • You’re loosing your followers, I don’t mean unfollowing, I mean they aren’t paying attention to you.  Sure one or two might love to here a play by play of whats happening right now, but the others don’t care.  They don’t care because they don’t want to spend the energy chasing down what the heck your hashtag means, they don’t care because they just popped on so see what their friends are up to and instead all they see is one person, you, filling up their screen.  They dont’ care, not because they don’t care what you’re tweeting about, they do, but because they don’t have the time and energy to focus on it right now.  They don’t care because they just don’t care.
  • You’re making it hard for people to find the information later.  Sure you can search the hashtag and read through thousands of 140 character snippets of information, many of which say the same thing because everyone else was tweeting the conversation.
  • You’re not blogging.  Yes I know some have declared blogs dead, but f I want real information about a session I missed I’d so much rather find a blog post.  Yes a blog post, with everything nicely typed out, not abbreviated in weird formats to fit in to 140 characters, not scattered across tens or hundreds of tweets.  I can bookmark one page, not 20.

If you find you absolutely must conference/meeting tweet prodigiously, take a page from my smart friend Maruice’s book and get a seperate account just for conferences.

*I’m not sure how I feel about these back channel conversations, everyone thinks they are so awesome, but arent’ they really just the equivalent of two people talking to each other in the back of the class?  It might go unnoticed in a large audience, but in a small group its just rude.

I’m not advocating never Twitter anything from a conference, meeting or pow-wow again, but show some discretion man, moderation in all things, even Twitter.

30 thoughts on “Why I’m over people Twittering Conferences, Meetings

  1. Sorry to disagree with you. I think it is perfectly okay to use whatever tools at your disposal that works for you. I actually do better typing and listening. I can’t write and listen don’t know why but I just can’t. I also have enjoyed reading tweets from conferences or trainings I can’t attend (even blogged about one that MLX tweeted).

    I had several people appreciate my tweets regarding a class given at my library on DSLR.

    What I would recommend is setting up a separate account if you want to Tweet a conference or training. Maurice convinced me of this and agree now it is good practice.

    Advertise on your main account that you will be tweeting from that account giving your followers the option (I’m big on options and one option is Twitter) to follow that account or not.

    I don’t think moderation necessarily is the answer but to allow people options. Allow them to opt out or in – allow me to use the tool that works best for me – allow you to disagree with me.

    So with that said I will be Twittering for MY benefit (and others too maybe) at Pres4Lib tomorrow. But it will be from my conference account – mdlibrarianus.


    1. I did point out Maurice’s suggestion of a second account for people who do want to tweet, and I think its a great one. But of course I don’t’ follow his or your conference accounts 😉


  2. I somewhat agree. I think if it is limited it is ok. I do often wonder if anyone reads the tweets and I appreciate it so much when they reply to say they are enjoying them, but I typically limit mine to 5 or so per session. I can’t type much faster than that AND pay attention.

    I also really enjoy the feedback as a presenter. I like going back and seeing what people found interesting during the session.

    A pet peeve – people who automatically update Facebook status via Twitter. STOP! It’s a different audience, different message and especially stop if you are Twittering during a conference!


      1. I have to plead guilty to the Twitter/Facebook link while twittering a conference…bad idea and I’ve broken the link for that purpose. It was my first attempt at “reporting.” I did, however, get a thank you from a FB colleague who hadn’t been able to attend the conference. My personal friends weren’t so appreciative though.

        What’s YMMV?


    1. I use Selective Tweets, which lets me only dump, well, selected tweets to my Facebook (the default is not dumping). So the things I tweet that are appropriate for both audiences can be in both places, but my Facebook crowd is spared, e.g., the lovable madhouse that is ALA.


  3. I think it all comes down to there being no “right” way to use Twitter.

    I would say very different things to people who are tweeting conferences. I am *very* happy to get a flood of tweets from some event that I would not otherwise know was happening…I love the serendipity and it lets me make up my mind what I find important in what is being reported – often I don’t actually *want* it filtered by what the twitterer thinks is important.

    If I think people are being too noisy I could tweetsnooze them. But I don’t because Twitter being used like this works for me.

    I don’t think that they are losing me as a follower. If I don’t find that event interesting, I just tune out during that tweetstream. It’s no biggie to lose any diamonds among the dross by not paying attention, as I often have long stretches in the real world where I don’t catch up with all the shining diamonds on Twitter anyhow.

    I do have a second , unprotected account that I use almost exclusively for tweeting conferences, have done for months. Again, that’s because of the way I personally want to use Twitter.

    I think the issue is very much a YMMV. Thanks for raising it though.


  4. I do like following conference streams, if I’m not attending, or not attending that session. I agree the repetition factor is annoying, but I chalk that up to “nature of the beast.”

    I also think there is a definite space for back channel discussion. Instead of talking/passing notes during class, I would use the analogy of reading the next chapter or starting on the homework while still in class. It allows some to be able to enhance their understanding or develop ideas beyond what they would otherwise get from the speaker.

    I think I also have a “camp mentality” on the issue. If I’m not learning from or getting inspired the speaker, the back channel may keep the session from being a total waste of my time.


  5. I would have to (embarassingly) admit that I see both sides to this and am currently sitting on the fence…I can’t decide which way I’m going to fall. I love Twitter and its capabilities to connect people to conferences in real-time that they cannot attend but similarly it can be quite annoying when delegates go way to OTT with their tweets!!

    I think for me personally the 2nd account road is definitley one to go down, allowing your followers the choice to follow your tweets or not.

    I will be at a conference next week – think I’ll set up a seperate ‘conference’ account and try it out!!


  6. I do both – takes notes and send out interesting info or tweets that I think others will appreciate. This way, while I am typing my notes, I copy and paste the points that I think are good to share. Sometimes, if it seems very interesting, I may tweet more than others, but generally, I try to keep it brief. In terms of a separate conference account, that is somewhat difficult – individually. I think the social v. professional idea works better (at least for me). I do like the idea of conferences having hashtags to look for info. This is definitely good to keep in mind though! 🙂


  7. I tend to agree, although I find conference twittering easy enough to ignore unless someone is going overboard. I do enjoy finding out about a conference I didn’t know about and finding out who is attending what, but I do dislike when someone is totally flooding twitter trying to relay everything that is being said. Just the occasional pithy point would suite me fine.

    I also agree that I would rather read a coherent blog post later. People claiming blogging is dead because of twitter give me fits. They are different tools each with their own purpose.

    I don’t normally twitter much during a conference other than to make lunch plans and crack jokes about bad presentations 🙂


  8. A few over generalizations that I disagree with, I think the one assuming people are twittering via phones may be overstated. Other tips are good. I do disagree with your hashtags statements though. You could always use a Twitter client with filtering capabilities.


  9. I’m gonna have to disagree on this one. I don’t find much time to read blogs any more and Twitter is my primary source of staying current. I *really* like hearing about conferences I can’t attend or especially those I wouldn’t even know about otherwise.

    And for the record– as someone with A.D.D. and my particular learning style, I am definitely paying much more attention by staying active (typing) while sitting in the audience.

    I think the conference stream is a great idea for some– but I’d still prefer to see the tweets in my friend stream so I can enjoy the serendipitous discovery. 🙂


  10. Thanks for this interesting post (and Vicki Owen for tweeting it). I just attended a conference and did some liveblogging and some tweeting and am not sure what I think about either one. I don’t particularly like reading liveblogged posts; I find tweets a lot more interesting. Best of all IMO would be to take notes privately and write them up selectively and thoughtfully as a blog post later, but sometimes I never get back to it. And posts are not aggregated in the same way that hashtags allow, even with tagging and blog search tools.


  11. I wholeheartedly agree with you. Your suggestions are not only reasonable, they offer some respect for the speaker. My question: if you are typing for twitter because you won’t “get back to” a blog post, why not just type the notes into LiveWriter and send to your blog? Put the hashtag in the title, and when it feeds to Twitter you’re still in the game.


  12. Thanks Bobbi for calling me a smart person. I really appreciate it.

    Yes, I did set up a separate twitter feed (@confbaldgeek on twitter) for the express purpose of separating my conference tweets from my regular stream of thought and promotion. I did this because I found that I was swamped by tweets filling up my twitter screen from conferences.

    I personally was very good at “live blogging” a conference session, but a) I found that my notes for a post resembled tweets anyway b) sometimes I moved on from the session and did not blog about it even though it was well done and valueable. Also, I don’t and can’t write that fast any more but I can type fast and capture and summarize presenter thoughts.

    Twitter allows me to create short notes that stand on their own or that serve as the basis for a blog post or report that may or may not happen.

    Thanks for writing a very well thought out post and to the poster for creating conversation, (which is why we should be blogging and tweeting!)

    Viva Tweeting and Blogging!


  13. The SLA 2009 Conference is my first time using Twitter. Due to unemployment and a cautious attitude about 2.0, I don’t have a phone good for texting nor do I have a laptop. I’m not a Luddite but I can’t afford to keep up with social networking. However, I was able to get an answer from SLA about classes from a Twitterer that I couldn’t get myself with an email.

    I will use Twitter to look for recommended websites and papers. But I really don’t want to detail the minutes of my boring unemployed life going through a series of medical procedures.

    However, I applaud those who find Twitter to be a productive tool. Once employed again, I hope an upgrade to a 21st century phone and a laptop will lead me into 2.0 land.


  14. @librarianbyday During big library conferences… I just shut down. There are days I don’t open Twitter at all for these very reasons.


  15. I guess I am the opposite. When I can’t go to a conference, I really enjoy someone providing highlights via twitter. If it’s a conference I’ve never heard of, but there is good content, I will go find out what it’s all about. I was disappointed more people weren’t doing that at ALA. I found more people talking about partying then conference programs. Which is fine, I was just disappointed.


  16. I would respectfully disagree—quite honestly, I learned more new ideas and material I can apply to my library program from four hours of Tweets at ISTE yesterday than I did in four days at ALA Annual. Although I could not physically participate in ISTE in Denver, I could still learn and find new ideas and resources to explore. I do try and use the conference hashtag (which you can usually easily Google and find out about if you don’t know what the conference is) so that people know I’m not just randomly Tweeting.

    I personally would rather see a stream of conference Tweets than some of the drivel and narcissistic Tweets that dominate some people’s Twitter streams (which has resulted in my not following them anymore). I would say if it really bothers you, then temporarily unfollow that person or use some of the filtering tools within something like Tweetdeck to filter the Tweets.


  17. I totally see your point, then again, we kind of can use these tools any way we want. I currently use my personal Twitter account to keep up to date with library/tech news/local news. This means that I participate in conference tweeting (when my library can afford to send me to a conference!), I get to feel like I’m in two (or more) rooms at once (and yes, I am paying attention), and favorite links/tweets that I can revisit later. (One time I left a lackluster panel in favor of another because of enthusiastic tweets from across the hall). I’ve also discovered many non-library conferences out there that are worth paying attention to.

    As for other options, well, Evernote never stuck and I don’t carry a notebook around. But I do carry my phone with me wherever I go. These days I don’t tweet very much (I’m a newbie librarian with 2 jobs and a pretty full plate right now), but with Twitter, I feel more connected to my library community than ever.

    Thanks for all you do!


  18. AMEN! I’ve been so annoyed this week (sxsw) that I’ve thought about saying things several times only to reconsider and take the “high road” even though my twitter stream is filled with half statements that make sense to no one but the author, and even then I’m skeptical she really has any understanding of what she’s writing. In any sense, thank you for the validation:)


    1. Jessica – I wrote this post almost 2 years ago but I still stand behind my reasons! Like most things, Twitter done in moderation and with thought is great! But if its done haphazardly eeek!


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