Should You Ask Permission to Live-Tweet an Conference Session?

twitter-bird-logoI came across this great post from the American Historical Society – “The Dos and Don’ts of Live-Tweeting at an Academic Conference: An Update” which has some great suggestions (see below for the abridged version or click on through for full text – it worth reading the full text btw). But I have a question about the first Do –

Ask permission. Before the panel begins (preferably a few weeks in advance), ask panelists whether they agree to be tweeted.

Do you ask permission? Should you ask permission? I will confess I have never asked permission to tweet a confession session of any sort, academic or otherwise. Perhaps that is a reflection of the online, engaged, and sharing culture I have been part of for years? It honestly never occurred to me that I should ask permission to tweet, in fact it seems silly to ask, – of course I can, and should tweet this session. As I attend more and more conferences that are not library-centric I am concerned that if I do not ask it would be considered rude. What do you think?

Do:

  • Ask permission
  • Clearly identify speakers.
  • Collect Twitter handles.
  • Listen carefully.
  • Use #hashtags.
  • Try Storify.
  • Link to the paper/session.

Don’t:

  • Insult a panelist or participant.
  • Indulge in snark.
  • Manipulate the record.

Additional Reading:

18 comments

  1. Huh. Well… if a session is already being streamed, I assume tweeting is fair game. I am personally fine with being tweeted (even if the tweeting is snarky or negative). If a session is closed or has some other expectation of privacy, then of course not. But an academic conference–that feels open to me.

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    1. Karen –

      At library conferences all sessions feel open to me. Even the ones that aren’t being streamed because I know they can’t always afford to stream all sessions. I think this is in part because almost all library conferences I’ve been to designate a hashtag before you go which to me says – tweet! please!

      Personally I’m not a fan of online snark. We’re all capable of it. In person it can be funny or witty, online it just seems mean and the lowest form of communication possible – you may as well be grunting 🙂 But I’ll also confess to having done it on occasion much to my later shame

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  2. This is a really interesting topic! With the wealth of information provided at conferences (I am a public librarian, not academic) I admit I haven’t put thought to people NOT wanting the information to be shared with the masses. People attend conference to learn, and those at the microphone should have some belief that their words will go far beyond the room they are in. However, I do agree that those who tweet should ensure identification of who is actually talking, especially when quoting. Thanks for sharing this topic further.

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  3. Hi there!

    Wouldn’t that be like asking: “Hey, if I really enjoy your presentation, do I have your permission to speak about it with my friends after I leave this room?”.

    Isn’t that essentially what you’re doing, just … time-shifted to during the actual presentation? I mean it’s not like you’d be FILMING the damn thing, right? 0_o

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    1. Craig I’m with you but I’m wondering that if this is a librarian mindset or a tech-friendly mindset that isn’t as widely shared as we think?

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  4. I’d think that would annoy some presenters, thinking about how many people could be approaching them right before the presentation. And how many have already put a hashtag on their first slide.

    It’s fine for presenters to request no tweeting, but I do think it makes more sense for things to work in that direction.

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    1. This is pretty much what I was going to say. Live-tweeting is an opt-out thing, now. If you don’t want someone to live-tweet what you’re saying, you have every right to ask them not to do it. But if you’re giving a presentation in public, it’s reasonable to assume that the information you’re sharing will be, well, public.

      I like the reminder to be polite, though honestly, as someone who sometimes gives presentations, I think it would be fascinating to read the snark that might ensue after I gave a presentation. I could learn from that at least as well as the positive tweets (though, sure, it might hurt my feelings in the short-term).

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  5. “Hello? Yes I will be attending your conference and I just wanted to be sure that I’m allowed to tweet information that I hear during the conference. I am? Wonderful! Also, can I discuss this openly with my colleagues if we happen to talk about similar subjects, or, even better, bring their attention to the issues? Now to be clear, I might be discussing this with them face-to-face, phone, IM and/or email. Ok, great. Thank you so much. You are shocked that I’m even asking you? Yes, I agree, it is a ridiculous notion.”

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    1. Hmm, so Ryan, tell us how you stand on the snark in tweets item?

      BTW, I agree with you that asking permission to tweet a live conference is a ridiculous notion.

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      1. I do think that, while yes sometimes snarks can be humorous, ultimately some people focus too much on snark and not on using the information to further their goals or offer constructive criticism. I think sometimes people who are witty (or trying to be) will “voice” what they are thinking, and not really think about any ramifications that might occur. Most presentations have great information in them, and that can be lost in the distractions. However, with all that said, I think tweeting is a great way to share information, so I’m not sure why someone would want to hinder the sharing of that information.

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  6. I really need to give Storify another chance!

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  7. If someone e-mailed me weeks in advance of a presentation and ask me for permission to tweet what I say I’d think they were a nutter to be honest. Hell, at that point I’m not even sure what I’m going to say during the presentation. 😉

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  8. […] saw this post on asking permission to tweet at conferences and I agree with all the Do’s and don’ts on the list.  As a good information […]

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  9. I think I can empathize with the motivation of the original post, but I cannot get on board with the school of thought that says social media or (insert new mode of communication here) require a special set of rules. We should be mannerly and considerate as we give voice to our opinions. However, I’m afraid I don’t see the point in asking permission to do something when I cannot envision a situation where it would acceptable to deny that permission.

    As I try to think through the roots of this, I think the core consideration is that conference sessions are public venues and the manners of public venues apply. Now, if we are speaking of a pre-conference or a closed training session where attendees pay for special or restricted access to content or expert opinion, then I think it would be appropriate to request permission. In these cases, it is the venue (open or closed) that would drive the consideration, not the medium used for communication.

    The restrictions against insulting tweets and snark are excellent suggestions. Context is key: in a scholarly setting one must be prepared to hear or read critical comments about one’s work that would be rude in civil or public settings. “The presenter was clearly unprepared and lacks expert standing to speak with authority on this topic.” would be a snarky insult in many venues, but not at an academic conference. Of course, more mannerly attendees might find ways to express the same negative view more gently, but we should not lose sight of the main point of academic conferences: to expose new thoughts to critical review.

    Perhaps a better tack to take might be to expose snarky insulting tweets to a Lady Grantham-like scorn: “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” In that way we can correct bad manners without giving the appearance of prior-restraint of dissenting views.

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    1. Excellent points Nicholas. It is possible to disagree and criticize without being snarky or rude. And approaching disagreements or criticism without being snarky or rude probably means the recipient is more likely to hear what you are saying and be open to it rather than dismissing you as a jerk with nothing of substance to offer.

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  10. Peggy O'Kane · ·

    When I am tweeting on behalf of the sponsoring library ( I work for a state library) I always ask. When I am tweeting on my own I often ask the sponsors if there is an established hashtag.

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  11. Great topic. As someone who spends a goodly amount of time speaking at conferences, this issue comes up a lot with my clients and audiences.

    Privacy and transparency are two conflicting ethical values – and they exist inside and outside libraryland. Just because I can do something, have done it in the past, and it is okay with other people before this moment, does not automatically mean I do it. You might not like it, so I try not to presume.

    Just for the record, I dislike panels, think they are a mostly a waste of time, and no longer participate in them. I want to hear that one great person, not snippets from a group.

    My two cents:

    1. I usually say no if people want to videotape or record programs where the participants are going to participate is some kind of personal disclosure. It really inhibits folks from speaking. So, for many of my workshops privacy and confidentiality is an issue, and people are honor-bound not to discuss it outside of the program. In those situations, I ask people not to tweet – and put the cell phones, netbooks, etc. away so their attention is on the people in the room.
    2. In most of my webinars, people are invited to tweet, and we post hashtags beforehand. It up to the client, not me. I welcome transparency, and so far, have had a uniformly positive experience with people tweeting from my face-to-face and online programs. If the face-to-face topic is not one that is likely to elicit personal remarks, (I hate my boss, and you do, too), I welcome tweets and appreciate the added dimension it contributes to the dialogue.
    3. As part of the audience, I always ask if the presenter/host has not made it clear that recording and tweeting are okay. Many people still ask at my programs. I almost always say yes, and I appreciate the courtesy.

    Manners is about deferring privilege, in my opinion. I try not to act as if I am entitled when I am in public, so I ask permission. Asking builds trust and respect in the long term, even and especially when you don’t have to.

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  12. I don’t think there’s any way to insure that people won’t live-tweet a session. If you’re the presenter, you can ask up front that people refrain, but you’re not going to be able to do anything about it, and unless you’re monitoring Twitter as you present (a skill that’s far beyond me), you’re not going to know.

    That said, I agree on the idea of snark often being self-indulgent: playing for your own laughs, especially if the presenter is unaware of the snark.

    A couple of years ago, I happened to see on Twitter comments about a “harshtag.” That led me to view a stream of tweets from the keynote at a higher-ed tech conference. These were almost without exception critical of a speaker who seemed unable to relate to his audience.

    I posted an analysis of the 536 keynote-related tweets that went out in a single hour. (There was a certain level of snark that began with “hella drop shadow.”)

    It’s significant, I think, that not one person physically present at the keynote rose to say to the speaker, “You’re not connecting to us at all.” I don’t mean to absolve the speaker of all responsibility, but to highlight that it’s a lot easier to tweet people have the OMG I AM TRAPPED look than to do something about it.

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