I just signed up to attend the Wisconsin Association of Academic Librarians conference in April. However, there are loads of interesting conferences and workshops throughout the year that I wish I could attend. Thankfully, via Twitter, I sometimes do feel like I’m at these conferences. I follow the Twitter streams and hashtags. Although it’s certainly not the same as attending in person, I usually do pick up a good nugget or two of information.
But I often wonder if tweeting at conference sessions crosses the boundary into rudeness?–specifically “live tweeting” while a presentation is happening. If I’m attending a presentation, I devote my attention to the speaker(s). I may be taking notes–even taking notes on my iPhone–but I’m not tweeting. I am there to learn. I do not want to be distracted–or be a distraction. Maybe it’s because I’m an instruction librarian? My pet peeve is students Facebooking or texting during class! What must it be like to a presenter to see attendees with their faces staring down at their mobile phones, iPads, and laptops?
I get the point: “live tweeting” brings the information to the masses. And as I stated, I have followed tweets on sessions from the comfort of my own office. Moreover, conference “backchannels” can share some great information. Also, I’d say there’s a difference between tweeting at a large plenary session where over a hundred participants could be assembled, as opposed to a small session which may require group interaction and discussion.
However, with conference session tweeting, context can be lost. Take for example the ruckus caused at LITA’s Board meeting at ALA Midwinter in San Diego. I saw an avalanche of tweets come across my computer screen admonishing LITA. These tweets did not have the full facts, nor were many of them tweeted by actual witnesses. This was soon followed by a stream of tweet “apologies” and “corrections.” But I guess with Twitter, anyone is a commentator or reporter–which can be both good and bad! Cue the importance of information literacy, here.
Some conference sessions now provide twitter streams on large screens during presentations. This is a great idea for posing questions from the audience to the presenters. However, occasionally things go awry. See the Conference Humiliation article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, and it’s follow-up: Tweckling Twitterfolk. Just in the past couple of months, comedian/actor Steve Martin was involved in a Twitter controversy at the 92nd Street Y. Lecture attendees did not like the questions being asked and took to the Twitterverse to complain. Professor Saul Carliner provides a good overview of the event. My take: it’s ok to challenge and question on Twitter, but don’t be mean-spirited and petty.
So, do you “live tweet” during conference sessions? Take my totally anonymous (and unscientific!) poll:
By the way, I don’t plan on “live tweeting” my upcoming conference. However, I do plan to compose some blog posts here. I need time to take in the information, reflect, and expand on what I learn at conferences. For me, the platform I find most useful is blogging.