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Thank you for going to events...now stop talking about them.

I like Twitter - it lets me (virtually, and often eventually, physically) meet lovely people. I've made contacts and friendships in the UK and abroad with information professionals in all sectors, programmers and coders of all types, lawyers and barristers in all fields, government staff of all types, teachers, au pairs, historians, housewives, artists...Through the ability to interact on Twitter, I've had help on many occasions to source hard to find materials, or been able to ask people with experience in other fields for advice.

But what I have really grown to hate is the people tweeting Every Single Point made at these events. When you tend to follow a lot of people who work in similar sectors (unsurprisingly for me, that's librarians), you also find a lot of them go to the same events. And that means that you have a LOT of people tweeting exactly the same thing, sometimes differently worded, continuously during talks. The useful content of each tweet usually is low - the tweeter needs to use up characters to include the hashtag, punctuate to make sense of short points, and often there's a need to include the initials of the speaker, all of which cuts some of the space available for information. When there are parallel sessions running at an event, you usually get different people tweeting about different talks, at the same time and with the same hashtag: very confusing! What also adds to the fun is when other people not attending feel that a point made in a tweet is so exciting, that they instantly retweet it, meaning you have both the tweet, and the immediate retweet clogging things up.

What I would much prefer is that they paid full attention to the talks (rather than trying to compress Big Ideas into 140 characters within 30 seconds of them being uttered), took personal notes, and then, if they really want to spread this information further, they use the information they noted down to write a blog post. I'd far rather read and comment on an overview of the important points of a talk, with the writers views on the event included, at a time that suits me, than be flooded by a stream on the day. A blog post allows discussion over a longer period of time, and allows those not able to monitor the tweets at the time that they are posted to be able to be part of the discussion. It also allows reference back to the discussion, rather than it being a throwaway five minutes which is soon lost to oblivion on Twitter.

I've tried exploring ways to block tweets using certain hashtags when the volume of them from events has become overwhelming, but as a protected user, my options for filtering out information via hashtag are limited - the resources I have been pointed towards either don't work for protected accounts, or involve me unfollowing people. If I'm using a programme to automatically unfollow a dozen people, what are the chances that I'll remember to refollow them? Not high. And doing that also would mean I would have someone who was following me and able to access my tweets, without me being able to speak to them. Not to mention the annoyance for the person I unfollow if they're protected, and have to allow my ensuing request to be allowed to follow them again. So, no, not really much I can do about the tweet floods. Other than ignore Twitter during the period of certain events.Which is quite frustrating, as it's such a useful tool.

Yes, I know a lot of people feel like they're almost-attending a conference if they can follow the stream or hashtag, but to do that and interact you need to be following it in real time...which means that you if aren't able to go to the event in the first place, and therefore are presumably currently working, where are you going to find the time to "virtually" attend throughout it?

Comments

Lex said…
Hi Jennie,

I used to think this was the best part about twitter... listening in to events but as it's grown bigger and bigger and bigger and BIGGER it's started to really irritate me aswell.

I need to start making better use of Muuter: http://muuter.com/. Might be worth you checking it out too.

Lex
Jennie said…
Hey Lex!

Yeah: it used to be useful for me too, but now it's just a flood. I didn't want to be a moaner, but it's just getting more and more overwhelming.

I looked at Muuter. but it just unfollows people temporarily, so I assume still gives the problem of having to keep asking to refollow protected people who it's temporarily unfollowed.

Proxlet looks like it might be good, but only works on the web interface, and I use Chrome extension version of TweetDeck, so no help there.

Protected for privacy = no options for muting.
Meh.
Lel said…
It's still one of the most useful aspects of Twitter for me and I don't find it irritating at all. For me, irritating is when my stream is full of people tweeting about Britain's Got Tables/Z Factor/whatever they're called...

I follow a diverse range of people but I always find it amusing that conferences/events that outwardly cover topics that are miles apart actually end up discussing the same issues (even if the terminology is different).

I agree that a blog post can probably provide better/more thoughtful coverage of an event, but not everyone has the time or inclination to keep a blog.
Katie said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie said…
This is something that I do, so it's worth saying why! The first reason is personal notetaking, as I find it a good way to keep track of what's happening. However, I could use other methods for this. The second is that I have encountered real time questions from Twitter about such tweets, which have led to some really interesting conversations within sessions, informed from opinion outside.

I would also blog an event afterwards, but the response I get to a blog post is usually much lower (if any at all!).

Judging on the informal feedback I've had, the people who find live tweets useful are about half of my audience, the people who it annoys about half. The only solution I can see to keep both parties happy is a decent hashtag filtering system on Twitter, but I'd be interested to hear other potential solutions.
Michael said…
Amen to that! I've been on Twitter since January 2007 but I'm finding it increasingly annoying these days and tend to use it less and less.

Bah - bring back the good ol' days! ;-)
Jennie said…
Lel - thankfully, I don't follow people who post about that stuff either...unless it's to laugh at its inanity ;)

It's funny that people can make 140 character tweets, in a flood, presumably for the edification of their followers, but think they wouldn't be able to blog it or write it up more fully - I find the stream-of-consciousness style of conference tweets harder to cope with than expanded comments, which is why I'd prefer if they were even just collated into a blog post or document. When the tweeter looks back at their stream, they could see how little sense some of the tweets make without having been in attendance at the event.

Katie - yup, external input in sessions can be handy but again, it involves being able to follow an event on Twitter in real time, which could be difficult for many. I don't get many responses on my blog either, but when I write about an event, I'm forced to reflect on what I learned or gained from it, so I think it's a useful professional development tool to write (whether as a blog post or an internal briefing note) a more expansive document on events than tweeting allows. It's certainly helped me to have blogged stuff when I went through Chartership, and now, for Revalidation, as my reflective materials and evidence of participation in the wider profession was already there for me to use.

Again, like you say, it comes down to the hashtag filtering (or lack of it) - if people can develop apps that temporarily mute certain hashtags, for set lengths of time (like Proxlet), then why can't Twitter make this a feature itself? It would certainly immediately remove the issue!

Michael - Been on there since 2007 too, and am now really strictly limiting who I follow/allow to follow me, in order to minimise the "clutter" in my stream. Not that I'm not guilty of a fair amount of cluttering myself, but if people don't like what I say all the time, then they can unfollow me. And I never really tweet from events/conferences - too busy listening/taking notes. I'm old fashion - I like to handwrite notes :)
Jo Alcock said…
Interesting points, and I do totally understand the irritation, especially when multiple tweeters you follow are writing exactly the same thing.

However, I do follow a lot of events virtually so do find it valuable (sometimes!). My job requires me to follow activities in a number of different areas of the profession (some more interesting than others!) and it can be costly in terms of time and money to attend all events, so I often follow them virtually instead. Then I can work on other stuff in the background, but keep an eye on a hashtag every 15 minutes or so (varies depending on the volume of tweeting).

I have to be honest, I often find blog posts from events pretty hard going to read - I know I'm guilty of writing some pretty long, boring blog posts from events but now I've realised how hard it is to read them, I've changed my approach to just blog about highlights. That's fine for a brief overview, but useless if you're interested in the content of the presentations (which I do think you get from tweets).

From the other side of things, I've also had a lot of people ask me to tweet events or thank me for tweeting events, so it's difficult to get the balance right. Like Katie said, it's a bit of a marmite effect.

What I tend to do moreso now is just tweet once or twice from each session (usually towards the end) covering the highlights of the session and possibly my own reflection. I find this more useful for myself looking back after the event, and I hope it's more useful (and less annoying) for people following.

I do wish there was a way to filter tweets more easily though, would make it a lot easier to remove tweets about topics you're not interested in too.

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