November 18, 2008

Twittering at Convergence08

In addition to live blogging Convergence08, I used Twitter to send out microblog bursts to my followers during the course of the conference.

This wasn't particularly easy given all that was going on. Twitter can be a limited medium for communication transfer, which is why I chose to write detailed blog posts as well; there's only so much you can say in 140 characters, while at the same time not overwhelming your Twitterverse with a gazillion posts.

But that said, when you're forced to write concisely, you'd be amazed at what you can get across; sometimes key points can be wonderfully delivered as a 140 character soundbite. Twitter forces you to trim the fluff and to be judicious about your tweets.

Moreover, Twitter proved to be a great service for those who couldn't attend the conference. Like live blogging, it provided an almost real-time relay of information as it was presented. And because of the quick and personal nature of Twitter, the posts could sometimes be informal and off-the-cuff. It was also a good way to promote my live blog entries as I posted them.

But it also proved indispensable for those attending the conference -- something I didn't expect. This was an audience filled with early adopters (at least you'd hope so!), so a good portion of the 300+ attendees were busy Twittering away -- many of whom were following one another. And even if you weren't following all the in-conference tweeters, you could follow the aggregated posts over at hashtags (users needed to tag each post with the #converge hash-tag to make this happen).

Twitter also lent itself to the nature of the event. Convergence08 was an unconference, which means that it was self-organizing with no pre-determined speakers or panels. Consequently, there were as many as 16 concurrent panels. Obviously, this meant that you were missing out on a lot of content. It was a welcomed thing when tweets started to come in from the other rooms; I was able to get a good sense as to what was going on at the other presentations.

Not only was it informative in this sense, it was also possible to assess the quality of other presentations. Some attendees, dissatisfied with their chosen panel, would ask other Twitterers if other presentations were worth joining. This collective and distributed intellgience facilitated some healthy panel hopping which resulted in happier and more fulfilled attendees (panel hopping is not discouraged at unconferences and given the ad hoc nature it's quite expected).

And like the old IRC backroom chat days, Twitter also provided a communications sub-channel that added to the tone of the conference in a wonderful way. Because of the non-verbal nature of Twitter, attendees could provide instant commentary, punditry and even heckling without disturbing the presentation or risk being called out. And it also proved to be self-correcting as some Twitters would counter opposing viewpoints. Those not Twittering were completely oblivious to the fact that there were other conversations going on behind the scenes; it was like a silent buzz.

The #converge Twitter channel proved to be both informative and entertaining. Some Twitterers cracked jokes, while others provided information about where to get coffee once we ran out (actually, that was me). I also used it to get information about the names of certain speakers to assist in my live blogging and it helped me keep up with the presentation as I was busy listening and writing at the same time.

Twittering at Convergence08 proved to be an amazing experience. Attending conferences will never be the same again.

1 comment:

Stuart D said...

Interesting how this has changed in just 2 years: