conference tweeting etiquette

“Tiny birds in my hand..” by ~Ilse

Conference season, or at least the part of it that appeals to my area of librarianship, is starting soon.

Up first for me is Computers in Libraries in DC, where I won’t be attending, but instead vacationing nearby (since it is so close) and visiting with colleagues and friends who will be attending. I’d go, but I already have funding this year for three conferences, and it didn’t seem fair to ask for another.

Next,  I fly to Austin for the Electronic Resources & Libraries conference. From the venue to the content, this is becoming my favorite conference. I’ve had to actively introduce more diversity to the sessions I choose to attend, otherwise I would spend the whole conference geeking out about use data and spreadsheets and such.

Finally, I head to Buffalo for the conference that shaped me into the librarian I became: NASIG (North American Serials Interest Group). I like this one because I’ve known many of the attendees for the entirety of my relatively short career, and because it works very hard to not be just a librarian conference, but rather an industry-wide discussion of all things serial in libraryland.

It was in the context of thinking about these upcoming conferences that I read the latest Prof Hacker blog post from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ryan Cordell writes about his experiences with conference tweeting and the recent revelations he has had regarding the impact this can have on the presenters, whether they are active participants on Twitter or not. Many things he wrote resonated with me, and reminded me that Twitter — as well as other popular social media platforms — is no longer the private back-channel of a few techie friends, but is a global platform that can have a broader impact than any of us may know.

I suggest reading the whole article, but I would like to quote here the Principles of Conference Tweeting that Cordell offers, as something for us all to keep in mind:

  1. I will post praise generously, sharing what I find interesting about presentations.
  2. Likewise, I will share pertinent links to people and projects, in order to bring attention to my colleagues’ work.
  3. When posting questions or critiques, I will include the panelist’s username (an @ mention) whenever possible.
  4. If the panelist does not have a username—or if I cannot find it—I will do my best to alert them when I post questions or critiques, rather than leaving them to discover those engagements independently.
  5. I will not post questions to Twitter that I would not ask in the panel Q&A.
  6. I will not use a tone on Twitter that I would not use when speaking to the scholar in person.
  7. I will avoid “crosstalk”—joking exchanges only tangentially related to the talk—unless the presenter is explicitly involved in the chatter.
  8. I will refuse to post or engage with posts that comment on the presenter’s person, rather than the presenter’s ideas.

twitter snobbery or basic info management?

A post by Greg Schwartz on his Open Stacks blog directed me to a post by Mitch Joel on his Six Pixels of Separation blog, and after reading it, I have to say, “Ditto.” Except for the number of followers & following, and the bit about Twitter on a Blackberry, my experience and reasoning is similar to Joel’s.

I started off on Twitter with a small handful of connections, mainly from the same organization. Their interest fizzled out quickly, but it left me poised for the Great Librarian Twitter Invasion of ’07. Soon, I was following and being followed by more and more people. When my following number hit triple digits and the rate of tweets increased to several per minute, I knew I had to do something to keep Twitter from taking over my life.

As an experiment, I went public with my tweets for Computers in Libraries, and I have left them that way ever since. Periodically, I will go through and weed out those that I follow, mainly keeping people I know in real life (or have a deeper online connection) or people I simply want to keep tabs on (mainly celebrities like Wil Wheaton and Jonathan Coulton). I still get far too many tweets per day to keep on top of everything. On the up side, anyone can follow me if they wish, and I don’t have to follow them in return.

Regarding the @ reply thing… Like Joel, I try to refrain from @-ing too often. My followers are not all from the same group of people who would care about what I’d have to @ about, and to save them the trouble of wading through irrelevant tweets, I send direct messages instead. I only wish more of the folks I follow would be as considerate, particularly when their replies make no sense out of context.