Amplified Twittering and Social Reporting

Today I was at the JISC Teaching and Learning Experts Group Meeting in Birmingham.


I always enjoy these meetings as you get a huge wealth of expertise, knowledge and examples to take away with you back to your own institution.

We used Twitter quite a bit today, so much so that the tag #jiscexperts09 became a trending tag on Twitter.

Lots of comments, discussions and conversations. Some went off tag and continued outside the event.

A really useful and interesting back channel to what was happening in front of us.

By the afternoon the stream of Twitter had declined considerably, in the main as we were in smaller groups with a lot more face to face interaction and conversations. We’re not talking about a small drop off, but a considerable drop, about 95%, in use of Twitter.

It’s not as though we weren’t finding Twitter useful, one delegate said to me that he saw me using Twitter as a way of asking a question without needing to put my hand up.

It did make me start thinking about how we use Twitter and the reasons for using Twitter.

In the morning session with presentations from the front, while we were a “passive” audience some of us were using Twitter to communicate what we were seeing to the Twitter community, discussing between ourselves and initiating conversations with other people not at the event.

Now were we doing this because we found the presenters boring? No because they weren’t, their presentations were very interesting. Much more as we were an audience we found the time to engage with Twitter and the Twitter community. Listening means that we can often add commentary and 140 characters means that it doesn’t take long or captures our attention away from the formal presentation at the front.

In the afternoon we split into smaller groups and discussed the three key areas, e-assessment, learning spaces and social software. As we discussed there was very little or no interaction on Twitter. We were “too busy” interacting and discussing.

Now this didn’t mean we didn’t want to share with Twitter, much more we were so busy we didn’t have the time.

What does this mean though when using Twitter at an event?

You do need to consider why you are using Twitter at an event. If using it as a record of the event, then it is a very poor tool for that, need to record an event then use a different tool.

If you are using Twitter to allow the delegates to converse about the event in a kind of back channel then the fact they are not using it, is probably not a bad thing, as they are probably interacting face to face. However the lack of Tweets in the afternoon in our session meant that I had very little idea what happened in the other parallel sessions. As for people outside the event, they had even less idea!

There may be an opportunity here to have (what I am going to call) social reporters in breakout sessions to record thoughts and discussions on Twitter. Downside for this is that Twitter is very much about the here and now and not really suited for looking back over or for engaging and interacting with even 15 minutes after an event. However will be useful for those outside the event.

One of the downsides of Twitter (which is also a plus point) is that it is just text and only 140 characters of just text. If you did use social reporters then they could also use other tools to help capture the event for both the delegates and others. They could be uploading presentations to Slideshare, posting photographs to Flickr, pushing videos to YouTube, broadcasting live using Qik, blogging, recording to Audioboo, etc…

You can often rely on the delegates to amplify a conference or an event through the use of Web 2.0 tools, should you be supporting the process with social reporting?

11 thoughts on “Amplified Twittering and Social Reporting”

  1. Social reporters sound like a great idea. I’ve found reporting of conferences that I’m not attending via Twitter to be a great way to keep up to date, but it’s quite often dependent on one or more people concentrating on reporting what the speaker is saying.

    There are three problems with this. First, it can happen that several people are doing this, which can sometimes get a bit confusing. Second, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between reporting of what the speaker’s saying and comments by the (volunteer) reporter. Third, those that do end up reporting like this are often people who have insightful comments of their own when they’re not busy reporting.

    Having a dedicated reporter in conference sessions would provide an opportunity to resolve the first two of these by making it clear who was tweeting on behalf of the speaker. Perhaps allowing delegates to volunteer for reporting duties at registration would allow a rota to be devised so that the burden could be shared out fairly, going some way to solve the third problem.

  2. Some thoughts:
    I also noticed the same at #NGTiP09 … whole group presentation = twittering; small group breakout – twittersilence. (Twilence?)

    “There may be an opportunity here to have (what I am going to call) social reporters in breakout sessions to record thoughts and discussions on Twitter.” … would you see this as essentially “live blogging” via Twitter, or something a bit different?

    Jez said: “Second, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between reporting of what the speaker’s saying and comments by the (volunteer) reporter.” – wonder if there is/ought to be a code to show which are your ideas & which are those of the presenter.

    You can’t always tell if someone is essentially a stenographer – picking up (what they consider) key points, or a reporter – giving their interpretation of what’s happening.

  3. The idea of having a code is a good one. A few people are in the habit of prepending stenographer-type tweets with the name of the speaker, which can help to differentiate between different parallel sessions as well. Not everyone does this though.

    I guess to a certain extent you get to know your connections and come to understand whether they lean more towards stenographer or reporter, but that’s not easy, especially if it’s someone new.

  4. If you are interested in the whole social reporter idea it might be worth checking out the blog written by David Wilcox which is always an interesting read and also Dave Briggs occasionally writes some stuff about the topic at

    I follow a great deal of events remotely these days and enjoy the Twitter streams for them but its often the extra elements offered by dedicated staff that put the Twitter stream in context that is most helpful..

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