Shostack + Friends Blog Archive


All atwitter

In re-reading my blog post on twittering during a conference I realized it sounded a lot more negative than I’d meant it to.

I’d like to talk about why I see it as a tremendous positive, and will be doing it again.

First, it engages the audience. There’s a motive to pay close attention and share what you hear. They’re using their laptops for good, not evil.

Second, it multiplies the attention to the talk. The talk was standing room only, but the room held fewer than 100 people. The people who tweeted had 5,300 followers. Now, that’s total followers, not unique (does anyone have an easy way to calculate that?) It’s also unlikely that many of them were reading Twitter or read backscroll, but it seems like an ok guess to say that 200-500 people saw some mention of the talk on Twitter.

Third, it promotes the audience from passive to engaged (although that wasn’t a problem for my audience, I’ve seen it in other talks). They’re no longer just listeners, they’re interpreting, quoting, and generating additional content as we engaged around the ideas in the talk.

What chaotically emerged is larger than my talk. It’s a conversation.

5 comments on "All atwitter"

  • Nicko says:

    I still think that using laptops at all during presentations is a dreadful distraction. Where they really all just tweeting? Where they thinking about typing comments rather than thinking about the talk? Were they getting distracted by other tweets from other sources, clicking on the links therein and floating off into the WWW? I suspect so.
    Next time I start a start-up I shall mandate that all meetings are held in the hot-tub. This will ensure (a) a good turn out, (b) no electronic devices and (c) that meetings can’t last more than about half an hour.

  • Adam says:

    Nicko–I fully agree. Do you have a good way to get people to turn them off when at a conference?

  • Nicko says:

    Do you have a good way to get people to turn them off when at a conference?
    I’ve considered EM Pulse weapons, but they kill other things like pacemakers so they don’t see to be a great plan in public. Failing that, asking nicely and then giving a fascinating talk seems like the best plan.

  • Marisa says:

    I think there’s an assumption made by some that if you go to a talk, you have an obligation to be attentive. I certainly don’t remember signing any such agreement. Attention should be earned.
    If tweeting is distracting to the tweeter, I think the pros definitely outweigh the cons. If someone wants to take that moment to disengage and repeat your ideas to the twitterverse, then that is nothing if not a compliment. If Nicko et al. think that the tweeting is distracting to other audience members, then it seems (at a hacker con especially) some adjusting of expectations may be in order. Even if they really are just floating off into the WWW, surfing is not a crime.

  • Damon says:

    I think the sharing aspect is great and it allows for others not at a con to be able to extract some succinct ideas about a given topic. There have been several instances where I’ve been able to pick up on some interesting tidbits due to tweeters in the room (@quine and @security4all come to mind).
    Regarding the followers, I may have added in an extra person, but based on the folk that appear to have tweeted I got approximately 6,500 followers. Digging into one of my db’s, that uniques down to 3,880 – still some very nice exposure outside of the con.

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