Wednesday, 25 June 2014

On tweetcasting

After a travel- and conference-induced silence over the past months, we're back from the ECMTB in Gothenburg with some fresh thoughts for new posts. To start, Alex Fletcher, Linus Schumacher and Jacob Scott discuss a newly fashionable conference activity: tweetcasting.

An increasing number of academics are using twitter professionally. One popular usage is tweetcasting presentations at conferences. This can range from advertising your own or your peer's research to live commenting - essentially taking notes publicly on twitter.

For a recent example of tweetcasting from the ECMTB 2014 see the Storify by Dr Jacob Scott on his blog.

A packed audience @ECMTB2014. Can you spot the tweetcasters?
Tweetcasting can be incredibly useful to someone stuck in a different parallel session or not even attending the conference or seminar in question, especially when tweets are archived as a Storify or blog post afterwards.

However, the high frequency of tweets from often multiple people simultaneously can dominate one's feed and drown it in duplicated tweets and re-tweets of content irrelevant to you. Worse, it can take statements out of context. Worse still, a picture of a slide of unpublished work can expose it to greater danger of being scooped.

Some best practices to consider are:

1 - make sure that your tweets could be of value to people not involved in the session/conference by including links to speakers websites, papers being presented or informational pages

2 - ensure you are using the same hashtag (keep it saved to your clipboard, or use an app) to increase speed and to enable aggregation with an app like storify

3 - try not to take quotes out of context

4 - if you are giving a talk, and DON'T want your info tweeted, just ask at the beginning of the session, or better yet, if you are chairing a session, ask all of the presenters and then announce at the beginning a policy for the session

What do you think? Is tweetcasting a useful form of science communication or should tweetcasters chirping away better spend their time offline? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

*WCMB members on twitter: Ruth Baker, Fergus Cooper, Alex Fletcher, Heather Harrington, Oliver MacLaren, Andrew Parker, Linus Schumacher, Jacob Scott, Thomas Woolley, Kit Yates

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