Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Etiquette for tweeting at conferences - an honest question

I've been using twitter for more than seven years, as many of my readers will already know. One of the most useful aspects of twitter, for me, involves tweeting at conferences - whether I am at the conference, or following a conference hashtag. As well as being part of the general conference discussion and backchannel, it also offers insight to an event beyond the traditional boundaries of location.

How I use twitter at conferences

If I am (physically) attending a conference, my usual style is to tweet key ideas, references, links, and photos of the speaker and his/her slides. More recently, since I'm trying to make written notes (yes - on paper) I will also tweet an image of my notes. I converse with other twitter users, who may be co-located at the conference, or not. I use my own twitter feed as a record of event, along with my notes. I often use storify to collate and share a record of all the event tweets.

In particular, I use the photographs to remember useful information that has been presented on a slide, rather than having to note it down somewhere.

As an example, see my report from the Durham Blackboard Users' Conference in January.

If I am presenting at an event, I make sure to include my twitter handle on the first slide, and will check the hashtag afterwards to see what people have tweeted. I would be most disappointed if there were no tweets!

Occasionally, and quite rarely, a speaker will ask that photographs of the presentation are not shared, perhaps because they contain sensitive information. In that case I will always respect the wishes of the speaker.

I would never take a video recording of any speaker without their permission.

Rules for Twitter Etiquette

flickr photo by duncan shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license
This morning, I followed a tweet related to the Dublin eLearning Summer School #elss16 taking place over the next 3 days related to Social Media Etiquette. The link contains some really good advice about tweeting at conferences - and could be adapted for other events - such as keeping phones on silent, using the hashtag, being respectful of speakers.

I will be ignoring this piece of advice - as I get older my eyesight is getting worse and I'll continue to sit in the front third of the room. But I am generally quite careful not to be distracting with my many devices.
  • If you are tweeting or blogging during a session, please consider sitting near the back of the room to avoid distracting presenters or other participants.

This one did surprise me though. Under DO NOT:
  • Photograph presenter’s slides and share them on social media without their permission.


My Dilemma

I do this all the time! I have assumed that, unless the speaker explicitly says not to share, then it's ok to share. As a speaker, and perhaps in aspiring to be a more open educator, I've always assumed that sharing is going to happen, if what I'm saying is interesting enough. But now it has been put to me that

presenters don't realise sometimes that pictures are being shared beyond the safe space in the physical room 

So, I'm bothered! As a self-confessed introvert who abhors rudeness, I would hate to think that I've been defying etiquette for the last 7 years. Is this a social blunder that I've been completely unaware of?
Or, might it depend on the context of the conference or event itself - whether an event is ( perhaps by its own nature, or by reason of the intended audience) more open or not? For example, in our own CELT conferences, the advice to the twitter team includes:
  • You’re encouraged to tweet some photos of the conference. Having some photos in the Twitter steam makes the conference experience more concrete for folks not there.
So, I'm asking you - dear readers - what do you think? Answers in the comments, or via Twitter, would be greatly appreciated.


Simon Wood said...

This is a very good question.

I often tweet notes and quotes and occasionally slides. Mostly I don't because it's a fiddle to get a good snapshot - I wouldn't think twice about it unless we'd been asked not to. But it's something we probably should discuss more... I have a feeling that it has simply become expected that your slides will be tweeted unless you ask for them not to be, but is that fair?

On the other hand, it would bog down both the event and the lively Twitter conversations to have to interrogate the presenter on their preferences before each talk. Maybe we need some kind of easy way for conference organisers to 'badge' conferences Twitter friendly, and that should include taking responsibility for making presenters aware that slides will be snapped unless they make themselves an exception...

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting, Simon. I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one.

Yes, I think it might come down to an individual conference, and the responsibility of the organisers to make expectations explicit. To be fair, that's exactly what the organisers of #elss16 have done.

But again - what if the expectation is not made explicit - either by an individual speaker or by a conference organiser?

David Hopkins said...

Interesting, not heard of that before. I can understand someone asking for their slides and/or talk not being shared due to various sensitivity's of data, but the 'sit at the back' is a new one on me. What distraction is there, for either delegates or presenter if someone is busy listening, tweeting, questioning, sharing, etc.?

Personally, blog and tweet away while I'm talking. Whilst it IS a distraction to see the audience with their faces firmly stuck to a screen, and I'm looking at a lot of top-of-heads, it's made worthwhile when you get back to your own device and can check out the tweets/shares. Then you get to engage and answer them. That's the value. That's the important aspect of letting, even asking, people share your content!

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting David. It does seem to come back to the ethos of the event, the discipline, the community. I agree with you on presenting - the openness leads to better outcomes - new contacts and conversations.

andrew said...

A few things occurred to me about this:

1. Is tweeting the norm in the field? Twitter is an established part of learning technologies conferences, whereas in scientific research talks few in the audience will even have used twitter. The value of openness is not necessarily appreciated by everyone.

2. Is the talk explicitly ‘public'? At one time open talks were labelled “All Welcome”, and those that were not were implicitly “closed” with etiquette restricting discussion outside the room. We seem to have lost this distinction recently.

3. What is the copyright status of talks? Lots of effort has gone into promoting awareness about image rights and usage, including creative commons etc. How is tweeting a snapshot of a slide without clear permission different from using an unauthorised image on a slide?

4. Why tweet? Twitter is wonderful for expressing a personal opinion or adding a perspective, especially when it's part of a discussion. This adds to the presentation. Of course it may be convenient to include a snap of the original slide that can’t reasonably be summarised to contextualise. However, simply using twitter to capture and disseminate someone else’s work verbatim is not the same as contributing.

Unknown said...

Thanks for this contribution Andrew. You raise some very good points, which I will continue to ponder.

At this stage I am considering changing my behaviour as follows:

1. When presenting, I will explicitly give permission for the audience to tweet images.
2. When organising a conference, I will make sure there is an explicit social media policy that is communicated to all participants, making clear whether presenters need to opt in or opt out.
3. When attending a conference, ask the the organisers about a social media policy for tweeting images.
4. When a policy is not clear, ask presenters about their one personal preferences.
5. When in doubt, don't tweet images.

I look forward to publishing a follow up post from you on this blog.

topgold said...

I expect my stuff to be tweeted but I don't expect to be part of a live handheld video feed (and that has happened to me in an academic classroom). I snap and share anything interesting when in public venues. I have problems with sessions placarded as "eyes only". I've violated a few embargoed content events and have not received follow-on invitations.

So we are alike in our perspectives.

Simon Wood said...

I like your 5 point plan. I shall adopt it, and I hope others do too!

Unknown said...

Thanks Simon.