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17. PressEd — Where the Conference Is the Hashtag

#Advanced #Twitter #pressedconf18

Pat Lockley

© Pat Lockley, CC BY 4.0 https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0162.17

‘I’ve been to conferences that used a hashtag, but this is my first conference that is a hashtag #pressedconf18’ (Groom, 2018).

You may ask what a Twitter conference is. There have been five hashtags: #IconTC, #UPMTC, #PressTC, #PATC, and #PressEDconf18 (Lafferty, 2018) that have been billed as Twitter conferences, and of those #PATC has run multiple times. In such fledgling times it would seem dangerous to be prescriptive about what is and what is not a Twitter conference. Can we consider Twitter chats such as #LTHEchat, #digped or #ETCMOOC to be conferences? Innovations such as Virtually Connecting (2018) connected on-site conference presenters with virtual participants in small groups and blurred the distinctions between purely virtual and purely — what? What is the opposite of virtual? Physical, real, absolute? (Webopedia, 2018). We can say the same about some Twitter conferences — they don’t happen purely on Twitter. Many use email and WordPress for submission and as a central hub. Does this make it less of a Twitter conference? Could it be seen as a more structured Twitter chat?

While we can see academia and social media intertwining in such ways as the ‘#icanhazpdf’ hashtag (used to request access to academic articles which are behind paywalls), related to the ‘I can haz cheeseburger?’ meme (Wikipedia, 2018), is this an osmotic process in which one is changing the other, or a didactic co-existence/dependency? Are we seeing a ‘sea change’, or perhaps something more structural such as a ‘napster moment’ (Shirky, 2012)? There are also other Twitter events such as #10DoT developed by Helen Webster, which may well have elements that seem or act conference-like. Perhaps the openness of Twitter makes organising a conference on it a contradiction. Twitter chats often effectively invite in new participants by being open and visible. A Twitter conference with a schedule and fixed speakers is in some way, closed and perhaps ‘untwitterlike’. Terras et al.’s (2011) work on Twitter as a backchannel stresses the role Twitter plays at physical conferences, but as per Groom, how does Twitter function when it is not a backchannel but the only channel? Is there a requirement for a hashtag to act as the backchannel? #PressedConf18 had only the main hashtag (with which presenters were encouraged to tag all their tweets). Only once the hashtag became akin to a backchannel was consideration given to potentially having a ‘#pressedconf18chat’ hashtag to act as a backchannel, to reduce the volume of tweets on the #PressedConf18 channel that weren’t from the presenters. ‘Backchannel’ itself though seems a pejorative term, and assumes that the conference has a nature to which a secondary form of backchannel can exist. Is a Twitter conference itself a backchannel to the notion and concept of a conference?

A key question in these opening paragraphs has been the nature, and the character of conferences. Can the role that physical conferences play, and the benefits they offer, become tangible in a Twitter form so that a Twitter conference might act as an alternative? In Vega and Cornell’s work (2007) they surveyed nearly 800 librarians and found ‘professional rejuvenation’ and ‘networking’ as the top two reasons to attend a conference. Price (1993) lists ‘Education, networking, and career path and leadership enhancement’ as the key reasons for attendance. There is obvious common ground between the two papers, and there is little reason why a Twitter conference could not perform these functions as well as a physical conference. Networking might even be easier on Twitter, and enhancing careers would be just as possible.

What of the reasons for not attending a conference? Bongkosh and Beck (2000) list perceived risk to one’s safety; inconvenience; insecurity or unfamiliarity with overseas destinations; distance; time; money and health problems. Only time, availability of the technology and perhaps government censorship (Twitter is blocked in China) could apply to a Twitter conference. Likewise, Oppermann and Chon (1997) and Sönmez, and Graefe (1998) list reasons including situational constraints of money, time, travel costs, health constraints and family obligation for not attending conferences, and again, only access to devices and time is perhaps true of Twitter conferences.

Do the hashtags of Twitter conferences look differently to the hashtags of physical conferences? Analysis was performed using a tool (Github, 2018) that downloads all of a hashtag’s tweets to a file that can be opened in Excel. No effort was taken to remove spam or tweets from hashtag ‘crossover’ where the tweet didn’t appear to be ‘from the conference’. On all the following graphs, Twitter conferences are grey, physical conferences black.

Fig. 17.1 Pat Lockley, Tweeters (2018), CC BY 4.0

Here we see Twitter conferences tend to be smaller in terms of the number of people tweeting on the hashtag.

Fig. 17.2 Pat Lockley, Number of tweets (2018), CC BY 4.0

However, Twitter conferences sometimes have more tweets than physical conferences.

Fig. 17.3 Pat Lockley, Average number of replies per tweet (2018), CC BY 4.0

Twitter conference tweets receive more replies than physical conferences.

Fig. 17.4 Pat Lockley, Average number of retweets (2018), CC BY 4.0

Twitter conferences tend to attract a higher number of retweets (above) and a higher number of favourites (below).

Fig. 17.5 Pat Lockley, Average number of favourites (2018), CC BY 4.0

The following table shows users on the hashtag #pressedcon18 (ordered by number of tweets) and shows a high level of engagement.

Twitter Handle

Status

Tweets

Sum of replies

Sum of retweets

Sum of favourites

LornaMCampbell

Presenter

50

21

61

193

Todd_Conaway

Presenter

46

14

14

57

cogdog

Presenter

35

22

42

125

SFaulknerPandO

Presenter

34

16

14

111

twoodwar

Presenter

32

9

9

49

Derekrobertson

Keynote

32

4

9

23

WarwickLanguage

30

4

7

25

drlouisegrove

Presenter

30

11

22

107

jimgroom

Keynote

29

11

32

183

greeneterry

Presenter

29

9

32

80

cjrw

Presenter

26

20

15

44

Chri5rowell

Presenter

26

8

32

51

HJSears

Presenter

25

12

17

45

edteck

Presenter

22

13

16

38

fearghalobrien

Presenter

21

4

6

24

lisajscott82

Presenter

21

21

30

54

Pgogy

Presenter

21

3

2

8

PgrStudio

Presenter

20

5

28

112

TelPortsmouth

Presenter

20

0

21

52

jar

Presenter

20

4

40

107

urbaneprofessor

Presenter

20

0

1

2

RissaChem

Presenter

19

1

4

13

johnjohnston

Presenter

19

20

22

69

wentale

Presenter

19

6

1

13

clhendricksbc

Presenter

18

2

26

36

econproph

18

2

2

17

TelLibrary

Presenter

17

1

16

47

ThomsonPat

Keynote

17

0

11

44

ryanseslow

Presenter

17

4

5

36

jennihayman

Presenter

16

0

3

29

laura_ritchie

Presenter

16

7

14

45

UoMTELIM

Presenter

15

7

20

86

outwither

Presenter

15

5

10

34

mattlingard

Presenter

14

6

21

48

GKBhambra

Keynote

14

3

41

44

JMUSpeColl

Presenter

13

16

8

48

cinigabellini

Presenter

13

5

8

12

SFarley_Charlie

Presenter

12

5

14

41

villaronrubia

Presenter

12

4

15

18

mkgold

Presenter

11

9

11

48

openetc

Presenter

11

4

20

73

BexFerriday

Presenter

11

5

21

24

ammienoot

Presenter

11

6

15

43

edtechfactotum

Presenter

11

5

30

65

lwaltzer

Presenter

10

11

17

89

Videlais

Presenter

10

13

3

32

esembrat

Presenter

9

3

3

5

frenchdisko

Presenter

8

1

7

29

trixieBooth

Presenter

8

0

0

0

Lucwrite

Presenter

8

3

23

78

LaurenHeywood

Presenter

7

3

5

11

iab_uk

6

0

0

0

debbaff

6

2

2

5

georgeroberts

6

4

0

4

mdvfunes

6

4

2

6

sueinasp

5

4

1

10

philbarker

5

1

0

4

hj_dewaard

5

3

0

10

Fig. 17.6 Pat Lockley, #pressedcon18 user data (2018), CC BY 4.0

We can also consider tweet impressions (Twitter calls the presence of a tweet on a user’s timeline an ‘impression’). The graph below shows on how many timelines #PressedConf18 tweets were seen, on the day of the conference. Each tweet was seen on an average number of 491 timelines.

Fig. 17.7 Pat Lockley, Number of times #PressedEd18 tweets were seen (2018), CC BY 4.0

The following table show which tweets received the most impressions and therefore, which users wrote the most read tweets:

Tweet permalink

Impressions

https://twitter.com/GKBhambra/status/979282798195494912

11109

https://twitter.com/drlouisegrove/status/979302732153671680

10335

https://twitter.com/villaronrubia/status/979336097619759104

9067

https://twitter.com/derekrobertson/status/979376506752335874

6011

https://twitter.com/mark_carrigan/status/979342467207254016

4270

https://twitter.com/edtechfactotum/status/979374295682924544

4222

https://twitter.com/johnjohnston/status/979419657009614849

3957

https://twitter.com/jimgroom/status/979468239645245440

2880

https://twitter.com/TelPortsmouth/status/979328316925730817

2672

https://twitter.com/LornaMCampbell/status/979460261236166656

2571

https://twitter.com/HJSears/status/979309726998638592

2461

https://twitter.com/SFarley_Charlie/status/979377806642688001

2449

https://twitter.com/cinigabellini/status/979358861089017857

2407

https://twitter.com/jar/status/979391986884136961

2278

https://twitter.com/TelLibrary/status/979303912695123968

2060

https://twitter.com/mattlingard/status/979324039318687744

2011

https://twitter.com/lwaltzer/status/979446269490888711

1958

https://twitter.com/urbaneprofessor/status/979287835009265664

1895

https://twitter.com/SFaulknerPandO/status/979358517248196609

1783

https://twitter.com/PgrStudio/status/979301979959721989

1747

https://twitter.com/cogdog/status/979399788075593728

1631

https://twitter.com/Pgogy/status/979402540986101760

1465

https://twitter.com/Videlais/status/979415660093755394

1398

https://twitter.com/edteck/status/979438128908836864

1316

https://twitter.com/mkgold/status/979436054364278786

1220

https://twitter.com/greeneterry/status/979334607945388033

1159

https://twitter.com/BexFerriday/status/979382423359123456

1154

https://twitter.com/cjrw/status/979365871318700032

1143

https://twitter.com/fearghalobrien/status/979451881788502017

1115

https://twitter.com/clhendricksbc/status/979441815731531778

1087

https://twitter.com/lisajscott82/status/979367214502555649

1053

Fig. 17.8 Pat Lockley, Number of impressions (2018), CC BY 4.0

Even the lowest number (1053) is far greater than there would be attendees at most physical conferences, and at over 10000, that is significantly larger than a keynote presentation would garner. It is worth noting these are numbers drawn from data obtained in April and May. The data for these tweets will continue to increase. Each conference presentation is a Twitter moment (Twitter, 2018) and the majority of tweets are still available on Twitter.

So how did the tweets fare for retweets, replies and likes?

Fig. 17.9 Pat Lockley, Retweets (2018), CC BY 4.0

Fig. 17.10 Pat Lockley, Replies (2018), CC BY 4.0

Fig. 17.11 Pat Lockley, Likes (2018), CC BY 4.0

So these varied through the day, and didn’t hugely reflect new participants across the world tuning in when it was daytime in their time zone or keynote presentation slots.

impressions

retweets

replies

likes

url clicks

follows

442494

832

402

2611

1171

7

Fig. 17.12 Pat Lockley, Overall #PressedConf18 impressions (2018), CC BY 4.0

Overall, the day generated a lot of impressions. One statistic of note here was that #PressedConf18 tweets didn’t generate a lot of direct ‘follows’ (when someone seeing the tweet opts to follow the tweeter). However, we should consider that any follow-up action might have happened after another tweet or not directly through this route. It would have been useful to have checked for followers before and after the conference to see if there was a distinct change as a result of networking.

So what did the conference offer in terms of promotion and networking for presenters?

Fig. 17.13 Pat Lockley, Followers and impressions (2018), CC BY 4.0

The chart demonstrates no strong correlation between maximum tweet impression and follower number. This is a correlation coefficient of 0.226343, which shows no relationship between follower numbers and impressions of tweets, which means the conference hashtag helped to amplify the tweets of people with fewer followers to new audiences. In terms of followers to tweet impressions, the average value (for the most seen tweets) was 425%.

Twelve out of thirty-one people (for whom we have data) had more followers than they did tweet impressions — although these numbers are without a control group of how many tweets from that user are usually seen. It would seem, though, that being on the conference hashtag offers greater coverage, which can be tied to the career advancement and networking elements rated highly by attendees of physical conferences. Although this is only holds true if the people who see the tweets are as influential as the people you might interact with at a physical conference.

So we can see the impact in terms of exposure, and differences in how Twitter is used for each conference type. Conference tweeting approaches, such as live tweeting (Nason et al., 2015) when delegates tweet comments while the event is taking place, may well be different when the conference is itself live-tweeted.

Fig. 17.14 Pat Lockley, Threaded tweets (2018), CC BY 4.0

Twitter conferences (apart from wstc3) appear to be more ‘threaded’ than physical conferences (apart from ttw18). Perhaps threaded live-tweeting is rarer?

One overlooked aspect of the nature of the conference platform is knowledge transfer. Learning technologists are well versed in how lectures are not the ideal form of teaching. Ross et al. (2011) note that a single speaker has negative repercussions in terms of interactivity and audience engagement: if a Twitter conference lacks a backchannel, consequently leading to a focus on one speaker at a time, does this replicate the problems of the lecture theatre? Or does the reply feature of Twitter mitigate a reluctance to ask questions? Can we therefore consider a Twitter conference to be more open, and to afford a greater equity of participation? Each presenter was asked to leave five minutes for presentations, but perhaps a Twitter conference needs a backchannel as well to encourage further dialogue with the topic and the speaker?

So how efficient could a Twitter conference be at knowledge transfer, even if we consider the replication of some of the negative aspects of lecture-theatre pedagogy in Twitter? We could ask how people versed in educational approaches such as networked learning and Connectivism organise their physical conferences. There is little literature available on the effectiveness of conference presentations (Illic et al., 2013), and conference posters (Davis et al., 1999) remain potentially ineffective as a form of ‘knowledge transfer’.

If the conventional conference format does not transfer knowledge effectively, and other forms of conference or event can meet those needs instead, then it seems valid to ask if Twitter conferences are a viable alternative to the physical conference in terms of meeting the needs of physical conference attendees.

References

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