58 comments on “What makes a good conference Pt 2 – a kind of twitter update

  1. But imagine if Twitter was negative… the internet can descend into a flame-fest pretty quickly. I don’t think Twitter is the medium for considered, deep, feedback – which is how negative (ish) feedback should be done if there is respect (which, generally there is – in the PLN context).

    It’s a new medium of discourse, and we still have to see what it is most suitable for…

    (PS. Wish I’d been there…)

    • Hi Phil,

      that’s a very interesting point, and chimes nicely with what Scott is saying (see below).

      Maybe the role of Twitter IS just to be social!

      Jeremy

  2. Very interesting post, Jeremy – especially to someone like me who was invited to present at ISTEK and couldn’t make it (we’re all settled into our new house now, by the way, and loving it!). For many of the presenters in particular, ISTEK appeared to have been unique in that it was being billed as the “mother of all tweetups” as much as (if not more than) another exciting TEFL event.

    I see what you’re getting at here, and I think you’re not alone in pondering it. For two events that preceded ISTEK, as an observer from afar I was actually able to read between the tweets (so to speak) and pick up some mild criticism here and there, which in turn led to some blog postings that took up and went with these sorts of issues. Nothing of the sort for ISTEK (though it is early days, admittedly).

    In terms of overwhelming optimism and potential lack of critical commentary, I somehow think Twitter might be more of a balancing tool than anything else. Twitter is so people-oriented (and still so new, remember) that I think teachers in particular are putting a sense of positive community and inclusion before (most) other priorities. This is probably not a bad thing – but like you, I wonder if it might eventually erode Twitter’s relevance?

    I also wonder a little about context. We saw a post on my own blog become quite upsetting to Turkish teachers when one individual decided to be openly critical on some issues, and he was also rather self-righteously lambasted by many ELT ‘bigwigs’ (who have actually been ‘parachuting expert’ visitors to Turkey while the original critic was actually based in Turkey and very active in the TEFL scene there). If there is any lack of critical discussion about ISTEK, I think it could have a lot to do with (1) foreign attendees being very sensitive about potentially offending their remarkable Turkish hosts, and (2) potential critics being afraid of a lynching! This sort of situation may leave Turkish pride intact (as well as help to maintain the amazing sense of optimism surrounding both that event and its associated Twitter club), but does it help that event and that context progress? I’m not sure.

    I will say one thing about ISTEK and the Twitter angle, though… This is the first time I have seen an event so directly influenced by Twitter, from everything from presenter selection, marketing, personal meet-ups, to actual reporting of the event in real time. No doubt IATEFL 2010 will be an interesting follow up on a grander scale.

    And if Twitter (and our familiarity with and active use of it) is still in a somewhat embryonic stage, perhaps that sense of optimism and “everyone playing nice” is not such a bad thing – for now.

    Not sure how well I’ve expressed myself here (writing this was constantly interrupted by a four year-old with toy binoculars and a 15 month-old climbing into my lap trying to reach the keyboard!), but thanks for your angle on this Jeremy – it certainly got me thinking!

    ~ Jason

    • Hi Jason,

      I think you have expressed yourself very well!

      There are rumblings, of course, about education systems and one conference (indeed one institution) can’t cure that! In that previous exchange on your blog that you mention some of us ‘foreigners’ chipped in because only one side of a picture was being presented, perhaps.

      I really like the idea of Twitter as a ‘balancing tool’. Maybe that is it’s chief function. Or perhaps it is a gateway into the real comment arena, namely the blog and conversations that people have a as result of Twitter. I would go on about that, but I want to answer Scott (below) to.

      Congrats on moving into your house. Maybe you continue to struggle manfully despite the more obvious and compelling distractions of the kids!

      Jeremy

  3. Twitter helps to connect people and provides a sense of immediacy during conference presentations, but it makes a lousy record of what anyone actually says. I wasn’t privy to the minute-by-minute tweets of the ISTEK conference – I was too busy at TESOL Boston – but looking back on the tweets that were sent, they make very little sense. E.g. “XXXX is comparing Web 1.00 and Web 2.00”. Ok. Cool. But what’s the difference? Where’s the detail? The analysis? Subsequent tweets don’t elaborate. XXXX has moved on. Now she’s demonstrating some app. Now she’s playing a video. All you get is soundbites, mostly in the present continuous. Frankly, I’d rather watch the video or read the conference paper – and in my own time.

    By the same token, I’m alarmed at the thought of my own talks being reduced to tweets. Or that people are tweeting and therefore (even momentarily) distracted lagging behind the drift by however many seconds it takes them to key in “Scott is talking about Sylvia Ashton-Warner” or whatever.

    No. Not for me. Twitter connects people, But it doesn’t connect ideas.

    • Hi Scott,

      well the data projector hasn’t arrived yet, so I can’t set up for a talk – and anyway your comment is more compelling at the moment.

      I think you make a really valid point here. It IS nice to read tweets that someone is giving a talk. I HAVE read tweets about you speaking (as you were speaking) – all, of course, universally positive. Occasionally they gave me an inkling of what you were talking about too – sometimes enough to get me ‘discussing’ with the points you were making. But mostly they just said ‘Scott’s great’, which is obviously true, but it connected the person, not the idea.

      On the other hand, the ISTEK conference was a Twitter-mediated event. As Jason comments above (and in Sean Banville’s blog) many people were there or invited just beCAUSE of Twitter. And the connection between people in and outside the conferfrence was palpable and impressive.

      And then again, the friendships that are built up on Twitter do seem real to me. And it’s through Twitter that I have discovered blogs where some realy idea-exchange does, occasionally take place.

      Thanks for helping some thought reclarification!!

      Jeremy

  4. I always enjoy taking notes in talks Scott! There are many presentations when presenters say you don’t need to take notes cos you will get a handout at the end, but I find that the process of taking notes helps me to make sense of what the speaker is saying and I also write things down that I don’t hear from the speaker but which come out of my own head when I make my own personal associations with what is being said.

    This is part of the meaning-making process for me. It’s worth reflecting on the difference between taking notes in a lecture and tweeting in a lecture. I agree with you that many live twitter feeds are incomprehensible when you look back on them but on Sunday morning I was really trying to both make sense of what was being said for myself as I would do when taking notes and to think of how what I was writing might enhance the experience for anybody following both the speaker and a twitter feed in real time. What anybody who wasn’t there gets out of looking at my twitter feed will depend on a whole host of variables including whether they know me or not, whether they know Luke, whether they are interested in teacher education etc. I know my Mum wouldn’t have a clue!

    You are right about the lack of analysis but then you don’t have that anyway when you are taking notes on your own or tweeting, that comes in subsequent discussions face2face or on blogs or wherever.

    The whole issue of projecting the #twitter feed on a screen behind the speaker is another issue, allowing people to comment who wouldn’t want to ask a question in a lecture. I guess it’s quite a daunting thing for a speaker too and changes the nature on the talk in ways we might not want. We are nowhere near that at my university in Budapest but we might discuss the pros and cons of this some where/time too. Have no real opinions on it and no experience of it.

    It was first experience with the medium, the jury’s out and I am off out too soon…

    • Hi Mark,

      thank you very much for your comments. I completely agree that writing a tweet from a lecture IS quite a good discipline, forcing you to try and distil what you think the speaker’s main point is. At least that’s how it has been for me when I’ve tweeted.

      As for the backscreen twitterfeed, I am extremely dubious, mostly because of a blog I have quoted before about the torture one speaker went through when she couldn’t see what was happening. My own feeling is that you/we are much better off if people are tweeting amongst themselves during a talk and not subjecting a speaker to instant (possibly negative) feedback. A speaker can be de-railed by just one negative comment. How will she/he know how representative a twitter comment can be?

      Jeremy

  5. I think the value is the link between twitter and blogs. Twitter connects the people and blogs are the place where the ideas come out and get discussed/challenged/developed. You can’t develop a good argument in 140 characters, but you can connect and link to places where that argument is developed. Just reading the twitter stream in isolation after the fact does seem sort of pointless, but as a force for connecting people who are experiencing the same thing as you at the same time (especially those who like Mark were watching from afar) it seems very valuable.

    I did once comment on some other blog once that I find people texting or otherwise playing with their mobiles during a plenary to be somewhat rude. (A point of view for which I was unceremoniously slammed by a large collection of people) I’m slowly grasping that through twitter what many of them may be doing, may actually be a valuable way of connecting the talk with a wider audience (and not, say, organising their visit to the pub later), but I think it will still be a while before I really get used to it .

    • Andy,

      you know what? Andrew Wright pointed me out for tweeting during his talk, and when Herbert Puchta was speaking, the fact that I was sitting in the front row playing with my iPhone did feel, er, a bit rude.

      But against that, the overall ‘joy’ that people seem to have felt is worth something isn’t it?

      So I am not sure what to think really.

      Hmm.

      Jeremy

      • No, neither am I. It is very much a personal response I think (but then I like to think that I’m not quite so freakish/unique that if I have a personal reaction to something then at least one other person somewhere may have a similar one), and buried in the wall of flames I received when I last revealed this personal response, I did learn that the tweeters/phone tappers felt they were providing a service and supporting learning beyond the room – which I am beginning to grasp.

        As I say, one day, I will be able to equate texting with taking notes or other plenary audience activities that I find totally normal and inoffensive. I’m just not quite there yet.

      • Had a bizarre experience this morning. Presenting at IATEFL, and Burcu asked me if she minded if she tweeted during my talk. I of course agreed. About 5 minutes in I realised she’d closed her laptop and had stopped tweeting. Having said above I was struggling with the idea of people tweeting etc during sessions, now I found myself worried that she wasn’t tweeting because she was hating the session (and didn’t want to say anything negative). Or that there was some other deep rooted reason that she had decided to stop tweeting…

        (Turned out of course that she couldn’t get online :-))

        But I though in counterpoint to my above comments my reaction was quite amusing (to me at least)

  6. It’s quite brave of you to raise this, but you have done so very sensitively, Jeremy. And subsequent commenters have added everything I would have said – Jason with community before criticality, Scott with twitter connecting people rather than ideas, and Andy linking blogs and twitter as symbiotic tools.

    So….. sorry, really nothing to say! I just really like this post!

    • I envy you Darren – that is a beautifully succinct summary of where twitter could be seen to be “at” for ELT in particular, and it makes me hang my head in shame at the potential digressions in my first response.

    • Thank you so much Darren for saying that. But actually I think there may be more to say. Scott got me thinking again. I have found myself re-visiting previous ‘givens’ about Twitter, and now Andy’s got me worrying!!

      Which is, I guess why I like Twitter. It constantly asks us to re-evaluate it and, perhaps, in the process, ourselves and our relationships!

      Jeremy

  7. I also loved the sense of real brother- and sisterhood and I’m hoping ISTEK has started a trend here. I think “the PLN” has reached a sufficient size to more or less guarantee some major tweet-ups ahead. This should do wonders for conference attendance numbers.
    Following ISTEK, my major reason for going to a conferences from now may well be to catch up with “old” and meet unmet PLNers. Gone are the (pre-Twitter) days of attending conferences and wandering around hoping to bump into someone you might have met the previous year. Twitter has made sure conferences are now social meet-fests.
    One factor that differentiated ISTEK from anything I’d attended before was the setting and organization. It seems to have been designed to bind – down to the bean bags – and bring absolutely everyone together. Any conference organizers attending last weekend now need to ensure elements of ISTEKness are incorporated into their own events.

    • Hi Sean,

      yes, I think your point about not being ‘alone’ any more is a really good one. Twitter gives you a ready-made friendship group when you meet up f2f. At least that was my impression at Yeditepe.

      Funny, isn’t it, that beanbags make such a difference!

      Jeremy

  8. Hello there. I was one of those who, as you know, really enjoyed the ISTEK weekend from afar and felt connected to it and, more importantly, to those like me who couldn’t attend it, via twitter. There is something rewarding and inclusive about being able to make a comment during a plenary and know you’re being heard even though you may be thousands of kilometres away. However, I really do take Scott’s point on board and the thought had crossed my mind about what in terms of ‘content’ can be transmitted via twitter. If the twitters raised are later returned to in some sort of detailed discussion board this would seem a much more worthwhile practice. I was left with many questions which couldn’t really be raised in 140 characters. Obviously, live forums etc address this issue but, even in terms of future ISTEK level events, it would really interesting if we could arrange some sort of discussion deeper than twitter level soon after the plenary.

    • Hi Laura,

      that’s a beautiful encapsulation of what I was trying – in my inelegant way – to say. I mean your comment ‘and know you are being heard even tho…’ etc

      That’s what makes Twitter so seductive I think. The fact that we are ‘being heard’.

      But/and yes, Scott has a good point. But maybe if Twitter pulls people in to blogs, discussions etc then that secondary purpose (communicating ideas) really works?

      Jeremy

  9. Thanks Jeremy for getting us to talk about this a bit more – what makes a good conference in general is a great issue but I think we need to reflect a little on why this particular conference was so good for us and all our twitter friends who followed the plenaries on the web.

    I think that without a doubt, the plenary talks made all the difference – yours was a prime example of a quality presentation encouraging reflection – as were all the others. And you do recite well!!!! Chapeau!

    The variety of styles was also refreshing – from Andrew Wright’s poignant story telling style to Luke Prodromou’s carefully staged presentation, in which even the speaker’s movement, or lack of, meant something – an excercise in semiotics.

    I am not so worried of us being uncritical – I for one had a long and deep and very rewarding discussion with Luke after his presentation and a lot of what came out might perhaps make his presentation slightly different next time (or not – even if not, doesn’t really matter, the trip to Ithaca matters, not the destination, as the great poet Kavafis said).

    But the discussions or the comments overheard or made were made in a strikingly supportive and encouraging way – I don’t recall anyone making any unpleasant comments, even when they disagreed with some basic point.

    For me, the end all magic that made this conference very special to me and to all the members of our PLN who were there had a lot to do with what you called the ‘levelling effect’ of Twitter and the feeling that we were there as a team to offer the best this team could do.

    This feeling was at its most evident at the end of each Pecha Kucha on Saturday night. We were all nervous not just about ourselves but about every other one of “us”.

    I will never forget the relief with which almost all of you rushed up to me and kissed me after my PK and told me how great you thought I had been – almost like a worried teacher at her student’s exams, a bunch of worried mother hens – relieved and thrilled when each one of us was done, relieved they had done well…. I felt/did exactly the same about/to all of you!!!!

    If this is not a feeling of group membership, of bonding and belonging, I don’t know what is.

    And I do think that the ripple effect of this group membership which we have with all our friends on twitter held them together as well!

    What a lovefest indeed! I loved each and everyone of you and we did take every opportunity to display our feelings! I thought that was awesome!

    Of course there were people who were not of the same mind – Herbert Puchta, for example, was not at all into this at all. For him, perhaps, as well as for many other conference goers, this was a great conference but for our twitter group it was really very very special.

    If this repeats itself at Harrogate, I think we will have serious withdrwal issues afterwards!!!

    • Hello Marisa,

      thanks for your lovely comments. And yes, all those great positive feelings you describe were the same for me too.

      There’s a couple of things that occur to me having read you. Firstly your ‘non-twitter’ moment (apart from the supportive hugs!) was your ability to talk to Luke and discuss with him after his plenary. But that was because you were there and could have that ‘ideas’ discussion, the one that Scott says Twitter doesn’t allow. And as Laura says above,she would have liked follow-up on the plenaries too, but Twitter wasn’t the medium for it!

      And now, IATEFL. A much bigger Twitter group will be there, and we will all vanish into all the bigger groups we are members of. My suspicion is that the ‘high’ of ISTEK will be difficult to replicate in such a situation. We’ll see.

      Harrogate. Just a few days.

      Jeremy

      • Thanks for responding Jeremy – of course it was possible to talk to Luke because I was there, no doubt about that. But I was actually responding to your comment that we were all being so lovey-dovey that we were uncritical… no more.

        IATEFL sounds like a gigantic thing – perhaps ISTEK success was just because it was just the right size conference (500 more or thereabouts would still be the same – from my own experience at least, not too huge so you get entirely lost in the crowd.

        I think you are absolutely right that IATEFL will offer us a different ‘high’ but not exactly the same kind of ‘high’.

        But we are all going out there to show them how to get things right, right?🙂

  10. Great points already made, so just want to add something about the aesthetic experience of a good conference (and ISTEK WAS, from many standpoints, a good conference).

    We all know that combination of delight & satisfaction that comes from a good conference presentation. It can be felt by presenter and/or audience, sometimes one without the other. This emotional reaction is very similar to the feeling you get when you attend a great theatre performance or concert (less so a movie, I think, but that’s a different matter).

    Over the years, anyone who didn’t attend a good presentation at a particular conference, or a good conference, had to deal with the “Oh, you just HAD to be there” remarks from colleagues.

    In a way, twitter has intensified this – meaning that one can feel very left out if one misses a series of well-received presentations or conferences.

    It seems to me that all this one-upmanship is now a thing of the past. The live streaming of ISTEK, plus the closeness of the worldwide watchers who attended it in cyberspace and tweeted each other means that in future the sense of satisfaction will spread far more widely.

    Whilst I agree with Scott’s general disregard for the tweet as an intelligent form of response, in this case, that is missing the point. The tweet is simply saying ‘i’m here too, and I’m loving it’🙂

    • Ken,

      yes, I agree with everything you say here, and it makes me think that the REAL power of ISTEK was the COMBINATION of live-streaming and Twitter… Now I didn’t watch the livestream so I don’t know ow good it was, but it seemed to be high quality judging by the comments we received. So the people watching from outside Turkey really DID feel part of it because of the Twitter traffic going backwards and forwards. That was the magic, perhaps, and the ‘love-in’ feel came from that.

      Intelligent conversation? Well sometimes it’s just great to ‘feel’ – which is, I suspect, exactly what you said, only you did it better!

      Jeremy

    • Dear Ken,

      I thought your comment included one word which in writing my responses in various people’s blogs I neglected or did not think of using: “aesthetic experience”

      I think that was hugely important at ISTEK, and it was done very thoughtfully and with great grace – from the welcome to the finish, there were many small details to add to this being not just an intellectually stimulating event but an aesthetically pleasing series or images which have great staying power. I don’t want to go into lengthy detail of what I mean – those who were there will know and for those who were not, it will not make much difference.

      Kudos to Burcu for pulling this together with such finesse.

      • Yes, the way that the ISTEK conference was put together was absolutely crucial, of course (see my earlier post about what makes a good conference…well, actually anyone’s post like that).

        I think (I guess I am repeating myself) it was all of those things mixed together that made them so special?

  11. The story of the ‘backtweeting’ that Jeremy posted above is truly horrible… a gimmick with no worth. But as a relatively inexperienced presenter (amongst such august company on this blog, that is) I remember how thrilled I was to be tweeted for the first time. It was a pretty techie conference, and during the day I had been following the hashtags as I followed the talks. So when I sat down after my own presentation, I was chuffed to see ‘#blah Elliot says blah blah blah’. OK, so they spelt my name incorrectly (who doesn’t). And it certainly didn’t offer any critical insight. But what a lovely feeling of validation… it’s like the first time my writing was cited by someone other than myself!

    • Darren,

      your comment made me laugh!Twitter makes us feel good that people are citing us!! I confess that i was very moved to read many of the tweets that went on on during my talk at ISTEK. Felt great!

      Jeremy

  12. Andy Hockley :

    No, neither am I. It is very much a personal response I think (but then I like to think that I’m not quite so freakish/unique that if I have a personal reaction to something then at least one other person somewhere may have a similar one), and buried in the wall of flames I received when I last revealed this personal response, I did learn that the tweeters/phone tappers felt they were providing a service and supporting learning beyond the room – which I am beginning to grasp.

    I hope I wasn’t one of the ‘flamers’!! I think the ISTEK experience has made me think again a bit though….

    As I say, one day, I will be able to equate texting with taking notes or other plenary audience activities that I find totally normal and inoffensive. I’m just not quite there yet.

    • No, no. Not you nor any of our regular blog-twit-pln. It was a US blog, and nobody I know (really or virtually) was involved.

  13. Hi Jeremy,
    I really enjoyed your post and it sounds like a great conference, and if most people seemed to think that Twitter added a lot to the experience, well, then quite possibly it did.
    However, I think you might be slightly overestimating how much people who weren’t at the event can get out of twitter. I do, as you know, look at your tweets very often, but the longer you have been on twitter, the more incomprehensible your tweets are becoming to me. Probably because I don’t check it more than once every ten days, and because I don’t follow any of the people you do, but I get the impression it’s becoming an increasingly inpenetrable group. But maybe that’s the point of twitter, you have your group and you have to keep up with them. (And I know that if I took some time to follow the links and read all the blogs, I could get into it too, so it’s not like it’s an exclusive group.)
    It does sound very positive the way that people are getting to know each other online before coming to the conference and I wonder if Twitter’s main function during it is to bypass the inhibitions that might stop us turning to a complete stranger sitting next to us and saying what we think of the talk by giving people an informal forum to comment in, whatever their ‘status’.
    I agree with everyone else that that backtweeting thing sounds horrendous. I don’t think putting something on stage with a presenter that competes for his/her attention but is completely out of his/her control is ever going to be a positive addition to a talk.

    • I think all communities tend to this, Gemma. No matter how open members feel to new people, the fact is that shared histories/events/legends/jokes/etc end up excluding (entirely unintentionally) outsiders. I’ve seen it happen time after time, and I have no idea how to make it better. Even the most welcoming groups can be difficult to break into, I think.

      I have more than one “twitter group”, but I frequently wonder what the members of one get from some of my comments aimed perhaps at another. I imagine they are baffled and ignore.

      (By the way, this for me is why the widely criticised decision by twitter to remove any posts beginning with an @ sign from the public stream, is actually an excellent one)

      • I see what Gemma and Andy are getting at here, but to Andy in particular I would say that on Twitter this does seem to be something a little different.

        I think if you decide to “follow” someone, you’ve made (to a greater or lesser extent) a bit of a commitment to engage with that person. I’ll admit I find it mildly annoying (but also a bit baffling) that – just by way of example – two particular individuals in my ‘network’ never respond to RTs or direct (engagement style) responses to their tweets. They’ve ‘followed’ me, but sort of excluded me (quite possibly not fully intentionally) entirely from their social chatter, or the wider chatter with others we all follow. Funny thing is, both of these individuals are so-called social media gurus and even write blog posts lecturing others on how to use things like twitter ‘appropriately’! It’s almost like I’m worth a number in a follower count, but not actually talking to…

        Invited but not included, or else included but not invited?

        It’s not a big issue to me personally (because I’m the first to admit I may not actually be worth talking to!), but it’s not a particularly pleasant thing to experience, and I think it becomes borderline rude. I follow people on Twitter because I think they’re worth my time and attention – and at the very least a modicum of manners. I’m not sure all other ELT tweeters (particularly some who feel they’re quite popular) are treating the medium in the same way, and I can understand why some people end up feeling lost or excluded as they spin around in Twitter’s peculiar orbits, often with a sense of being stuck on a variety of thresholds – one foot in the door, one still outside.

    • Hi Gemma,

      I was really interested in your ‘impenetrable’ comment, so much so that I tweeted it straight away and it got people, er, tweeting.

      Yes, a PLN can become a bit self-referencing I think, and if you duck in only occasionally it may be difficult to know what’s going on. But I have got quite used to the tweeting foibles of many of the people I follow – as they have to me I suspect – and we ‘get along’ pretty well. Speaking personally, I always try to make what I am saying clear – unless it’s a reply to someone and then, I guess, it may be pretty incomprehensible.

      You have made me think of trying to be a bit clearer in future. The whole point of the Twitter exercise is to communicate what we are doing, thinking etc.I will try harder. I will.

      Jeremy

      • Oh, I should have been a little more precise, especially as I had more than 140 characters at my disposal. I don’t mean that you should become clearer because I find your tweets inpenetrable, I mean that twitter only really works if you check it several times a day, every day. And even though I often mean to, I mostly forget to check for days on end. I think I will make a concerted effort to get into it once my current project has finished, but I would probably have to go facebook cold-turkey for that to work. But I think that group dynamic is probably what makes twitter – otherwise the length is probably just too limited. It’s just that I’m not quite with it yet – I’m not sure if I’m not too old for this kind of thing – and it was a strange feeling to see that you had tweeted your summary of my comments. Not a negative feeling, before you start worrying again, but a strange one.
        Oh and what I meant to add before – I agree with Andy that it doesn’t seem quite right for people to be fiddling with their mobiles during talks. Again, I’m probably old fashioned, but I wonder if people couldn’t hold off ’til the end, when they really know what they thought of the talk.

      • OK so I’ve been checking Twitter much more regularly during IATEFL and I think what you’ve tweeted e.g. about the Carol Reed talk does help people not at the conference to participate. It’s just hard to separate that stuff from the other stuff – perhaps it’s the applications e.g. Tweetdeck that make the twitter expierence? I’m still using the website because I didn’t want to burden my poor old computer with yet another programm.
        And you are blatantly going to get an iPad sooner or later so it might as well be sooner.

      • OK so I’ve been checking Twitter much more regularly during IATEFL and I think what you’ve tweeted e.g. about the Carol Reed talk does help people not at the conference to participate. It’s just hard to separate that stuff from the other stuff – perhaps it’s the applications e.g. Tweetdeck that make the twitter experience? I’m still using the website because I didn’t want to burden my poor old computer with yet another program.
        And you are blatantly going to get an iPad sooner or later so it might as well be sooner.

  14. Guys,

    Been following this with interest and have been making notes over about 6 months about twitter.

    However much I hate agreeing with Scott – I really see twitter as the ultimate form of narcissism and vanity. Lots of good in it but taken to its ultimate end – it has a Dorian Gray character. But I’ll reveal all my thoughts in a soon to be released confessional🙂 It’s all good!

    David

    • Hi David,

      why do you hate agreeing with Scott. I’ve done it quite a few times and it didn’t hurt at all!!

      Seriously…I like the ‘Dorian Gray’ mention. There is something of that about Twitter. Sort of we are all lovely lovely (but in the portrait in our hearts we are shrivelling up emotionally. Hmm. Don’t like that image much now…!!!

      Look forward to the confessional.

      Jeremy

  15. Several great points raised and all valid. However, that is the thing with Twitter is that everyone uses it differently. Therefore, each person has a different experience. For me, I find Twitter mostly positive and the backchannel doesn’t bother me. I do feel guilty about tweeting during a talk, though, and also feel guilty not tweeting during a talk as you found out Jeremy. I tend to tweet when I have seen bits of the presentation before which was the case for some of the presentations. For me sharing the information and having others not there respond positively is really fascinating. It is sharing our mutual excitement like when we watch a movie and hold another person’s hand during a particularly emotional moment. Therefore, I don’t feel terrible if people tweet during my presentation. I don’t assume they are not listening or didn’t catch every word. Honestly, people will only remember about 5 points and taking the time to tweet a particularly interesting point probably helps them remember more. It is almost like taking notes, except, I tend to go back and read the tweets more. I particularly enjoyed the tweets because there were a few things I missed while running late and I was glad the tweets keep me up to date!

  16. I forgot to add that tweeting to others during the conference who couldn’t make it makes this quite penetrable in my opinion. Some of the people I wanted there weren’t there and I was happy to laugh with them via Twitter about our shared moments. It made me miss them more and I felt as if they were there with me. Before Twitter I never got to experience conferences like that. I am grateful to the people who have reached out to me when I couldn’t make the tweet-up they were at. Just the fact they thought about me to include me and share with me made me feel a part of the experience.

    • Hi Shelly,

      yes, I loved that feeling that I was connected with people ‘out there’. At the same time I sometimes ‘absented myself’ from the moment by concentrating on my little iPhone when I would otherwise have been up there with the speaker.

      Or would I have been? Our minds wander anyway when we listen.

      When I do the poetry and music show I’m involved in at the moment O hope – like all performers – that people are lapping it up, listening, full attention etc. A bit like when I go to the theatre, a concert etc. My complete concentration on what’s happening would never let me tweet. So why am I more comfortable doing it at a conference? Or am I?

      Help. Lots to think about…..

  17. Hi Jeremy

    Here I am , late as ever:) Work is my excuse. A very interesting and thought-provoking topic, though, and one I’ve been chewing over quite a bit recently.

    As a relative newcomer to the world of tweeting, I’m still in the process of trying to work out how to make best use of it. At the moment, I’m doing a lot of what Andy talks about-following up interesting twitter comments on blogs, and engaging with discussions I find absorbing. Twitter also allows me to connect to people I know-like you- and others I don’t know so well, but would like to know.

    I tend to agree with Scott’s posting about the social, rather than ideas-exchange, uses of twitter, and sometimes find it frustrating not to be able to engage more deeply with people, and really talk things through. I think Laura’s point about post-plenary discussions is a great one in that regard. I kind of think that if it all remains at the level of ‘I’m here too and I’m loving it’ as Ken suggests, then it only has limited appeal for folk who aren’t there, doesn’t it?

    Anyway, a few disjointed thoughts here, but it certainly got me thinking. I wonder what discourse analysts say about twitter ..perhaps we’ll have to wait for a few years to see what it’s all really about?

    Sue

    • Hey, late is good! Well, just coming along is good!

      Discourse analysis of twitter will happen soon – it’s bound too. And then we’ll see if it’s just social stuff. Often it is, I am sure, but people also tell us about stuff, or express strong opinions, or draw our attention to things we might otherwise have missed. I like that about it.

      But interestingly enough, this post, and the comments that go with it, have made me think a lot more deeply about how I use/consume twitter at conferences….

  18. Marisa Constantinides :

    Thanks for responding Jeremy – of course it was possible to talk to Luke because I was there, no doubt about that. But I was actually responding to your comment that we were all being so lovey-dovey that we were uncritical… no more.

    IATEFL sounds like a gigantic thing – perhaps ISTEK success was just because it was just the right size conference (500 more or thereabouts would still be the same – from my own experience at least, not too huge so you get entirely lost in the crowd.

    I think you are absolutely right that IATEFL will offer us a different ‘high’ but not exactly the same kind of ‘high’.

    But we are all going out there to show them how to get things right, right? :-)

    Yes we can! I mean yes we are!

    • Hello little miss bossy!

      Yes, I was great meeting you too – part of the charm of Twitter that Mark Andrews (and I, and many others) have commented on.

      You did a great Pecha Kucha at ISTEK, by the way. Great! And I’m sorry we didn’t hang out more.

      Right. Now I’m off to have a look at Lindsay’s blog that you mentioned.

      Jeremy

    • I have looked at Lindsay’s post, Anita, which expresses far more succinctly than my efforts what I was trying to say (though this post is, of course, part of an ongoing riff about conferences in general).

      That meeting – yes it was great to meet the REAL ‘little miss bossy’ – is something, isn’t it. An instant community, instant fellowship. Perhaps that’s what makes it so powerful!!

      But back to the Pecha Kucha evening…didn’t we (you) do well?!! I mean as a group; the whole event beautifully choreographed by Lindsay, the beanbags!!

      Sorry, I got overtaken by memory and nostalgia there!!

  19. Jeremy,

    I’m late to this party, but here’s a summary of my thoughts (as if we hadn’t actually talked about it a few dozen times before…)

    1) There is a relentless positivity to Twitter – but that’s because it’s a very public forum. You’re hardly likely to sit in a talk, tweeting to a couple of thousand people (some of whom are in the room) and tweet “What a rubbish plenary – that Harmer’s talking out of his a**e”) – but of course there is such a thing as the DM. In many ways, it’s rather like a traditional conference – the gossip is in the back room, the pleasantry on display because social norms demand it (though I did have a great public argument with Hugh Dellar in Paris last year…. We’re good chums now, mind!). I agree with a lot of what’s been said here – critical analysis goes out of the window in the public timeline when one is operating in a close-knit community who see each other regularly: everything is great, you’re great, I’m great, the plenaries were all great, as were all the workshops we all went to.

    2) There is a potential isolation involved in Twitter. Who are you if you’re not there? Why aren’t you there? I suspect it’s for financial reasons, but that may not stop people writing you off as invisible. I think there is a certain ‘impenetrable’ nature to much of this, though – as someone clever pointed out – that happens in all cliques, groups and families. If the Twitter airwaves are full of the relentless delight of your mates being somewhere you’re not, then it can get a bit wearing, I suspect.

    3) I’m with Scott (don’t fall over now, Scott) on the usefulness of Twitter for content at a conference. Unless you work really hard at a talk, it’s pretty nigh impossible to convey any of the meaning of the speaker. This may have been easier in plenaries at ISTEK due to the live streaming, but he’s pretty much on the nail there with his comment. However, with live video, the extra layers of information and interpretation can be both useful and enjoyable.

    4) Socially (and if you’re not feeling isolated) Twitter can really enhance one of these experiences for people not there. I like the chit-chat, the sharing of quickly-snatched photos and the little updates of what people are doing, who they’ve finally met f2f, etc. The human side strikes me as a very good thing – and it gets bigger the more you see people, so the accumulative effect is that of old friends getting together.

    5) In terms of people using laptops and phones in talks, I think that’s inevitable. Already in a year and a half it’s become more the norm, and I’ve been to very few events recently where it wasn’t happening. In bigger spaces like plenary halls and large talks I think it’s perfectly fine. In smaller workshop situations I might find that a bit annoying, but I’d live with it. I’d like to see dual screens in some talks, with the Twitter feed fed to the second screen (as we did last year in IATEFL for the Longman event) and would be happy to experiment with that myself. The chances of the ELT community descending into a Twitter bashing of a speaker live are fairly minimal, I reckon (see point 1 above).

    Right – I’ve run out of time. Wanted to say more but there’s washing to hang, and talks to be finished.

    Gavin

    • Hi Gavin,

      ah yes, the washing! In the absurdly short turnaround time we seem to have these days between airports getting the ironing in is quite a feat!!

      Thanks for you wise comments. As this conversation has gone on it becomes clear to me that the positive stuff is absolutely fine – and a good corrective to some of the natural bitchiness that happens behind the scenes. Plus being nice may be boring but it is, er, nice. The ISTEK thing was the combination of that + the streaming, I am sure, which meant that people in and out of the show were all included, and that WAS nice!

      And ye…there are some twitterers who can encapsulate interesting thoughts in 140 characters…things that challenge and provoke….and some public conversations are enlightening I find. And the fun too, and (we’ve said this before) the ego feeding which we all enjoy however much we are preapared to admit it.

      As for tweeting in session: as I commented to someone else I think sitting in the front row and tweeting DID feel a bit strange. I need to think about that.

      On to IATEFL to see if the magic works there. It’s a tougher call, is my feeling.

      Jeremy

  20. Gemma Ruffino :

    Oh, I should have been a little more precise, especially as I had more than 140 characters at my disposal. I don’t mean that you should become clearer because I find your tweets inpenetrable, I mean that twitter only really works if you check it several times a day, every day. And even though I often mean to, I mostly forget to check for days on end. I think I will make a concerted effort to get into it once my current project has finished, but I would probably have to go facebook cold-turkey for that to work. But I think that group dynamic is probably what makes twitter – otherwise the length is probably just too limited. It’s just that I’m not quite with it yet – I’m not sure if I’m not too old for this kind of thing – and it was a strange feeling to see that you had tweeted your summary of my comments. Not a negative feeling, before you start worrying again, but a strange one.
    Oh and what I meant to add before – I agree with Andy that it doesn’t seem quite right for people to be fiddling with their mobiles during talks. Again, I’m probably old fashioned, but I wonder if people couldn’t hold off ’til the end, when they really know what they thought of the talk.

    Call you old-fashioned? I never would!

    The impenetrable thing….I tweeted it because I thought (think) that it was an interesting comment. And thanks for clarifying that it isn’t the individual tweets that are difficult, it is the whole current of conversation flowing around. When I am out of twitter for a bit I have trouble sometimes getting ‘back in’. So in that sense we agree.

    But the thing that fascinates me endlessly about Twitter is that we keep talking about it – about what it means, how it works etc. I DO have a PLN which other people might feel excluded from when they see us tweeting away.

    Ad yet…

    The beauty of Twitter is that NO ONE IS EXCLUDED! If they want in they just have to come along. Which is why all the fuss about ISTEK makes sense..

    (I’ve just seen a tweet pop up on my screen. It says ‘no you just lock him up and leave him there for the rest of his life’….and I have no idea what that’s aout. But I think I’d better go and have a look and see….!

  21. Pingback: ISTEK and My One Year Twitter Birthday | Teacher Reboot Camp

  22. Gemma Anna Ruffino :

    OK so I’ve been checking Twitter much more regularly during IATEFL and I think what you’ve tweeted e.g. about the Carol Reed talk does help people not at the conference to participate. It’s just hard to separate that stuff from the other stuff – perhaps it’s the applications e.g. Tweetdeck that make the twitter expierence? I’m still using the website because I didn’t want to burden my poor old computer with yet another programm.
    And you are blatantly going to get an iPad sooner or later so it might as well be sooner.

    I am so sorry that I didn’t respond to this before – but since you have been following some of the Tweets from IATEFL you’ll know why.

    For me Twitter made the conference better because even as I was sitting through a truly amazing IT talk I could also, via Tweetdeck, follow what was happening somewhere else. And later too I almost followed a debate whilst listening to a speaker. Truly wonderful. But yes there’s still the social/professional mix wich is quite confusing.
    But I recommend Tweetdeck or perhaps echofon or one of the others that are really good iPhone apps for following Twitter ‘live’.

    It IS true that I think iPads are pretty sexy. But not yet. Let’s see what the new versions are like.

  23. Andy Hockley :

    Had a bizarre experience this morning. Presenting at IATEFL, and Burcu asked me if she minded if she tweeted during my talk. I of course agreed. About 5 minutes in I realised she’d closed her laptop and had stopped tweeting. Having said above I was struggling with the idea of people tweeting etc during sessions, now I found myself worried that she wasn’t tweeting because she was hating the session (and didn’t want to say anything negative). Or that there was some other deep rooted reason that she had decided to stop tweeting…

    (Turned out of course that she couldn’t get online :-) )

    But I though in counterpoint to my above comments my reaction was quite amusing (to me at least)

    I LOVE this story, Andy. Made me laugh! Thanks.

    Jeremy

  24. How long do you give Twitter? The ‘paid’ twitter posts are already starting to appear. I fear the decent into Spam hell will be very swift.

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