I like Twitter – it lets me (virtually, and often eventually, physically) meet lovely people. I’ve made contacts and friendships in the UK and abroad with information professionals in all sectors, programmers and coders of all types, lawyers and barristers in all fields, government staff of all types, teachers, au pairs, historians, housewives, artists…Through the ability to interact on Twitter, I’ve had help on many occasions to source hard to find materials, or been able to ask people with experience in other fields for advice.
But what I have really grown to hate is the people tweeting Every Single Point made at these events. When you tend to follow a lot of people who work in similar sectors (unsurprisingly for me, that’s librarians), you also find a lot of them go to the same events. And that means that you have a LOT of people tweeting exactly the same thing, sometimes differently worded, continuously during talks. The useful content of each tweet usually is low – the tweeter needs to use up characters to include the hashtag, punctuate to make sense of short points, and often there’s a need to include the initials of the speaker, all of which cuts some of the space available for information. When there are parallel sessions running at an event, you usually get different people tweeting about different talks, at the same time and with the same hashtag: very confusing! What also adds to the fun is when other people not attending feel that a point made in a tweet is so exciting, that they instantly retweet it, meaning you have both the tweet, and the immediate retweet clogging things up.
What I would much prefer is that they paid full attention to the talks (rather than trying to compress Big Ideas into 140 characters within 30 seconds of them being uttered), took personal notes, and then, if they really want to spread this information further, they use the information they noted down to write a blog post. I’d far rather read and comment on an overview of the important points of a talk, with the writers views on the event included, at a time that suits me, than be flooded by a stream on the day. A blog post allows discussion over a longer period of time, and allows those not able to monitor the tweets at the time that they are posted to be able to be part of the discussion. It also allows reference back to the discussion, rather than it being a throwaway five minutes which is soon lost to oblivion on Twitter.
I’ve tried exploring ways to block tweets using certain hashtags when the volume of them from events has become overwhelming, but as a protected user, my options for filtering out information via hashtag are limited – the resources I have been pointed towards either don’t work for protected accounts, or involve me unfollowing people. If I’m using a programme to automatically unfollow a dozen people, what are the chances that I’ll remember to refollow them? Not high. And doing that also would mean I would have someone who was following me and able to access my tweets, without me being able to speak to them. Not to mention the annoyance for the person I unfollow if they’re protected, and have to allow my ensuing request to be allowed to follow them again. So, no, not really much I can do about the tweet floods. Other than ignore Twitter during the period of certain events.Which is quite frustrating, as it’s such a useful tool.
Yes, I know a lot of people feel like they’re almost-attending a conference if they can follow the stream or hashtag, but to do that and interact you need to be following it in real time…which means that you if aren’t able to go to the event in the first place, and therefore are presumably currently working, where are you going to find the time to “virtually” attend throughout it?