Saturday, May 17, 2014

Live Tweeting

  With the conference season apparently in full swing, 'tis the season to be tweeting. Conference organisers these days give instructions as to what hashtags to use and what the social politenesses are for each occasion. These tweetstreams can be fun and useful for those of us not able to actually be there and who would like a few clues as to what is going on without having to wait for the conference papers to be published.
  However, it does seem that there needs to be some courses on Live Tweeting 101 in order for us all to get the best out of it. Academics have spent years learning how to put in all the necessary apparatus to make a paper have respectable street cred, but they have often not practised the art of extreme summary. It's a good thing to do. Makes you think about what the point is rather than just how much corroborative evidence needs to be piled on to justify an opinion.
Twitterer from BL Royal 12 C XIX, f.52v

  So, some tips from someone who likes to read these things - sometimes.

1. Limit tweets to one every 10, 15 or 20 minutes. That gives the tweeter the chance to work out what the main point is, and doesn't completely overwhelm the tweetee's inbox with a rolling cascade, preventing them from reading the rest of their day's tweets.
2. Use minimal hashtags so as to leave some space to say something.
3. Please don't use excessive acronyms and abbreviations. Keep it to short plain English sentences. If you try to cram in too much by abbreviating, it is too much trouble to the reader to try and unscramble what you are talking about.
4. Remember you are talking to people who are not listening to the paper. In group allusions are a turn off.
5. The final result should be a four sentence summary of the main point and purpose of the paper, not an on-the-fly scrambled analysis or attempted dialectic.

  I blushingly confess I have unfollowed a couple of people who had interesting things to say on subjects that fascinate me because the jumbled cascade of live tweeted commentary made me feel under siege. Hey, I like the concept of live tweeting, it just has to be done really well.
  Many years ago, before Twitter was invented, the family medievalist tried the, then new and scarey, concept of bulletin board tutorials in which participants had to put down very brief thoughts on the weekly topic. After the initial panic subsided (At that time some students had never used a bulletin board.), the students discovered that being forced into brevity made them clarify their thoughts marvellously. They actually began to enjoy the exercise. Maybe those conference papers should be tweeted in the first place.
  Now live historical tweeting - that is good fun. But I guess that involves planning and you can have it all typed out ready to cut and paste it into tweets at the appropriate moment. Listening analytically and typing simultaneously, while keeping within the bounds of Twitter, is a new skill for all of us.

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