PLA Blog: tweeting at the conference

March 29, 2010

This post was originally written for the PLA Blog. ALA holds the copyright to this text; it is reproduced here with permission.

Everyone’s been doing such a lovely job of recapping sessions they attended, so I wanted to get a little meta on you guys and talk about how Twitter was used at PLA this year. For a little context, the way I was keeping up with PLA happenings on Twitter was partly though the people I already followed but mostly by monitoring tweets tagged with #pla10, so I did miss anything that people I didn’t know said about the conference that wasn’t tagged.

What worked
Twitter turned out to be great for getting snippets of sessions I didn’t attend. It was sometimes hard to decide which of two or three concurrent talks I wanted to go to, so it was nice afterward to be able to scroll back through recent tweets to see if anything particularly interesting (and necessarily pithy) had come out of the ones I missed. It was interesting, too, to see how many people quoted the same thought, and it was especially interesting to see what sessions Twitter users attended. There were, as you’d expect, a lot of tweets about the technology sessions, and there were a fair amount from the youth services sessions, but there were very few from the management track sessions. Make of that what you will.

What didn’t work as well
Unfortunately, the #pla10-tagged tweets seemed to mostly be people putting out ideas without much dialog happening around those ideas. That is, Twitter looked like a room full of people talking at and not with each other. I did see some short exchanges, and it’s possible that these follow-up conversations and elaborations happened in @-replies that didn’t get tagged (I know I had a few of those myself), but it didn’t seem like Twitter was being used much to build ideas or community.

My other main disappointment was that plans to have a tweet-up (an in-person meeting of Twitter users) weren’t well published and mostly fell through: one person said that only five people said they’d be there and then only two actually showed up–but I didn’t even hear about it until it was over. This missed opportunity to build community was especially sad since national conventions are such a great time to meet people you normally wouldn’t, or to finally meet people you’ve “known” online.

I’m really glad that I was twittering publicly at PLA, though. I’ve been using Twitter for almost two years now, but with a locked account and just among friends; it’s only in the last few months that I’ve created a public account and started socializing outside of my immediate circle. It added a depth and dimension and feeling of connection, both to content and to people, that I didn’t have at ALA. And from the experience I’ve gained more followers and started following some new people I wouldn’t have found without Twitter and hashtags and the conference. The complexity of what we say is somewhat limited by Twitter’s 140-characters-or-less format, but I’m looking forward to seeing more ideas and thoughts from new library friends in the coming months.

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