I’ve already written positively about my use of Twitter (e.g., see Twitter, Vernor Vinge, and Homeland Security and My Personal Twitter Rules So Far). Here I write about a pet peeve: the popular practice of reporting on conference sessions via Twitter.
In theory, twittering conference sessions should be a good thing. Not everyone can afford to attend conferences, twittering offers the conference promoters and the presenters with a “free” method for extending their reach and brand, and tools and tricks are available to technically knowledgeable folks for aggregating Twitter messages.
Problem is, the quality of the messages that are posted varies substantially by the ability of the poster to think and type at the same time. Some might say that the discipline of limiting messages to 140 characters is A Good Thing. What frequently emerges, though, is a disjointed series of messages that, more often than not, fails to communicate the complex content the speaker is presenting.
Given the choice between a realtime but disjointed series of messages created on the fly that may or may not represent the actual thoughts and deeper messages of presenters, and a later written article that is based on some thought and reflection, I’ll take the article over Twitter immediacy.
The bottom line for me is that I want to make good use of my time. Spending continuous partial attention on potentially multiple disjointed messages, then assembling them mentally in order to guess at the real message of the speaker, seems counterproductive to me. What comes to mind is that I’m being exposed via Twitter to a disjointed set of PowerPoint bullet points, but without the benefit of seeing or hearing the speaker’s tone, gestures, facial expressions — or intent.
Perhaps one could make the “a half a loaf is better than none” argument, but I don’t think so. If I can’t attend a conference, I’ll wait till my trusted group of reporters, bloggers, and journalists have a say.
Copyright (c) 2008 by Dennis D. McDonald
Follow Dennis on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ddmcd.