Tweeting MiT6

The hashtag for the sixth Media in Transition conference got a lot of action during the conference and the period before and after. In the last couple of days, John Maxwell has posted an archive of these tweets, and Jean Burgess posted an updated word cloud. I figured I would fill in with some more meta-analysis and a little commentary.

First, here is a quick graph of hourly posting frequency…

Tweets per hour at MIT6

Tweets per hour at MIT6

Naturally, there is a skewed distribution of the 1009 tweets recorded here. The top tweeters were as follows:

1. Derek Kompare (d_kompare), 82
2. Elisabeth Jones (eaj6), 78
3. Lisa Lynch (liesell), 77
4. Tim Anderson (loganpoppy), 70
5. laura47, 51
5. Kathleen Fitzpatrick (kfitz), 51
7. John Maxwell (jmaxsfu), 50
8. Rick Prelinger (footage), 43
9. beyondbroadcast, 39
10. { jlr } (j_l_r), 32

The most frequently referenced twitter users in the tweets (i.e., referenced by @) were:

1. @footage, 23
2. @kfitz, 19
3. @joshgreen, 16
4. @d_kompare, 11
4. @halavais, 11
4. @dkompare, 11
7. @liesell, 9
7. @NiemanLab, 9
7. @jeanburgess, 9
10. @eaj6, 8

Finally, here is the wordl-generated word cloud of comments only, excluding most user-names, urls, and other cruft.


What does all this mean? Does it amount to a hill of beans? Well, I’m still processing and trying to decide.

I know what @mamamusings would say: stop flooding me :). She thinks a regular chat channel (IRC, etc.) is more appropriate for conference and event tweeting. I can see why this might be the case, but the function of tweeting is, I think, different from that of chat.

Tweeting a conference is a lot like live-blogging a conference, but on a smaller scale. Now, I know a lot of people are not a fan of live-blogging conferences, and, frankly, few people do it well. I know I don’t. The times I have tried have met with modest success, at best. The advantage to Twitter is that it gives you a chance to publish very lightly considered ideas in real time. Is the signal-to-noise ratio on this high? No. But I’m not sure it’s any lower than that of the standard paper being delivered.

The advantage to Twitter over a dedicated discussion channel is that you get to share not just with those who are there, but with those who are not. One of the striking features of the hashtag stream is that a lot of the messages are from those who wish they were there. If nothing else, the stream served as good advertising for the conference.

It also let me know, at a bare skeletal level, what was going on at other panels. I really wish, though, that there had been more content-rich postings. When I look over my own postings, I can’t say that I contributed much on this side. It’s worth considering though: the MiT conference seemed to be pretty dense in terms of tweets given its size. Interesting to know whether that will happen at other conferences or if it was just a particularly tweety conf.

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  1. Posted 4/28/2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink


    Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

    As someone who’s attempted live-blogging and always given up after about a panel and a half, I found the tweeting a mixed bag. I agree that it was great to see what was going on in other panels, and the stream of updates, URLs, and the occasional bit of outside news (e.g., Bea Arthur) kept things fresh. That said, I know I could have gotten more down had I gone old-school with my usual technique (pen and notebook). I went in wanting to tweet up a storm as an experiment, and I’m glad I did.

    I know several people who weren’t there followed the conference via Twitter, which is something that’s much more difficult to do live-blogging it (on a few dozen blogs). I also know that this volume is only possible at WiFi-rich venues, which these days still rules out your standard convention hotel. I’d be curious to see what other data could be carved out of this, and whether the non-tweeters (or newbie tweeters) found it useful or not.

  2. Posted 4/29/2009 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I sympathize with those who had their stream flooded with livetweeting — I’ve suffered through conferences that I’m irrelevant to me this way. In addition to @mamamusing’s suggestion of “muting” certain people, I’d like to see a client that can exclude tweets by hashtag. In the future, it would be great to see twitter “groups” that are more functional. But I wouldn’t want to give up twitter at conferences… until the next best thing comes along!

  3. meghan dougherty
    Posted 4/29/2009 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    Thanks for posting this. I’m usually a Twitter-hater, but found it interesting (“useful” might be a stretch here) during MiT6. Yes, there’s lots of noise, but unless you’re already oversubscribed in your daily twitter-life, it is easy to edit out personal convos and backchannel. I am hoping that the next conference I go to will be twitter-tastic, too – hoping a little bit for more substantive tweets.

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