For the next three days, I will be at the World Conference of Science Journalists live-tweeting the sessions I'm attending. The talks so far have been excellent but so far, the live-tweeting experience has been a revelation. I have Word open on the right of my screen for note-taking and Tweetdeck on the left for tweeting and collating what others are saying with the #wcsj hashtag. I was initially very sceptical of doing this but the perks have been numerous.
Most of all, it's a strangely exhilarating experience to hear what other people think and respond to while the talks are actually happening. No more hushed inaudible whispers or knowing, ambiguous glances with the person next to you. In its place comes real-time, direct feedback on the event, like a group of people having their own silent simultaneous discussion. Does anyone remember the show Mystery Science Theatre 3000, where three characters would provide voiceovers over bad B-movies? Following a conference hashtag on the go is a remarkably similar experience.
The price of that is, of course, distraction - occasionally missing out on important points that people have raised. But what's this? Other people have tweeted what I've missed and some way or other, it arrives in my brain.
The benefits really come into their own during breakout sessions. Today, there was a toss-up between a discussion on the science journalism crisis and Nick Davies's talk about his Flat Earth News theory (more on that later). I switched over to the latter at the last minute, but about five minutes in, realised that Tweetdeck was providing me with a summary of the best bits from the other session too. The only thing holding me back from going to every breakout at the same time is a lack of active Twitter users among the gathered delegates.
Yesterday, I was worried about choosing which of the simultaneously scheduled sessions to attend. Tomorrow, I'm going to go to all of them.
For anyone who's interested, you can follow my 140-character-long rambles. Otherwise, I'll be writing up some of the themes of the day shortly...
Thanks for tweeting, Ed. I have been following them all morning. Really interesting stuff! Keep up the excellent work!
Nice to meet you today, Ed! Hopefully catch up again later in the conference
Hi Ed, glad TweetDeck is giving you some value - do let me know if you have any further thoughts on TweetDeck, improvements, bugs that kind of thing. Thanks.