Taking part in a Twitter-only conference: some reflections on #PressEDconf18

pressedED18

On 29th March 2018, I participated in the Twitter-based conference, #PressEDconf18. Those who follow me on Twitter (@cjrw) may know that I am an occasional contributor to the weekly Wednesday night #LTHEchat live discussion which has been running since 2014. I am also an enthusiastic live-tweeter at conferences, usually including the official Hashtag which allow for interested parties to follow what others are saying about the event as well as facilitating aggregation using the soon-to-be-sadly-missed Storify service.

This event was slightly different from a regular conference as there was no associated physical gathering. As keynote contributor Jim Groom noted, “I’ve been to conferences that used a hashtag, but this is my first conference that is a hashtag“.

JimGroomTweet

Although this was not the first event to take this format, it was certainly one of the first, and it was interesting to be part of a pioneering approach. #PressEDconf18 was the brainchild of Natalie Lafferty (@nlafferty) and Pat Lockley (@Pgogy). The theme was educational uses of WordPress blogs (for full schedule see here). I submitted two proposals; they were in the format of a tweet, so it wasn’t an especially onerous task. One related to my use of a WordPress blog to host Careers After Biological Sciences, a repository of careers awareness resources built up over the past decade. The second was more generic advice for anyone considering starting up an educational blog. It was the latter that was accepted.

Each presenter was given a scheduled 15 minute slot, during which they could post 15 tweets at one minute intervals. In keeping with the revised Twitter limits, each tweet could have up to 280 characters, plus an embedded file.

In the days preceding the event, I mapped out my tweets. I also decided that I would include a more traditional PowerPoint slide to accompany each tweet. I prepared the latter as a PowerPoint presentation and then saved each slide individually as a JPG file. This approach allowed me to include slightly more text, some contextualised images, plus the conference tag and my Twitter handle. I assumed this would be quite a common strategy, but none of the sessions I actively followed did this. Many were far more creative – such as one in which each slide was accompanied by a relevant Star Wars gif. By the time the big day came I had a word document containing my 15 tweets (most, but not all, close to the 280 character limit) and a folder with the 15 accompanying JPGs.

I made reference just now to “the sessions I actively followed” as it was simply not possible to be involved all day. The conference kicked off at 10 am BST and ran through to 22:20. There were no coffee and meal breaks that would characterise a physical conference. I did follow proceeding pretty assiduously for the first couple of hours – partly through genuine interest in the content, partly to get a feel for how it was all working before my slot.

When my turn came (15:20), I was presenting from the sofa in my study, armed with a stopwatch to time my releases. I had planned to sneak out the first couple of tweets at a faster pace that the advertised one-tweet-per-minute in order to leave some time later for tweeted questions and responding to comments. The reality was, however, that it was taking me the best part of a minute to assemble my tweets, combining the right text and JPG, making sure they were appropriately threaded to the previous tweet, starting and stopping the watch. The “presentation” was a pretty full-on 15 minutes!

I stayed online for a few minutes after my session, and then snuck away for a cuppa and a rest. I did drop back in for various presentations later in the day, but not with quite the same intensity I had demonstrated earlier on (not least as I had a prior commitment in the evening).

 

What would be my overall reflections?

  1. This is an interesting format and I was very glad I had participated. I’m pleased that Natalie and Pat have already announced that there will be a #PressEDconf19, likely on 18th April 2019.
  2. I was struck by how naive I am about the full potential of WordPress. Several of the other presentations described sophisticated use of plug-ins. My own contribution was intended as a “beginners’ guide” and in that sense it was appropriate that it didn’t involve lots of whistles and bells. However, I did come away with a feeling that my usage over the last decade had not kept pace with developments within the tool itself.
  3. One of the reasons that I had not done more to unleash the power of WordPress was ignorance about what was possible. In that sense, the #PressEDconf18 event was a helpful shop window. Whether I could then use this at a later stage to walk me through implementing some of these features is a different matter.
  4. Over the course of the >14 hours the event was on, there was far more use of the conference hashtag than could easily be aggregated using Storify (notwithstanding its imminent demise). This is probably another confession of my own ignorance and a failure to keep up with emails from the organisers, but I’m not entirely sure where I would now go to follow up on any specific presentation I wanted to (re)visit in more detail.
    [UPDATE: Individual presentations can be found at https://twitter.com/pressedconf/moments, thanks to Pat for the steer]

In keeping with my usual practice after a conference, I have added my “slides” to slideshare. This does not include the text of the associated tweets, but may prove a useful resource for some.
[UPDATE: Thanks to Pat’s direction I can also say that my full presentation, including the tweets (or rather tweets, including the slide, I guess) can be found as a “moment”, see https://twitter.com/i/moments/979366792786337792]

Remember, if you didn’t get a chance to contribute this time, I do recommend that you give it a go next time – watch that hashtag #PressEDconf19 for more details!

 

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2 Comments

  1. Hey

    All session tweets are in moments on the pressedconf twitter page and all the moments are now embedded in the pages linked too from the schedule. I added tweets to moments on the day :)

    Hope this helps

    Pat

    p.s can we have your twitter data :)

    • I thought something had been said about that, but clicking on “moments” (not something I usually use) only threw up today. The key thing I was missing is that there is ANOTHER “moments” option, in the pulldown “MORE” menu. Thanks Pat


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