On Twitterwalls and Back-channels…

I thoroughly enjoyed the Dell Business 2 Business Huddle in Bracknell last week.  It was my first experience of attending an event with a Twitterwall and  Backchannel and I have to say it was not encouraging.

For those that do not know, many tech conferences have a projector screen displaying what people are tweeting about the current speaker.  This is something of a cultural issue.  Tech conferences are used to seeing delegates have their laptops, or notebooks, out, tweeting as the speaker delivers his or her keynote.

This ongoing stream of twitter comments is called the Backchannel.

The idea is a good one.  By enabling the audience to comment as the speaker is talking, but via Twitter and therefore not by interrupting the speaker, it is thought that the presentation will be enriched.  Unfortunately that was not my experience.

For long periods of time the backchannel seemed to be populated by people rather defensively reacting to what might have been said; maybe it suggested that the poster’s certain discipline was redundant, or at best overstated and oversold – ahem, Google AdWords…

In other examples there was more playful banter which was amusing enough but did nothing to add to the message being delivered by the speaker.

Others seemed to want to oust the speaker as the selected expert and draw attention to themselves and their opinion.

All of the speakers studiously ignored the stream whilst in delivery although some commented afterwards, perhaps while the follwoing speaker was talking.

I found the dual task of trying to live blog or contribute to the twitterstream and listen to be particularly problematic.

I was enjoying Neville Hobson’s opening “top ten trends” keynote but was alarmed to note that I missed numbers 2-5 as I became absorbed in my laptop.  All in all, the experience suggested that just because we can do something with this technology, does not necessarily mean that we should.

I do not know if this trend will ever catch on in legal conferences and training events. I guess it will not.  I am not even convinced that it will last within the tech conferences. The stories I hear of Twitterwall abuse and banality do nothing to reassure me.


Filed under General Technology, Law, Lawyers and Social Media

5 responses to “On Twitterwalls and Back-channels…

  1. Pingback: Wildfire PR – Business and Consumer Technology Public Relations : Blog Archive : The B2B social media challenge #dellb2b

  2. Some good points here Neil. For tech conferences, the backchannel will exist, whether you have a wall or not. I guess the question then is whether the backchannel is mainly for the people in the room or for those that can’t make it (or want to catch-up at a later date)…

    Good to meet you on the day.

  3. Pingback: I remember my very first Hashtag… « Lawyer1point9

  4. As one of the Tweeters at DellB2B, I tweeted to (a) share content with Web 2.0 friends who couldn’t be there, and (b) to provide a ‘note-to-self’ of the key points that I picked out from the presentations I listened to. I would have done the same whether there was a Twitter-wall or not.

    I share your reservations about the wisdom of an unmoderated Twitterwall. I saw one become a distraction at Media140 in London in October, with occasional comments coming close to ridiculing contributors on the stage.

    Having organised events myself, I have experimented with CoverItLive as a device to share points from the event and to moderate incoming comments. Seems to work OK, and with a bit of planning and co-operation between the organiser and speakers can be an even richer ‘transcript’ than might be achieved by Twitter alone.

    Enjoyed the Huddle and meeting some great people like yourself!
    Kind regards – Paul

  5. I have seen this kind of back-channel “sniping” on Twitterwalls as well. It is probably an old fashioned attitude, but it just strikes me as kind of rude – along the lines to chatting away to your neighbour when the speaker is talking.

    If you disagree with what the speaker is saying or you want to add to it then surely the mature response is to ask a question at the end of the talk or collar them afterwards for a private chat? Posting negative comments on the Twitterwall always strikes me as a rather cowardly option.

    On a more general note, I think that the back-channel and Twitterwall is a great concept for building up the buzz in advance of an event and sharing feedback / keeping things going after it has finished. However, when you are actually at an event it seems to me to make more sense to focus on speaking to the people who are there in person who you have come to see!

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