08 September 2011

More on Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy

I had such an overwhelming response to yesterday's post, Genealogy Conferences and Social Media Policy, that a follow-up post seems justified. Many people with strong feelings on this topic have sent them via email, and I will share them here without mentioning names. In some cases I have added my personal response in italics, but the other comments do not necessarily reflect my own personal point of view, so please don't shoot the messenger!

All of your comments will be helpful to conference organisers, but only a few actually addressed the original question, Why can't it wait until the end of the presentation? Who truly benefits from tweeting 'live' rather than when the speaker has finished?

  • Most of us have to work, look after a family, etc, and we read tweets later in the day. How many people sit glued to their computer reading hashtag tweets 'live'? (If you do - Get A Life!) There is no need to tweet during the lecture. Doing it later is fine for your readers, and it is more courteous to the speaker. [Judy's response: Like you, I have to read the tweets later. That's actually an advantage, because hashtag tweets make more of an impression on me when I read them in a batch.]

  • Helen said, 'I tweet because I am usually too busy to tweet after the presentation' - but Helen always writes a descriptive blog post afterwards, which contradicts her claim that she needs to tweet live.

  • Every time I've given a talk at which people were using phones or computers, one of those people has put their hand up during Question Time and asked a question that I'd answered in my talk (while they weren't listening). It is demoralising and infuriating. [Judy's response: I totally agree. This has happened to me too.]

  • We recently paid for an employee to attend a conference. We decided never to waste the company's money that way again, because we discovered that he had been tweeting instead of paying attention.

  • I like the NGS social media policy except I would prefer to exclude the word 'summarise' as I think that gives a bit too much freedom.

  • The social media policy should be part of registration and include 'no photographing of people's overheads' and the fact that attendance at the conference may mean your photograph could be taken and uploaded to the web as part of a blog or used in publicity.

  • I use a phone because I think that is less distracting than using a computer. I also think that anyone who chooses to tweet etc should sit over to one side so less of a distraction. [Judy's response: As a speaker, I say 'Not in the front row, please!']

  • Using a phone while the presenter is talking is just plain RUDE. If this is what Twitter is about, count me out! Good manners will never go out of fashion.

  • I would prefer to be told to have my phone on silent and to be reminded that texting or tweeting during the conference is VERY bad manners.

  • Not many people can multitask well enough to concentrate on the speaker and look at a phone at the same time.

  • As a speaker, I hate it when the audience uses phones or computers. Am I boring them? Are their emails more interesting than my topic? They are not looking at my slides, so why did I bother?

What do you think? This is your chance to help shape the policies of future genealogy conferences. If you do not want to comment publicly, select 'Anonymous' or email me privately at the address in the sidebar. But as I said... the comments above do not necessarily reflect my own personal point of view, so please don't shoot the messenger!


  1. I was at a talk last week (in the second row) and counted 6 people catnapping (don't know about the rows behind). Do presenters prefer this to an engaged tweeting audience who are sharing their responses to the presentation with their peers?

    Tweeting and taking photos of slides are 21st century forms of notetaking. As long as the social media policy includes guidelines on when and where to responsibly share those notes.

    The Rootstech Media Waiver also presents food for thought:
    "The RootsTech event will be recorded for use in possible future print, Internet, audio, or video productions; broadcasts; or cable television. The event may also be used in productions affiliated with RootsTech or FamilySearch. By registering for and attending this event, you consent to the use of your photograph, voice, likeness, and/or image in any such broadcasts or productions, in any media, in any location worldwide, without renumeration. If you do not consent to this use, do not register for or attend this event."

  2. Thanks Judy for giving this topic airplay.

    It is needed as all organisers are going to have to make these decisions, preferably prior to a conference.

    While I do blog about things,the Twitter tweets are directed at a different audience many of whom do not follow my blogs and vice-versa. I personally don't tweet major content.

    I feel Titter is more real time than blogging and doubt I would tweet multiple tweets at the end of a day as I feel the relevance is not there at that time.

    I would love to hear more comments from Twitter readers as to what they find valuable about the tweets: is it readers who are not present, does it make them feel more a part of the conference, do they read at the end of the day or throughout? (I suspect the answer to that may well depend on the age of the user)

  3. Thanks Jill. I will pass on the details of the Rootstech Media Waiver. As a speaker - yes, I'd prefer to see my audience tweeting rather than catnapping! But I do NOT think that people should photograph a presentation unless the speaker has specifically agreed to that. When someone with a disability has sought permission to record my talk because they cannot take notes, I have always said yes. Courtesy and common sense work well together!

    Helen, I too am very keen to hear whether Twitter users read conference (hashtag) tweets in batches or 'live'. I rarely have time to look at tweets more than once a day (at most), so there is no way I am going to read them one by one as they appear.

  4. I read tweets live and I also post tweets live from a conference as a return gesture to those who cannot attend. Tweeting builds excitement and interest in a topic and a speaker. When I read tweets from attendees that are interesting, I make note of the speaker, what publications they have available and put them on my list to learn further about. I think if more speakers understood the power of Twitter, they would encourage the medium. Tweeters are not being rude, far from it. They are engaged and involved in your presentation. As a speaker I would be more worried if I presented something that no one thought was worth tweeting about. Just something to consider.

  5. Noted this comment on#FGS2011 in Dick Eastman's latest blog post "Best of all, the conference center is providing free wi-fi connectivity for all attendees. I found it easy to sit in a presentation and to take notes and even write blog or Twitter entries during each presentation."

  6. Valerie, thanks for your clear explanation of the potential benefits of tweeting from conferences. I wonder if anyone has done a survey on whether tweets or blogs result in more bookshop sales, invitations to speak at a future conference, bookings for the current conference, etc. My own experience is that blogs are well in front, but I'd be interested to hear what others think.

  7. Two more comments that I've received by email:

    I saw a number of people taping sessions and when I asked the speakers had they authorised anyone to tape they all said no. The question is how do you stop people from illegally taping you.

    If enough people tweet you get a sense of what is happening... you can ask questions via tweets and in some ways participate in the conference even if you aren't there.

  8. 1.) Tweeting breeds excitement and curiosity for an event and a speaker. As a college student, I don't have the money to travel to a ton of conferences every year - so the conference I choose will have a lot to do with what speakers are there and how amazing the event is. This is only major reason why I always go to SCGS's Jamboree - top notch speakers, great environment, pretty good venue, etc.

    2.) Also as a college student - I take way better notes on a computer than I do by hand. I've noticed that when I take notes by hand, I miss stuff - perhaps it is because I'm so focused on making my writing neat and write fast enough to catch it all.

    I don't generally tweet everything - but I will tweet a thing or two that really caught my eye as an awesome tidbit. Maybe that is a website address I've never heard of, or a fact I didn't know.

    During the class on Prostitution in the West at SCGS Jamboree, I was tweeting like crazy only because I heard so many interesting facts. But I was also making eye contact with the speaker frequently, pausing just to listen, etc.

    3.) When I go to a class with my laptop or phone, I always try to sit in the back so I am out of the way and less likely to be noticed.

    4.) I NEVER take a photo of a speaker's slides (or a speaker for that matter) without asking first. That is just rude.

    5.) If I do tweet something you said or recommend, I always give the name of the speaker and the hashtag for the event. Always.

  9. This is so interesting, because I have friends who speak frequently in other fields, and they're actually asking someone to live-tweet their talks. This is a pretty widely accepted method of marketing and promoting the speaker in other fields.

    One of the sessions I attended at RootsTech last year was a panel, and one of the panelists was up on stage tweeting (by design). I was also tweeting that session, and several of the people at home made points that the panelist brought up live. In this way, people at home were actively participating and asking questions during the session. It was fantastic.

    If a speaker announced that tweeting was not allowed during a session, I'd think twice about staying. At the very least, I'd think that person was perhaps...a little cluefree. (That said, one should NEVER make noise or otherwise disrupt during a session).

    I'm always confused by the idea that tweeters won't be paying attention. Is this not the same thing as taking notes? Why are speakers never offended by the note-takers?

    Also, I read most of the tweets live. In fact, if I know a particular talk is happening at a particular time, I'll make a point of being online to see the tweets from that talk. That's how I learn and participate in conferences from home, and that's how I learn of new speakers to recommend to others.

  10. I just wanted to respond to a few of the comments from lecturers you noted in this post, calling tweeting rude or discourteous, and not paying attention. I am curious as to how someone tweeting or otherwise using a laptop or phone to take notes (using Twitter, Word, Evernote, or some other software) is at all different from the scores of people in every conference who use a pen or pencil and paper to do the same thing. We are living in a digital society and lecturers need to recognize that fact and not cling to anti-digital prejudices.

  11. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, Michael. The conference organisers are aware of this blog post and the comments it is receiving, and they are formulating a policy for the future.


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