Richard Leibovitz, Editorial Director at Digital Signage Expo, posted a great question on the LinkedIn 2010 Educational Faculty Group Forum about the viability and implementation of a Twitter backchannel at conferences and events.
DSE is looking for ways to engage the Twitter backchannel as part of the educational conference discussion at DSE 2010. Please join the discussion by sharing any experience you’ve had with attendees tweeting in conference rooms and any suggestions you might have for using these tweets in a positive way… The other question is whether we ask our session moderators to monitor tweets as a way to gather questions for the speakers, or whether the speakers themselves should be moderating tweets during their sessions so they can respond directly to questions?
I wanted to post my thoughts here since many The Web Outside readers may not be involved in the DSE site (but you should be!)
I think one of the main sticking points on the moderation discussion is directly related to the definition of ‘backchannel’ itself. The concept of a Twitter backchannel has recently come to the fore of many conference and event planning discussions, but the term has unfortunately taken on a dual definition that’s at odds with itself.
In one camp, event organizers view this backchannel as a means of providing additional context for the event – an ambient reflection of the happenings on the show floor.
In the other camp, the backchannel is understood as a direct means of communication with the speaker or event organizers, a ‘DM’ to the topic/speaker currently at the helm.
The problem with this twofold definition is that each use case begs for entirely different moderation protocol. In the former case, an auto-filter eliminating profanity (and all of its creative permutations!) and racial slurs may be enough in many instances. In the latter, specific context plays a much larger role, and cherry-picking content is often the only route to guaranteeing relevant (if not ‘appropriate’) messages are displayed. It’s actually quite similar to the struggle that contextual advertising software faces.
At LocaModa, we’ve addressed these two scenarios with a moderation system that allows for:
1. auto-filtering at G, R, X ratings
2. human moderation in a queue format
3. a ‘curation’ system that allows for cherry-picking of content in terms of time/relevance
For DSE, I think a Wiffiti screen (with additional hashtagged Twitter and Flickr streams) would work well as an ambient screen in the networking area, and would give the options of auto-filter with optional human moderation if the self-advertising gets out of hand.
Using the screen as a specific pairing with a speaker is always a dodgier situation, especially when conferences attempt to pigeonhole its use into a standard Q&A format. This backchannel shouldn’t replace human interaction, but rather, enhance it. As an ambient channel, Wiffiti can be a very powerful tool. As a replacement for rote Q&A session transcription, I’d recommend sticking with manual entry Powerpoint.
I’d love to hear other industry views on this topic… Do you think some of the resistance of the real-time format is directly connected to the conflicting definitions of how a backchannel should be most effectively framed and viewed?