Using Twitter at The Open Group conference in London this week was a new experience for me, so I thought I'd reflect on it here.
Firstly the mechanics. There was free wifi in the venue; however, many people had difficulty connecting on the first day, and I used my pay-as-you-go dongle instead. Someone proposed a hashtag #ogadc and nearly everyone used that, even though the correct abbreviation for the conference should have been #ogapc.
A number of people including myself started to post 140 character tweets during the sessions. Highlighting key sentences, summarizing or commenting. It was like we were all taking notes into the same notebook. The conference organizers put a large Twitter display screen in the coffee area, so people could read the Tweets from the previous session.
You can see the results here. http://search.twitter.com/search?q=#ogadc
Some people said they found it distracting. For myself, I found that it required a more concentrated listening to the speaker, in order to capture the important points into 140 character Tweets. (Some people continue a single thought over multiple Tweets, but I think that's cheating.)
It also led to new conversations, as Twitter conversations during the sessions developed into face-to-face conversations during the breaks. Sometimes I found I was sitting next to a fellow Twitterer, and could see my Tweets appearing on his screen and vice versa. Thus I made a lot of new friends.
People also posted links to photos as well as video from the evening dinner. I've experienced that at previous conferences via blogging and Technorati and hashtags on Flickr, but Twitter seems to be more effective platform for this kind of thing.
What about people who were not present at the conference? In the recent past, I have picked up interesting Tweets from conferences, so I hoped my followers would be somewhere between tolerant and interested in the unusually high volume of my Tweets. (I probably lost some followers, but I gained some as well. Swings and roundabouts won't break my bones as the saying goes.) Some friends who were not physically present were engaged enough to post Tweets into the conference stream - asking questions or making further comments - and I hope to see more of that kind of virtual participation.