Thursday, 25 July 2013

Conference tweeting

At the recent International Symposium on Macrocyclic and Supramolecular Chemistry conference (ISMSC8) there was a distinct lack of interactions through social media.

Whilst coffee breaks and poster sessions were full of interesting chats and discussions, the internet was almost completely ignored by the attendees. The ISMSC website encouraged the use of the hashtag #ISMSC before the conference began. But in the book of abstracts and throughout the conference there was no mention at all of Twitter, I was disappointed.

There were a couple tweets in the build up before the conference, giving hope of a social (media) bunch of people.

But during the conference I found myself a little lonely with only Ivan Aprahamian and Guillaume De Bo really contributing. Ivan summed up the twitter experience calling the crowd "technologically challenged".

With sponsorship from Nature Chemistry and the National Science Foundation, both pretty big in Twitterland, you might have expected some input from them. But alas no, it was left to Chem Comm to join us at the end to publicise the poster prize they were sponsoring.

Another chemistry conference, ISACS11 is taking place this week with around 50 tweets just from yesterday, although mostly dominated by one Chemistry World journalist. Whilst this is not a huge amount it is still much better than at ISMSC8. Derek Lowe is also present and so he's busy blogging through some of the talks.

But what is going on here? Is it just a generation difference and the young folks need to step up or are some conferences missing a trick? Get the discussions going over some coffee sure, but continue it and spread it further on the internet.


  1. Surely you'd rather talk face to face? It sounds like you're suggesting people should tweet at each other rather than discussing things in person.
    Why does a conference need a social media prescence while it's actually happening? The next step would be just to have a live video feed and get people to tweet in questions at the end of the talk. But then why even have a conference in the first place? Just do eveything via the web with web cams and chat rooms etc?
    I think the fact that the 'young folks' aren't twitting constantly is evidence that it's unnecessary.

  2. To be honest, I think you have completely missed the point. I'm not by any means advocating that everyone should sit in a dark room locked away from the world spending their days in internet chatrooms.

    What I am saying is that information, questions and discussions can be easily shared and encouraged through social media, being open to more people and bringing in more people that you might not have the chance to meet or talk with. I myself have followed some of ISACS11 despite being on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, thanks to blogs and Twitter. It is totally impossible to get these kind of open interactions face to face.

    I've also heard of (communication) conferences with a live Twitter feed permanently displayed to encourage observations, questions and discussion throughout.

  3. Dr Mac has missed the point here. People have been tweeting in conference lectures long before Twitter. It's just the non-tweeps do it in those annoying loud whispers they think only their uninterested neighbour can hear. Twitter allows people to vent their spleens in silence.
    But seriously, conference tweeting is a medium for reporting what's happening to the outside world. One lone tweep has a tough job to pass on anything more than a headline which can be of limited value. A conversation between tweeps is usually more insightful. Shouldn't need a lot of tweeps to get the message out if they work together...

  4. I totally agree with the "voice of reason". A few tweeps can make a big difference and should always be open and encouraging others to throw in other thoughts.