At the Technical Communications conference last year, I had a couple of discussions with people about Twitter. I was mostly trying to convince them of why I found it valuable, they were mostly of the opinion it was noise about what people had for lunch.
I’ve recently been reminded of the value Twitter can have, and again it’s thanks to a conference, specifically a conference I DIDN’T attend.
Like most people, budgets are limited when it comes to training and conferences, so there are limits to those I and the rest of my team can attend. The value gained from attending conferences is something we’ve proven in the past, but it doesn’t quite stretch to flying across the pond to conferences like WritersUA (yet).
Previously that would mean relying on, perhaps, someone writing up their thoughts and posting them to a mailing list, maybe the conference website would have some useful information, or maybe you’d happen to know someone who had attended and they’d share their findings with you.
Blogs came along and changed that, making it much easier for anyone to post their thoughts and for anyone to read them.
But the real value is starting to be realised through Twitter. The “back-channel” chatter is becoming a key part of technical conferences, allowing attendees to share their views in real-time (or very shortly after the fact) and those instant discussions and sharing of ideas gives a good indication of the mood of the attendees of the conference at the time. These can then be complimented by extended ‘thought-pieces’ on blogs and suchlike, whilst retaining a bit of the buzz of the conference in real-time.
There are downsides to this (a recent conference displayed the Twitter hashtag feed behind the presenter which was a bad idea) but they aren’t the fault of Twitter.
Beyond conferences, Twitter continues to be useful to me, largely through people sharing links to useful websites, resources and articles*, as well as the more direct interactions, Q&A style.
It’s a brave new world, this social media lark but it really is making a difference. Why not join in?
* I use a service called ReadTwit which monitors my Twitter account for any posted links, I can monitor this service via RSS so I never miss a link (warning, if you follow hundreds of people, you will be overwhelmed by the number of links!)