Using Twitter as a backchannel at tech conferences isn’t new. Twitter has been around since April 2007, and a version of the micro-blogging service was available a year earlier than that. People have been tweeting at tech conferences ever since. Certainly there’s helpful advice about setting up a Twitter feed and tweeting at a conference.
I suggested a modest trial of Twitter at this year’s GallifreyOne Doctor Who and Torchwood convention in Los Angeles. It wasn’t hugely subscribed, and some of my hashtag tweets seemed to vanish into the ether. For a DoctorWho convention, Gally is very popular, with well over a thousand participants– though as science fiction conventions in general go, it’s still nothing like the biggest. I’d like to suggest to them ways of using Twitter at the event in 2010.
Are there good examples of Twitter use at sf conventions? I know that Star Trek‘s Wil Weaton has over 130,000 followers, for example, so do Star Trek conventions make effective use of the backchannel? Or other sf events? Conventions sometimes use a Twitter ID to advertise up front (event timings, guests, etc) but how many use it during the event to share updates with attendees, or just let non-attendees know what they’re missing? HurricaneWho has a static “share” link on its web page. But which sf events do you think are most inclusive and productive with their use of social networking?
When I spoke from the stage at the GallifreyOne opening ceremonies, I encouraged attendees to tweet comments and photos during the 2009 convention. Fellow Twitter participant James Moran (Twitter here, blog here) teased me for being a nerd. I quite like the idea that using Twitter might make me more of a nerd in the eyes of 1,000+ people in the audience than having flown to the US for a Doctor Who convention.
I thought paying the LAX Marriott $12.95 a day for wifi was a bit steep, especially as some hotels do it for free. Indeed, some people in the hotel scammed a wifi connection from the hotel across the road. However, after I forgot on Day 1 and then spent about £25 on Friday alone with my O2 roaming 3G connection to AT&T [fx: slaps forehead] I decided it would be cheaper to pay the daily Marriott fee for the remainder of my stay. So I was a bit cross to discover that the hotel wifi worked very nicely in my room but not in any of the convention suite rooms. And not in the location of the “Volcano Day” party, either, which may have been appropriate for Pompeii AD79 but a bit poor for Los Angeles 1,930 years later.
The LAX Marriott front desk staff were very pleasant when I complained, but utterly unable to help me themselves. But they gave me the contact number for the offsite IT helpdesk. I spent a cheerless half hour politely explaining to them that I didn’t think wifi was much good if it didn’t work everywhere, and would they like to tell me how to navigate their baffling website on my iPhone to get a connection wherever I happened to be in the hotel that was charging me $12.95 for the privilege.
In the end, the IT supervisor graciously assented to grant me access to the conference room wifi — though because every room down there (and there are many rooms) has its own wifi connection, they sorted out my IP address for the main ballroom, and that seemed to work nicely enough for the rest of the weekend. Though I had to keep swapping to a different IP address whenever I was back in my room or by the pool or in the bar.
I don’t know whether the GallifreyOne convention team think that wifi connectivity is all that important, and I can understand if they have higher priorities for 2010. But it may be worth them asking the hotel to ensure that attendees can get a connection in the conference suite (maybe a discounted rate). And having a Twitter maven who can tweet at sessions during the event, using a dedicated machine in the main hall — tweeting is much easier to do with a laptop computer and a browser than it is to do what I did, i.e. hunt-and-peck on my iPhone.
PS: I am already regretting choosing peteranghelides as my Twitter ID. With only 140 characters per tweet, that uses up more than 10% of the available characters in retweets or replies. My colleague karelvredenburg mentioned this. Ha! He can talk, eh?