The Red Lines Page

February 25, 2009

SF (t)wittering

Filed under: drwho,Torchwood — Peter A @ 12:33 am
Tags: , ,

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?

Guest's-eye view of the Gally crowdWhen 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?


  1. I Tweeted via text message, when I was at NYCC for the Torchwood panel, I found that much easier than logging into the mobile web and twittered that way.

    Also when you are on your settings page, you can select who you want on or off in updates and you’ll receive a text message of their tweets. You also get all your @replies and direct messages.

    I mean that’s only logical if you’ve got an unlimited texting plan, and I’d assume since you have an iPhone, your data plan would have unlimited texts.

    Comment by Nicole F. — February 25, 2009 @ 1:16 am | Reply

    • Alas, I am “pay as you go”, not an unlimited texting plan. Furthermore, my service provider is in the UK. So tweeting by text message isn’t an option for me. I use Tweetie on the iPhone, though I can at least get notification of @replies and direct messages when I check my e-mail.

      Comment by Peter A — February 26, 2009 @ 8:57 pm | Reply

  2. It is common for convention hotels to segregate their in-room and conference center wi-fi services.

    I don’t know what the LAX Marriott charges for wi-fi in their conference space. I’m working on another convention, though, and our hotel quoted us a non-negotiable $2,000 per day for wi-fi in the function space.

    It’s not worth the money.

    Comment by Andrew Trembley — February 25, 2009 @ 2:46 am | Reply

    • Ouch! I agree, that wouldn’t be worth it for a convention of fewer than 2,000 people. But I was able to get them to provide me with wifi access in the conference rooms after I’d paid the room charge, so perhaps that’s an option for the con to get agreed for attendees next year?

      I must add, by the way, that I think your photos of the convention are outstanding:

      Comment by Peter A — February 26, 2009 @ 9:01 pm | Reply

  3. I quite enjoyed the idea of using Twitter at Gally. I was one of your 30 new followers from that weekend; as soon as you started talking about hashtags in a public forum, I knew you were just that cool.

    The lack of connectivity throughout the hotel was indeed dismaying. I could get a signal from the neighboring hotels when I was in my room, but that was little good when out and about during the day (and through the night). It would certainly benefit a lot of us if there was a better way, since $13/day is no lean price for a connection that barely existed most of the time.

    Comment by Sarah (minervamoon) — February 25, 2009 @ 3:21 am | Reply

  4. I would have twittered, and have really enjoyed reading tweets from the convention after the fact so that know for encouraging it. But my T-Mobile reception, phone or wifi, is virtually non-existent in the bowels of the LAX Marriott and I end up turning it off a lot to save juice. I know I’m not the only one who experiences this problem in that hotel, although it is better than it used to be.

    Am definitely going to try doing it more from cons in the future, if only for my own post-con reference.

    Comment by Espana Sheriff — February 25, 2009 @ 3:44 am | Reply

  5. Having your name is the best bet for (and I apologise for putting it like this) building the brand. But it’s relatively easy to change so making it just your surname – like your website? – would make sense, if that username is available.

    Comment by Will — February 25, 2009 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

    • Thank you, Will – I have done exactly that for Twitter:

      Then, being the pedant that I am, I pondered whether I should rename this blog ID in a similar way. But that’s not so straightforward, and loses the anagrammatic pun. So I didn’t.

      Comment by Peter A — February 26, 2009 @ 9:04 pm | Reply

  6. […] left it rather late to decide, but in the end could not resist — I haven’t been since 2009. The best fun of all is meeting folk from all over the place over an extended weekend event. And […]

    Pingback by GallifreyOne 2012 « The Red Lines Page — January 18, 2012 @ 10:05 pm | Reply

  7. […] allow, I may tweet during the event. Hard to believe that the last time I was at GallifreyOne (back in 2009), Twitter was relatively unknown. Now the convention is almost twice the size, and I […]

    Pingback by GallifreyOne update « The Red Lines Page — February 9, 2012 @ 11:04 pm | Reply

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