Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thoughts on #140Conference

I attended Tuesday's sessions of the #140Conference in NYC and had wanted to live-Tweet the event but my 2 hour battery life + iffy wi-fi connection led me to only Tweet for some morning sessions. So here, in no particular order, are some random opinion & thoughts on the day, divided into Pros & Cons.


  • It was really great to have so many very visible Twitterers presenting, some people I had been following for over a year (like @NewMediaJim) along with relative newcomers (like @Wyclef). It was great to put people's presence, face & Tweets together.

  • Because the speaking times were so short (10-20 minutes), when certain panels dragged or you were wondering why someone had been invited to talk, things quickly moved on to a new topic in a matter of minutes. There was very little down time!

  • An extremely varied group of speakers, representing a wide range of points of view, much more so than most tech/media conferences which are primarily focused on business/enterprise.

  • I heard Monday was very crowded but Tuesday had a very manageable number of people, even for a crowd-adverse person like myself.

  • There was a long line for food but what was provided was absolutely delicious. When you are sitting in one place for a very long day (8 am-6 pm), mostly listening, the quality of the food should not be scrimped on or you get a very grouchy group of people!

  • It was great to see some third party Twitter clients as vendors and they were such a cordial & enthusiastic group of people. The Twitter apps panel was one of the better discussions and it's clear that these folk are providing valuable services sometimes without a lot of help from Twitter HQ. I hope their voices & concerns can be heard more often.

  • Because I was sick as a dog & unable to attend Monday's sessions, I was very excited to find out that the speakers & panels were being filmed and will be available for viewing online by the end of the week. Especially because the panels came into such small, bite-sized pieces, this means that the thoughts & ideas expressed will carry far beyond the walls of New World Stages & have a larger impact as people can view them online who'd never be able to attend the days' events.


  • For a conference ABOUT Twitter, it played a background role during the conference. I realize this wasn't really a tech event (more like a media/communications one) but there should have been some way to integrate the use of Twitter into the conference itself whether that was a projected backchannel or conference updates to attendees being Tweeted. This might have not been done because of the wi-fi situation but the technology itself should not just be used for publicity but integrated into the conference days themselves (maybe this was done on Monday?). This would have helped with the next point.

  • This conference was not at all interactive. Because the schedule was so full (sometimes 3 speakers/panels per hour), there was little time for questions. People who are power Twitter users are used to participating and expressing themselves and the frustration of sitting and listening for hours at a time led to some people shouting out comments or spending time in the lobby/foyer rather than the main room so they could talk & exchange thoughts with others. Panels ran long which cut down on break/lunch time, further reducing time to interact. Perhaps there should have been fewer panels/speakers and half of their time allotted to conversation with participants many of whom had traveled a great distance to be there and engage with others.

  • Because of the lack of adequate time for participation, when a panel like the last one on Wednesday came around ("A look at twitter services, apps and what's next") where the moderator asked the audience what they wanted to see next in Twitter, there must have been 20 hands that shot up. It was like watching people on a game show waiting to hit the buzzer....finally, someone was asking for their opinion. And they had a lot of good ideas!

  • Spotty wi-fi and few outlets to plug in or recharge. This is not unusual, it's pretty much a given in most locations but hopefully this will improve as conference facilities upgrade.


Full disclosure: I submitted a presentation proposal on how Twitter users formed their own micro-communities but was told it didn't fit into the overall, original theme of the conference: "the effects of twitter on Celebrity, The Media and Advertising." That's fine, I understood, I am unabashedly noncommercial and while I have a degree in Economics, my research focus isn't on business applications.

So color me puzzled when speakers got up to talk about finding love on Twitter, Twitter & Chaos Theory, Twitter & Science, or Diplomacy and Fashion. Say what?? There's room to talk about Fashion Week & Twitter but no room for Sociology? I understand that the organizers were looking for big names but there should have been someone speaking on the social impact of technology, how changing technology influences the way people relate to each other & form networks of community online.

Where was the sociology of social media? An element of the very core of Twitter was missing, some explanation of why people are attracted to social media, why it is so powerful and why it is so effective in connecting people who live in different social worlds.

Thank You!

Many thanks to @Boris & @Zee from @TheNextWeb & @JeffPulver for awarding me a ticket that allowed me to attend this conference. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to attend and am in their debt!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Suggested User Presentations & Comments

I started this Experiment in Metrics way back in early April to see what I could deduce about the Twitter social network given all of the third party applications which are collecting large amounts of freely available data. It turned into a four week examination of the influence of the Suggested User list in determining who were the Most Followed people on Twitter.

It turns out that during the period of the project, 94% of the users on the Top 100 were Suggested Users and over 37% of the Top 500 had places on the Suggested User list. In fact all of the 228 Twitterers who appeared on the Suggested User list were on the Top 500 within 2 weeks of being selected. An overview of the project & a summary of its results were presented at Bar Camp NYC on 5/30/09. The segment was taped (39 minutes) and can be found at :

Bar Camp NYC Presentation

Five days after this presentation, I wanted to give a more elaborate talk at Social Media Camp (6/4/09) which was held during NYC's Internet Week. So I took the slides--which you can't really see in the broadcast--and expanded them to include an evaluation of whether given the goals of the Suggested User list, it could be called a success or failure. My conclusion is that it depends on whether you consider Twitter a Information Network, a Micro-Blogging Tool or a Social Network.

Here is the final presentation. Let me know if anything needs further explanation and I'd be happy to fill in the gaps.