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.

Pros

  • 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.

Cons

  • 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.

Question

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!

6 comments:

Ryan Stephens said...

Liz - I think you bring up some good points and legitimate concerns. I wonder if perhaps Jeff was worried about the reception of this new conference based around one-platform and went for -as many- people as possible instead of necessarily the -best- people and -best- speakers.

Less, great, speakers means more times for questions and interactivity.

It's certainly not an accusation I'm prepared to make, especially not being there, but if it's the case - I guess I understand. You take a chance, you learn from people like you willing to provide awesome candid feedback, and then you move forward and adjust next year.

It sounds like a lot of people got a lot of value out of it! Kudos to all involved.

Thanks again for sharing your insights.

Nancy said...

As a sociologist myself, I really appreciated your question: Where was the sociology of social media? I find the question fascinating and hope you get to speak at the next conference! Nancy Dailey, Ph.D.

Andrew said...

Liz, Thanks for posting your thoughts about the conference. They are valid and I agree with many. The conference was not perfect, but nonetheless amazing. Jeff mentioned to the audience that the conference was experimental. I watched the evolution of the conference and dialogged with Jeff, while the conference started about twitter, twitter was just a jumping off point for the exploration of how the social realtime web is changing everything. I am sorry that you didn't get a chance to present the session that you proposed, I'm sure that I for one would have found it very interesting. Perhaps you can propose it again for #140conf LA, I think Jeff would certainly listen to your comments.

Best regards @andrewmueller

Bonnie Sashin said...

Liz,
It's refreshing to hear the perspective of some one "unabashedly non-commercial" in her use of Twitter. I too am fascinated by the sociology of Twitter, what it means for how people relate to each other, and what impact it has on how we use language.
As I was there just for the Tuesday session, the only thing I found troubling was the lack of civility on the part of of a blogger who seemed intent on attacking NBC's Ann Curry rather than engaging in a conversation. (Like you, I'm a big fan of @newmediajim because of his astute observations combined with sheer decency and fundamental optimism.)
Thanks for a great post. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

InkFoundry said...

Great balanced article. I would love to see your take on the sociology behind the Twitter phenom. Will you share it at some point?

Cecilia Pineda Feret said...

I didn't submit a presentation, but I did put forth an idea which was not even addressed and definitely should have been. Maybe at some other conference . . .since all the marketing/internet/communications ones address Twitter in some manner shape or form these days.

As for your idea of the Sociology of Twitter, YES! Fantastic! Why the heck wasn't that addressed? Was that too highbrow? The Love on Twitter was cutesy, and did break up some of the dryness of prior panels, but come ON!

Sometimes it is about who you know and how well you know them. Maybe you should try to get on the LA or London list of panelists and accompany your application with a petition listing those of us who WANT to hear about the fascinating sociological side of all of this.
Where do I sign?