Archive for June, 2012

Live-tweeting conferences—There has to be a better way

Have you ever been following someone on Twitter who is attending a conference or seminar and insists on live-tweeting the whole thing? I have, and I must say, it’s pretty brutal. Now, if I happen to be following you and you’ve done this in the past, please don’t think I’m calling you out. Many, many people live-tweet conferences, so this is just an overall annoyance rant and a call for Twitter to make some changes.

I’ve been to conferences before. More than likely, you’re there because you want to be there (or you’ve been sent there for work and have to pretend like you want to be there). You’re excited (or again, pretending to be).  I get that.  You’re surrounded by professionals in your industry niche who are also excited to be there.  But what percentage of your Twitter followers share this excitement?  A very small slice, I would argue. Conferences are often very industry-specific, so unless you’ve got a following with a niche to match, your tweets may run the risk of becoming irritating.

People who live-tweet conferences do so as if all of their followers were right there with them.  Well, we’re not.  We’re sitting on a toilet.  We’re eating lunch.  We have no idea what’s going on, and frankly, it’s impossible to get the full picture 140 characters at a time.  Instagram pics of the stage, refreshments, your name badge.  It’s just all very bad.

Sometimes people will tweet out random quotes from a keynote speaker.  Out of context, these quotes make no sense.  They do not come off as profound and thought-provoking as I think they are often intended.

A temporary solution that I’ve made good use of is hashtag muting, a fine feature offered by my favorite Twitter app, @tweetbot, among others.  However, it’s impossible to catch and mute all the hashtags being pumped out of a major conference.  Temporarily muting or unfollowing the person is also an option, but if you’re following a dozen or more people who happen to be at the same conference, that could get a little time consuming.  There has to be a better way.

Live-tweeted conferences are such a common annoyance (on my timeline, anyway), I think Twitter should address it. The best solution I could come up with is some sort of “sub-handle” with an opt-in feature. Twitter should give users the ability to create a temporary “sub-handle”, a designated place to tweet very specific things over a short period of time to a group of opted-in followers. You could make an announcement to your current followers to the tune of,  “Hey, I’m going to be live-tweeting this conference, so if you’re interested in reading my tweets from the event, please opt-in here.”  From that point, all tweets during the conference would be sent out under this separate sub-handle, so anyone who chose not to opt-in would not see anything in their timeline.  Your tweets from this sub-handle would still appear in a public Twitter search, though, so you’d still be part of the conversation.

You could take the “sub-handle” concept a step further, beyond conferences. Many people (including myself) enjoy live-tweeting sporting events. However, not all of my followers are sports fans, and couldn’t care less that LeBron James just threw down a nasty dunk. So before tip-off, I could tweet out to my followers, “Hey, opt-in here if you wish to follow my live tweets during the game.” You will have a more engaged following during that particular sporting event, since those who opted-in are likely also watching. It could also spare a lot of headaches and irritation for those who chose not to opt-in. Award shows, presidential addresses—I see a lot of potential uses for a “sub-handle” feature.

Having separate places to store your event-specific tweets would also make it easier to share later on. Some of your followers may have missed the opt-in opportunity, so you could direct them to your sub-handle where they can catch up on all the event-specific tweets they missed.

Am I the only one who finds live-tweeted conferences (and other major events) to be extremely annoying? Twitter, please help enhance your user experience by making an improvement in this area.