One quick observation from the Fem2.0 conference — during the current plenary session, a six-person panel discussion, the organizers are displaying the event’s Twitter feed (#fem2) on a screen behind the panelists. The benefit is that it creates a separate-but-related discussion occurring at the same time as the panel, with some comments directly tied to the presentations and others spinning off in different directions. At times, the Twitter conversation is more interesting than the actual presenters, for better or for worse.
And the “worse” part brings up the downside — the Twitter discussion is so interesting and fast-moving that it can distract the audience from what the speakers are actually saying. The constant clatter of keyboards is already a problem at conferences (one to which I’m contributing right now), but the public display of the Twitter feed pulls even more eyeballs away from the presenters. And for those of us with short attention spans, that means that I’m taking in a lot less from the speakers than I could. A double-edged sword.
Call me old-fashioned, but I hate Twitter feeds at events. You wouldn’t feel right talking over the panelists, and Twitter is a conversation, so why would you project a separate (parallel topic maybe, but still separate) convo up behind their heads?
It distracts even the laptopless attendees and opens the floor for anonymous (read: cowardly) comments. I’m all for reading your email if you’re bored, but the parallel Tweeting seems rude.
I find Twitter feeds very distracting too. So do many of my colleagues at work. The subject comes up at times when we’re taking our break. Twitter is fine, but not at events of real importance, where we need to really focus on what is occurring at the event itself.