Twitter at AAS next week #aas215

by Kelle on December 30, 2009

twitter logoAAS_Star_Logo_75_blackIn advance of the American Astronomical Society meeting in Washington, DC next week, we need to talk about Twitter. Twitter is a great platform for sharing and navigating the craziness that will be this huge meeting. As far as I can tell, many astro outreach folks are on twitter, but not many scientists (except those with blogs). For the purposes of this meeting, this should change. It would be awesome if people tweeted about the science going on at the meeting to help people find/not miss what they are most interested in, but also to help people find out about exciting things going on outside their own subfield.

Examples of useful tweets would be: a talk your looking forward to, along with a time and room; big results you just found out about; and posters that should not be missed, along with landmarks (e.g., back right corner, across from the Spitzer booth). Other useful things for talk hoppers would be letting people know about schedule changes and how many minutes behind a session is.

The way this works is to just include the hash tag ‘#aas215’ in all your AAS tweets and anybody, even folks without twitter accounts, can see them:

While a lot of us will have our laptops, the beauty of Twitter is that it’s super easy to use on mobile devices. So, I’m given AAS attendees an assignment: sign up for a twitter account (optional), set up a twitter app on your mobile device (I use Tweetie on my iPhone), and learn how to save a search term (#aas215).

Looking forward to reading your tweets!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Marshall December 30, 2009 at 10:52 am

OK, I’m a big Twitter skeptic, so convince me this is useful. In my experience the most precious resource at one of these meetings is time and attention: one cannot possibly see anywhere close to everything that there is to see (not even 1/10th, really) and the last thing I want is to be bombarded with a bunch of one-sentence distractions pointing me in fifteen different directions.

The things I want to get out of the AAS meeting are going to be pretty distinct from the things an observational X-ray astronomer or a CMB theoretician would want to see. A giant disorganized pile of real-time tweets with no filtering strikes me as 90% useless. Furthermore, when I’m at a session, I would much rather try to concentrate on paying attention to the talk I’m actually hearing, rather than worrying about tweeting how many minutes behind schedule the session is, or whatever.

I suspect the reason that most scientists (as opposed to outreach people, etc) are not on twitter is that this kind of distracted, bite-sized thought process is pretty much the antithesis of the sustained concentration that it takes to work on research. That’s how I feel, anyway.



2 Gus December 30, 2009 at 2:07 pm

as a “scientist” on twitter I will be curious as to what the #aas215 twitter stream will contain given such a large setting. Regardless, “bombarded with [] distractions pointing me in 15 different directions,” is a pretty good portrayal of my typical AAS experience, anyway. a twitter stream almost certainly must subset the overall experience.

the piece of the my AAS experience not reflected in Marshall’s phrase is the massive disconnect I feel when embedded in a large, mostly unfamiliar population. if the twitter stream promotes new interactions via shared thoughts/questions then the value of the stream (for me) is further proven.



3 Kelle December 30, 2009 at 9:40 pm

A couple responses to Marshall’s concerns:

– Don’t knock it until you try it. You describe twitter as how you *imagine* it to be, not how it actually is.

– For me, twitter has provided a super easy/fast/efficient way to be informed of things that I would otherwise have no way of finding out about. I *do* care about the big results in other subfields. The way I learned about and parsed the maybe dark matter detection was through Twitter. In my life, it’s not a “giant disorganized pile,” it’s a concise listing of the take-home messages on topics that I care about but that I have chosen to not dedicate “sustained concentration” to.

– I don’t know about you, but I’m usually in a session for only 1 or 2 talks and find myself twiddling my thumbs for a fair amount of time. I agree, AAS is hectic, but I think for many people there is a non-negligible amount of short bursts of dead time where twitter on your mobile device could fit right in.

btw, here are my tweets from the Pasadena June AAS meeting:

#aas there will be a fund raising effort to replenish funds for AAS awards & prizes. donations will be matched by council members.

#aas Gemini director predicts greater time share between Gemini and Suburu.

#aas RE: VB10b. Me: It’s suspicious that the orbit is aligned with the PM vector. Pravdo: they arent aligned…differ by ~20 deg.

#aas NASA outlook for data archives (e.g., IRSA) is complicated. LSST-like pentabyte challenges might require inter-agency solutions.

#aas NASA budget includes funds for likely robotic mission to deorbit HST starting in ~2020.

looking for a ride back to caltech around 4 or 4:30…anyone?

#AAS stimulus funding enabled extra NSF grad fellowships specific for astronomy. they hope to continue that at a lower level in future yrs.

#AAS NSF grants can be for up to 5 yrs of funding. most ppl think the max is just 3.

#aas outlook is very good for NSF CAREER, postdoc, and grad funding. thanks Obama!


4 Erin January 1, 2010 at 8:29 pm

As I’ve noted on my Facebook status the iPhone autocomplete changes AAS to an option describing one’s bum, so I can’t promise mine will always be tagged correctly 😉 (am erinleeryan on twitter and am still working on being a proper tweeter but I use TweetDeck because it was free and as a grad student I’m the definition of cheap).

To those skeptical of the power of twitter, I think the DARPA network challenge early in the month was a good example of things you can learn from social networking. I have to say that the description of the challenge (that DARPA was going to deploy 10 red weather balloons in cities) and that you had to submit the positions of them in an effort to win $40k was poorly publicised was an understatement. None the less, by a random blog reading I was aware of the challenge and realized what the red balloon was doing in Charlottesville of all places the day of deployment. After posting on twitter the status “spied a red balloon from #darpanetworkchallenge” I was queried by no less than 6 teams in an hour wanting the location. I don’t doubt that MIT won the money thanks to the power of twitter and Facebook and some good query algorithms.


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