Twitter is an information and networking tool that changes how many of us participate in conferences. It is a great way to keep track of interesting parallel talks, reminding you where you wish you were at any moment. I have found it to be a powerful way to meet and network with other astronomers by advertising talks I’ve am looking forward to, by posting links from slides, and by sharing spontaneous thoughts about what I am hearing and learning. This post will give you the skinny on using Twitter for the AAS 223 meeting next week. AstroBetter has run Twitter oriented blog posts in advance of the #aas215, #aas217, #aas219, and #aas221 meetings, and if those don’t clear up “tweeting” then maybe a review of “Social Media for Scientists” will. If you want a good place to start on who will likely be tweeting this year, then take a look at the analysis of #aas221 that @doug_burke did last year. And yes, I (@augustmuench) was the second most prolific tweeter last year.
The central thread: #aas223
First off, we have a Society endorsed meeting hashtag: #aas223. Wait, what? A hashtag connects related conversations on Twitter into a continuous, often fast moving stream of tweets. Click on the previous link or do a search for “#aas223″ in Twitter, and you’ll find news from around the conference, including press releases and discussions about the results from around the world. If you don’t remember the hashtag, then you’ll see it on various @AAS_Office posters around the meeting halls.
A couple quick but important points about following along and tweeting the meeting:
- If you are at the meeting then you likely will be following Twitter on a mobile device. So if you get anything from this post make sure you don’t miss this: beware the social distortion field that is Twitter on a mobile device (that is mobile.twitter.com or any official Twitter app). The mobile Twitter app only gives you a tiny subset of “Top” tweets about a particular hashtag and hides from you a lot of potentially interesting tweets (BUT: See comment below on updated Twitter apps!).
- If you want to follow along and see the entire astronomy network at work in Twitter, then you should use a different app. I would suggest Hootsuite, which allows you to easily follow just one hashtag at a time with it’s own column or “stream”.
- Figure out how to “turn off retweets” from the hashtag thread in whatever app you’re using. You will be a happier person.
Et tu, Posters?
Another HUGE problem for meeting goers is finding and seeing interesting posters. The room is huge and the meeting directory becomes a mess as N posters * M authors * Q sessions increase. So what if we shared interesting posters via Twitter? I’ve tried this the last couple of winter meetings, but it’s more fun/useful in a network.
So what makes a great poster to tweet? In addition to enticing content (more on that in a second), good design and superb visualizations are big draws. So I’m proposing astronomers take to #AASviz to share interesting and visually inspiring poster content. Tweets could include poster summaries, but I would advocate for tweeting poster pics. Pictures can be really useful ways of advertising a poster’s results (but please include the poster #code so others can find it!). And yes, tagging #aas223 also work on Instagram.
Even better, we should use Twitter to call out the great tools behind great visualizations! Talk to the author, see if you can figure out how they did it, and share the tool with a link to #AASviz. There are going to be many talks about software tools, and be sure not to miss Alyssa Goodman’s “Linking Visualization and Understanding in Astronomy” (Monday morning, 11:40am, Potomac Ballroom A). Alyssa (@aagie) will be sharing other powerful astronomy visualization tips on the #AASviz hashtag.
Please remember that on Twitter we are echoing our colleagues findings out into a broad online world. Be considerate rather than critical and follow the @AAS_Office‘s blogging and tweeting guidelines, which you can find 1/2 way down on the Meeting Etiquette page. Here are their main points:
If you blog, tweet, or otherwise post near-real-time material from the meeting online, you must follow the guidelines above concerning the use of computers, tablets, mobile phones, and AAS wireless bandwidth. (from Kelle: in other words: Don’t be a data hog.)
Please do not publicly report private conversations — only scheduled presentations and public comments are fair game for blogging, tweeting, etc. (from Kelle: unless you get explicit permission to do so.)
Remember that many presentations at AAS meetings concern work that has not yet been peer-reviewed. So think twice before posting a blog entry or tweet that is critical of such work. It is helpful to receive constructive criticism during the Q&A after your talk or while standing next to your poster, but it is hurtful to be raked over the coals online before your session is even over and with no easy way to respond. (from Kelle: It can be worthwhile to use social media to start constructive conversations and to ask questions, even tough ones, about new results.)
New York Times editor Bill Keller said it well. When it comes to meetings among colleagues, he explained, “We need a zone of trust, where people can say what is on their minds without fear of having an unscripted remark or a partially baked idea zapped into cyberspace. Think of it as common courtesy.”
Personally I think being considerate goes beyond common courtesy. I like to believe that the social network can be used to build your colleagues up, and dissemintate ideas. So stop snarkin’, and don’t give in to the brevity of twitter to drop the quick bomb on your colleagues for their talk or poster conclusions. (from Kelle: Snark is no good, but if you have a question or could use some clarification, do not hesitate to ask the Twitter-verse. I find this especially helpful in talks and Town Halls where I am not an expert, unsure what assumptions have been made, not familiar with a backstory, or not up on the jargon. E.g., “Why did the entire audience in the dwarf galaxies session just laugh? What did I miss? or “Hey dark matter experts, what does TIAMUA mean?”).
I further call out the @AAS_Office‘s anti-harassment policy for meetings, not because I suspect Twitter is a bad conduit for this, but because it is only with due diligence of meeting goers that we can ensure a good meeting atmosphere for all of us. A subsequent AstroBetter post will call out meeting etiquette more explicitly.