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Signal VS Noise: A Look At The REBCNASH Twitter Stream

30 April

I wasn’t going to write this post. I obviously changed my mind.

This is a post about REBarcamp Nashville, but it’s not really about REBarcamp Nashville. Nothing I’m about to say has anything to do with the quality of the 51 sessions that took place during the day at REBCNASH. From everything that I’ve heard from people who were actually in attendance, Brian Copeland ran an excellent REBarcamp, filled with great information and attended by many who were new to the Web 2.0 space. One of the speakers I spoke with mentioned that he was pleasantly surprised by how attentive the audience was. He said that many were taking notes on actual paper, with actual pens.

Signal vs. Noise

I decided to monitor the Twitter Stream for REBCNASH based on a conversation I had the previous day about the volume of noise that was coming from conferences and how hard it was to find valuable content in what was being shared via Twitter. The claim was that these conferences were becoming polluted with noise. They were echoing the feelings Matt Stigliano had while trying to listen to the content being generated on Twitter at SXSW. And I remembered clearly watching his cry for people at SXSW to do more than just broadcast their Foursquare data. You can read about it here: Two Weeks of Social Media Hell.

This is no scientific study, but I did want to be as accurate as possible. So, I cross referenced my main monitoring, using Tweetgrid.com/irc, with Twazzup and Twitter Search,. Luckily, the Twitter gods were kind and the search stream was consistent between the three tools. In total, there were 184 tweets that used the hashtag #rebcnash that day. Those tweets were generated by 77 different people. I don’t know how many were in attendance. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that 77 people decided that they wanted to use the hashtag on Twitter to share something about the event with the rest of the world.

So what did they share?

To analyze the content, I brought the tweet stream for REBCNASH into a spreadsheet and categorized each broadly. A tweet was either “signal” or “noise.” Since REBarcamps are learning conferences, I defined signal as any tweet that gave a piece of information that contributed to learning, or a provided a link to something that might. Everything else was considered noise.

Out of the 184 tweets, I only considered 8 to be signal. And when you see the 8, I think you’ll agree that I’m being generous. Here are the 8 “signal” tweets:

  • 8:10:49 am MauraNeill: Google loves WordPress (via @kdrewien) #rebcnash
  • 8:16:30 am MauraNeill: WordPress is industry standard – @kdrewien #rebcnash
  • “8:27:04 am DawnGrizzell: “”love is a killer app”" with @RealEstateZebra. Learn to be a better agent. I’ll be reading the book! #rebcnash http://twitpic.com/1j4e64
  • “8:42:26 am shabsxu: @serkes you can add “”/rss”" to any WP url and it will give u a feed! #rebcnash”
  • 12:50:01 pm JeremyHelton: #rebcnash social fusion autofeeds, interesting stuff.
  • 12:55:23 pm MauraNeill: Facebook ads – for the first time we can create laser-focused ads that pinpoint a very specific group of people. #rebcnash
  • 1:03:28 pm MauraNeill: Good read 4 REALTORS-check it out! RT @kleighcreative: BLOG POST: If You Bum Rush Me, We’ll NEVER Do Business http://bit.ly/aBPbRQ #rebcnash

Again, I think I am being VERY generous here. Example, I included Jeremy Helton’s tweet because it might cause me to go take a look at Social Fusion. So, I counted it as signal. I could debate the “signal worthiness” of several of the others, but this should give you a sense of how low I set the signal bar. Retweets of these signal tweets (only a few) were not counted as signal.

A Closer Look At The Noise

So, the math is pretty simple. If only 8 tweets were signal, 176 were noise. Example: “no sweet tea here at #rebcnash yet but always hope. Had some awesome sweet tea the other day though. Must have more :-)” Which is a perfectly fine tweet, (I’ve said similar things on twitter while at a barcamp) just not signal by my definition. There were, in fact, almost as many tweets about tea, 6, as there were tweets that contained any real content.

My next step was to categorize the noise. I wanted to get a feel for the kinds of things people felt were important to throw out into the twitter stream. So I put the noise into one of five categories; praise, questions, statements, location, and photos.

Praise: these were tweets that simply praised some aspect of the conference without really providing any insight. An example of a praise tweet: “Can’t wait to line up the rest of the afternoon at #rebcnash.” These tweets contained the most used word at REBCNASH, which was “great.”

Questions: these were tweets that were predominantly coming in from outside of the barcamp itself. There were 17 questions asked. Only two of them were answered using the hashtag, one of them by me. An example of a question tweet: “Which is the best Twitter app for a Palm Pre? #rebcnash.” This was never answered.

Statements: these were tweets that simply made a statement, often seemingly random. An example of a statement tweet: “Learning more about twitter at #rebcnash” and “Is hanging and sponsoring #rebcnash today. Loving ‘Love is the Killer Ap dude’s jacket!” The last one could easily have been put into praise or even location as well.

Location: these were tweets that simply let people know where someone was while they were at REBCNASH. An example of a location tweet:  “Second half of #rebcnash has started! (@ REBarCamp Nashville w/ 10 others) http://4sq.com/ai3HWT” The majority of these were not Foursquare posts, however, just people letting us know what session they were in.

Photos: these were tweets that contained photos. An example of a photo tweet: “#REBCNASH Schedule is Revealed! http://post.ly/dmq4″ Many of these also contained praise or a location or both, but were only counted in the photo category.

How Do We Increase The Signal To Noise Ratio?

I’m not here to debate why so little content was placed into the Twitter stream during this REBarcamp. There was no WiFi at the event, so a livestream was not possible and computer access was limited. I get it. And once again, just to be clear, those who actually attended are saying emphatically that the information shared in the sessions was excellent. Clearly, however, desire plays a role. First and foremost, you have to want to create valuable content or want to consume valuable content to make any of this work. And you certainly have to be able to identify what valuable content looks like in either case.

Personally, I’d like to do a better job of sharing valuable information. So, for those who have the desire and the ability to recognize or create good content, how do we make it easier to get more signal into the stream and get more signal out of it as well.  @jazzychad has done a good job with Tweetgrid.com/irc and an even better job with Madch.at, but even those miss the mark on many levels. In this specific case, if you were interested in gleaning some knowledge from the REBCNASH stream, having the very best listening tool in the world would still have only netted you, at best, 8 potential nuggets.

And having the best tool for sharing great content only works if people actually share. From my own experience, I know I am more diligent to present quality information if I know it has some legs. It’s one of the reasons why we’re creating the Live Blog app. When I know the information I’m tweeting at an event is going to live as content on my blog, I’m more careful to make sure it’s good content.

Some Questions

  • When you listen in on a conference via the “official” hashtag, what are you hoping to find?
  • Do we have any obligation at all to share the quality content at free conferences with the community at large?
  • Should conference organizers play a larger role in the distribution of the targeted content coming out of their events?
  • Is Twitter even the best place to share that content?  If not, what is?
  • What tools are needed to make relevant content easier to create and consume?

I’m not sure I have the right answers for most of those questions, but one thing I do know for sure is this -  I’m personally going to give more thought to the content I’m sharing at the next event I attend. I’m going to shoot for more signal and less noise. I think everyone will benefit. Including me.

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Archived Comments

  1. Jay Thompson April 30, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Interesting and thought-provoking post Jeff. As a REBC fanboy, if I am not at the event, I “listen” to the twitter streams to: 1) get an idea of what topics are being discussed; 2) pick up on any tibits of info that may help me; and 3) see which of my friends are actually in physical attendance.

    #3 is usually all I really get, with as you mention, the occasional mentions of #’s 1 and 2.

    If I am actually in attendance, I try to tweet out things I think might help my peers that couldn’t be there. Of course, there is much noise in what I Tweet, but I do try to put some signal in there too. At large events, I also like to have Tweets and 4square checkins tell me where my friends and others are.

    As an REBC organizer though, I want the attendees to participate *in the event*, and Twitter is often a distraction. We made a conscious decision (subject to great debate) to not have wifi available and a primary factor in that decision was we felt not having wifi would reduce the amount of time people spent twittering, emailing, whatever — and reducing those would by definition help to increase participation and attention.

    So I suppose for me, what I would like to see in an event’s twitter stream depends on whether I am at the event, “dialing in remotely”, or organizing.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 12:02 pm #

      Is an event enhanced by quality content that shows up related to it?

      • Tom Royce April 30, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

        Would it make sense for these conferences to have a designated twitter account and a couple of people tweeting “signal” regularly. While it might not be as authentic due to it’s pre-planned nature, it would provide value for those following the stream.

        Things such as links to topics or tools being discussed, links to session leaders blogs and bios for background would also be helpful for those in attendance who are online.

  2. ines April 30, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    I think there should be a balance with everything you do – what makes Twitter what it is today, is the fact that it’s not all “signal”, that there’s a personable aspect of it that makes us want to read and participate.

    I would totally agree that sharing good content and “educational” content during a conference is important, but you also have to think about people’s motives to tweet during a conference – not everyone is consciously tweeting to benefit others, maybe it’s just to give props to the presenter or just to make it fun.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

      I guess that’s why I’m asking if there is any responsibility at all?

      • ines April 30, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

        personally, why would anyone be responsible to enhance the experience for those that could not attend? unless, they were responsible for organizing the event. There are some “goodwill” unwritten laws though – I’m a believer that the stream should be used to improve the experience of those already there, not so much the ones that couldn’t attend….but that’s just me

        • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

          I feel that way about an event I pay for, but not about free events. I do feel an extra “responsibility” to give back.

          • ines April 30, 2010 at 12:43 pm #

            I think I mentioned this to you before – in Miami, it seems like the social media space turns off social media when they are F2F. I used to get upset at the fact that I couldn’t communicate with anyone on my way to an event, but now completely get it. It’s about focus and actual interaction without “tools” getting in the way.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 12:04 pm #

      And I’m not advocating “no noise.” Not my point at all. But you know that already. :)

  3. Benn Rosales April 30, 2010 at 12:06 pm #

    Interesting analysis, and great article. We’ve seen most hype centers around the beginning and the end of particular sessions, but during the session newer to twitter, newer to phone twittering, newer to everything folks are actively engaged – I’m very much the same way in that I find it difficult to multi-task when I’m really studying what’s being said. I hope to be a better signal, and I work very hard at remembering to say something, until I actually stopped doing that on purpose, it’s sometimes better to vet and digest the content and spend it in my own way carefully and constructively. Having said that I want people to know I cared enough to let folks know I was there- they’ve worked hard, a little praise goes a long way to the event promoter/planner. I think if you really want the engagement level of actually being there, then you should try and be there, OR actively engage an attendee in open conversation in whatever venue you’re in after the fact- then the focus is focused on the content and not disturbing the process of creative collaboration. Like you in this I don’t have the magic bullet answer, but possibly designating a content person may be the way to go if a volunteer is available to do it- then the pressure is off, and those that are learning, are able to do so.

    Again, really great analysis.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm #

      I think conference organizers would benefit from having a few people designated to creating signal. Listening for tips, pieces of information they could share with the watching crowd. If an event goes out of the way to promote the use of the hashtag, then I think they do have some measure of responsibility to make it worth watching.

      That said, there were many in that audience that would have benefited from being a loud signal in the noise. They missed a great opportunity to be the person sharing the truly valuable information shared.

      • Benn Rosales April 30, 2010 at 12:42 pm #

        oh absolutely, wholeheartedly agree, and it can be done a number of other ways- blogging post the event, engaging a twitter or facebook chat on a particular thing shared during an event. I think the thing most should remember is that the content shouldn’t die with the listener, it should be shared, I think were we might be hung up on is the when, and I’m for whenever, however, so long as it doesn’t die… I’ve seen many events live on months after they’ve happened…

      • @AgentSteph April 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm #

        Right on, Jeff. I was in attendance and I think several of those non-signal tweets were mine. Being a bit more conscientious might have been a big benefit to myself as well as my friend & organizer @NashvilleBrian. I’m going to try to do better moving forward.

        Still, it really was a fabulous event. Wish you could have been there.

        • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 10:45 pm #

          Steph, for so many reasons, I wish I had been there as well. But please don’t mistake this as an indictment of anyone. More of a conversation starter. :)

  4. Brad Nix April 30, 2010 at 12:49 pm #

    As an event producer, two statements stand out to me in this post and comments…

    1. “I know I am more diligent to present quality information if I know it has some legs. … When I know the information I’m tweeting at an event is going to live as content on my blog, I’m more careful to make sure it’s good content.”

    - makes me wish there was as an easy way to aggregate/curate blog posts about my events, a la hashtags in twitter.

    2. As Benn said… “possibly designating a content person may be the way to go if a volunteer is available to do it- then the pressure is off, and those that are learning, are able to do so.”

    - makes me want to designate a Live Blogger per session/channel/event. what is the value of this type of content post-event? does it differ from free to paid events?

    Great analysis Jeff that illustrates how much noise we have to filter on a daily basis. There is no wonder many late adopters get confused or choose to just stay away altogether from some of the tools available.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 1:54 pm #

      Brad, I think many would find the live blog content valuable, long after the event has ended. Contingent, of course, on the content having some real value. :)

  5. Brad Coy April 30, 2010 at 12:58 pm #

    it seems #hashtags jumped the shark about the same time Twitter introduced Trending topics. the noise to value ratio has gone WAY up, as you point out so clearly. Thank you for that. unfortunately, following an event on Twitter is just not useful at all really. unless you are at an event and your want to create a list of people to keep an eye on. or, you want to be distracted and feel like you are doing something productive with your time

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

      Brad, I rarely monitor a conference stream in real-time. It’s why I love tools like Madch.at. But even they are limited. As a way of attracting people into a conversation, Twitter certainly serves it’s purpose. As a means of actually having one, that is a different story. We need more intelligent tools. For example, I might want a conversation that you and I are having about Twitter to be public, but I may want to control the flow of that conversation in a stream that only you and I can edit. Picture iChat with each message going out to Twitter. Others could listen in, but we could be focused. A tool like that would also capture that conversation for inclusion in a blog post. Twitter would simply act as as the conduit through which others found the conversation. Just thinking out loud.

  6. Todd Carpenter April 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm #

    I would never consider any praise to be noise. Just sayin.

    Anyway, I’ve gone to great lengths in the past to put people in the right position to live blog an event. I get them power, the passwords to the wifi. I think it’s worth the effort, but for a BarCamp… I think the organizers are better off concentrating on the people in the room.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 3:57 pm #

      It’s not so much that praise, in and of itself, is noise. I love praise as much as the next guy. Big fan of praise. Big fan of sweet tea as well. Also a big fan of just being social on Twitter. But for this purpose, signal had to be defined. Some of the praise tweets, for example, were complimenting Daniel on his jacket. It’s a great jacket and I like it, and I’ve commented on it at a barcamp before, but it didn’t qualify as signal for me.

      • Todd Carpenter May 1, 2010 at 4:56 am #

        I had to think about this overnight before I said it. As someone who has organized many events, I’d almost rather see the praise being tweeted, and the twitpics even the foursquare check-ins, as I would the signal that you’re describing.

        I think the goal in social media outreach during a conference or event should be to give people an idea of what’s going on there, not so much to assist them in being able to virtually participate. Part of it is the signal, but a bigger part is creating wish that they were there.

  7. Brad Nix April 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm #

    It seems you aren’t the only one pointing out noise problems on twitter: http://blogmaverick.com/2010/04/30/the-bifurcation-of-twitter/ Mark Cuban has a different angle on a similar problem. Too much noise/static on any medium just encourages the users to change the channel and allows for others to create a better medium altogether.

    AM radio still exists, but there sure is a lot of static noise and only specific niche shows do well there. FM has a much clearer signal. fair analogy?

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

      It probably is. And it forces me to ask the question again, “is Twitter even the right place for this kind of content?”

      • Todd Carpenter May 1, 2010 at 5:01 am #

        I think a live blog is a better platform than Twitter. I tried this all the way back at the first RE BarCamp. You need at least one dedicated blogger. Rob Hahn live blogged the HARRIES conference a few weeks ago.

        http://www.notorious-rob.com/2010/03/30/very-slow-live-blog-of-harreis/

        At the NAR Conferences, the REALTOR Magazine Staff pumps out near live coverage on the Speaking of Real Estate Blog.

        I see the value in distributing signal, But depending on an unconference crowd to do it via their Twitter streams is like herding cats.

        • Jeff Turner May 1, 2010 at 9:18 am #

          I think I’m in agreement. And also in agreement that perhaps the real “feel” of a conference is what I might consider noise if I’m searching the stream for content.

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

      And in the comments of that post, this one by John Dvorak, http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2351932,00.asp comparing Twitter to CB Radio.

  8. Brian Copeland April 30, 2010 at 7:32 pm #

    Jeff, You were indeed greatly missed. I’m so glad you cared enough about this idea and topic to choose REBCNASH as the analysis sample. I think it’s a dialog that needs to continue to grow and be questioned.

    I KNOW this article is not about our event quality or any criticism of the content; however, I need to clarify a few minor details. The board that was posted showing the sessions was the 9:30 a.m. board. By 2:30 p.m. it had grown. Here’s a link to the screenshot of the final board. http://bit.ly/9GkAUf We had 65 sessions. As far as wifi, yes, we had wifi. Dumb*ss me forgot to tell everyone that the code was printed on the badges on the back during orientation. Also, I told the Dakno guys that I would get them a hard line for streaming, however, they weren’t sure they were coming. I found out too late to get the line installed for them. The wifi didn’t reach the “showcase room” unfortunately. Finally, we had designated content tweeters, however, I’ll let them weigh in on where deficiencies happened (and they are good reasons :))

    Now, to your opinions and questions here. I believe you must question the motivation for “the tweet” as you examine signal or noise. Everyone knows I’m too honest sometimes. I know my weaknesses and my buttons that need to be pushed. If most tweeters are like me and TRULY honest with us all, they would say they tweet for multiple reasons at conferences. The self-serving reasons are (1) to say, “Ha, ha, I’m here. Look at me. I’m lucky. Don’t you wish you were here” and (2) to brand ourselves to the masses who are in attendance. Obviously, your tweet of this article into the #REBCNASH tag served a branding purpose, which works. Dialog like this strengthens YOUR brand as a thought leader. Good job. That is a praise (or noise) and not a meaty (or signal) statement :) toward your branding strengths.

    While I may offend others by say this, it seems that at conferences every pearl of wisdom becomes a competition between attendees to be ‘the official source’ of the tweet. I admit, I’m that competitive too. To become the source, then to be Retweeted is a good feeling.

    At our REBC, we honestly had the most diverse group of attendees from RE.net folks, to NAR types, to the StarPower top 1% producers, to the veteran CyberPros to the Nashville locals who were just hungry for something new. Many of the “typical” tweeters like me, Daniel, Dakno guys, etc. were busy being thought leaders while the thought followers were busy being “attentive” while using “real pens” and “real paper” to take notes. The day was so LAUGHABLY easy, maintenance and drama-free, that most of the tweeters got lost in the praise and edification factor because the smoothness was the star of the event…rather than the content. Strength or weakness? I don’t know.

    Now, my opinion on your questions.
    When you listen in on a conference via the “official” hashtag, what are you hoping to find? I’m hoping to see who is there and get some network ties and new relationships. I’m a bit of a people addict.

    Do we have any obligation at all to share the quality content at free conferences with the community at large? Ines says it best in the message string. I would add that in the first year (as we were) the responsibility is to “train the masses” so that future years can start looking inside out to help the masses. It would’ve been better qualitative and quantitative analysis to look over a repeat REBC in a city without this dialog being out there to skew the tweets in the sampling.

    Should conference organizers play a larger role in the distribution of the targeted content coming out of their events? Again, I agree with Ines. The conference organizer becomes “the momma duck.” It’s my job to take care of the little duckies, make sure they have a perfect experience and protect the safety, comfort and convenience. In a developed conference, not in its beta year, content providers are a good idea. I had a few content tweeters out there, but most reported they were too involved or encompassed in the content and forgot to tweet.

    Is Twitter even the best place to share that content? If not, what is? No clue.

    What tools are needed to make relevant content easier to create and consume? No clue.

    Finally, as my dissertation ends, WordCamp didn’t have manner tweets because EVERYONE was typing 90 miles an hour on their laptops. We had some amazing presenters who made our heads spin. Not sure exactly why they weren’t tweeting “signal” except for the busyness.

    Great dialog. Let’s keep it going. I’ll see you in Nashville soon. I’ll be the guy in linen :) (Oh yeah, Matt Hues is coming tomorrow to pick up tables at my house that I’m giving him. Come load!!!)

    • Jeff Turner April 30, 2010 at 8:15 pm #

      These are the conversations that matter.

      The best anyone can hope for with a post like this is thought provoking dialogue, with all parties involved working to make each other better. Thank you for making that your goal and understanding that it’s mine as well.

      I am quite certain there are probably many good reasons for the results illustrated in this post. I’m equally certain that I will be rethinking both how I tweet at conferences and how I look at conference twitter streams. Although I agree with the approach Ines illustrates in Miami. Way too many social events organized around social media involve people staring into their phones and not into each other’s eyes.

      And I also think that in “classroom” settings like a barcamp, it is possible to find a balance between the need for quality face-to-face time and the personal brand objectives that motivate some forms of tweeting. An absence of tweeting at a bar tweetup should be more common, but the desire to be present doesn’t have to preclude the dissemination of great information while in a session. I’ll call it a more more formal kind of note taking.

      Like you, I monitor official hashtags for the same reasons, but I also look to the stream for small nuggets that I can latch onto. I rarely monitor live, instead choosing to come back to archives of the conversation for sifting.

      I agree with your “momma duck” analogy. And you already know this is not even a side swipe at the conference itself. I contemplated waiting to post this after adding a few more REBarcamps to the mix, but I find WAY TOO MANY reasons NOT to blog. I feared this would just be another and I’d miss the opportunity to start this conversation.

      Is Twitter the best place for the content? I don’t think so. I think it is a good place to draw attention to the content, but it’s not where the content should live.

      What tools are needed? I think we need more tools that allow us to curate content and create repositories for the best we find. Some of those tools will be best handled by conference organizers and some will be best used by those who attend. (I’m still working this out in my head, so bear with me :)

      Finally… you have NO IDEA how badly I wanted to be in Nashville. I’ve shared with you how much I love that city and have so many friends who live there. Tell Matt I said hey and I’m glad you two got reconnected. Your both good people.

  9. Teri Lussier May 1, 2010 at 6:25 am #

    I would question the objectivity of a designated spokesperson at any event, and even more so at a barcamp, where the vote with your feet rule, rules. Twitter is a bit of anarchy as well and lovely because of it, although it is 95% useless. Twitter is my go to place to dump useless thoughts I feel compelled to share (but y’all know that ;-)

    If you want to control the output at an event, and it sounds to this casual observer that you might, create a designated site with a designated spokesperson, tweet the site info on a regular basis to drive people there, otherwise, we get the joy, fun, and delicious frustration of wading through the twitter stream.

    I heard really good things about rebcnash, btw. One attendee told me privately that the content was solid and useful, drama was non-existent- one of the best re.net conferences that participant had been to. Congrats to the organizers and the attendees- good work all around.

    • Jeff Turner May 1, 2010 at 9:17 am #

      Teri, I heard the exact same things and couldn’t be happier.

      “If you want to control the output at an event…” I have no such desire. If I’ve given you that impression, then I’ve done a poor job of communicating my intent. What I’m wondering, out loud, is what responsibility, if any, the community benefiting from a free event like this has to share more significant information. I can see both sides of the argument. I personally feel compelled to share more information that’s being shared, but I’m quite convinced that this in not best suited for a twitter stream that’s hard to wade through.

      And I reserve the right to change my mind. :)

  10. Teri Lussier May 1, 2010 at 11:41 am #

    >what responsibility, if any, the community benefiting from a free event like this has to share more significant information.

    Okay, maybe let’s try this: This is not a free event.
    Everyone who shows up here takes themselves away from money work for that day or two days, plus any travel expenses, not only the organizers, but the attendees could all be doing something else during that time. You could easily say that everyone at a barcamp is a volunteer, and the spirit of barcamps, from my understanding, is that active participation is a necessity for a successful camp.

    Why should there be any responsibility foisted on anyone other than participating in full during the camp, and even that is up to each individual. As someone who wouldn’t organize, but might attend, twittering takes the experience from full engagement to reporting. I’m not convinced that is in the best interest of the attendees. Which brings us back to designating someone or two as official sharers, objectivity is going to be at risk as it would have to be someone who isn’t there as a sponge, someone who is already familiar with the content, in which case they are likely to be in an organizational role.

    I think there might be some correlation between the rebcnash attendees paying attn and taking notes and the unsolicited comments to me of what a successful camp that was- there was a heightened learning experience.

    I hear about the “spirit of barcamps”. I don’t think creating responsibility for sharing info, fits the spirit of barcamp, as I understand it, it’s more of an organic process. Really and truly not trying to mess up the cornflakes, but I believe that while I might be the only one to speak up about this, I’m not the only one who is thinking this. At any rate, I’m not going to go on and on about it, my .02 and I’m done.

    I do agree that serious sharing is not best done through twitter hashtags. You’ll lose the objectivity, and the sense of anarchy to move it somewhere specific, but that’s the trade-off you’ll have to make.

    Like you reserve the right to change your mind, I reserve the right to be completely and utterly wrong- it happened to me before… Once. ;-)

    • Jeff Turner May 1, 2010 at 7:44 pm #

      Teri, not sure why you’d think you would be messing up anyone’s cornflakes. You’re certainly not messing up mine. Even if you were, I’d probably still enjoy it. (I used to crush my cornflakes before eating them as a kid.)

      I don’t think you’re wrong at all. Not that my opinion makes you right. :) But I’ve been thinking about this all day and can say with a great deal of satisfaction that I’m HAPPY that the people who attended REBCNASH spent their time concentrating on the content there and not on creating content for the Twitter stream. I’ve said from the very beginning, this post is not about THEIR experience. THEIR experience was clearly excellent. I’ve never questioned that. It was about the experience of watching it from afar via Twitter.

      For me, all of this is exploration. Opening up to new ways of thinking. Questioning assumptions. Questioning my assumptions. And my assumptions have clearly been influenced by past REBarcamps and the content generated via Twitter during those sessions. Just as this poast was influenced by personal conversations the day before.

      As contrast, I spent some time today monitoring the #WCSF stream. The volume of signal coming from it was high. Tons of sharing of really good nuggets of information. Wordcamps are different than barcamps, however. They are more formal and typically less interactive than a well run barcamp. So you’re right on target with barcamps being designed to be more participative for the attendees. But I argue that it’s possible to be interactive and engaged at a barcamp and still share information with the Interwebs. I’m speaking from experience.

      And the way I do it in the future will surely change. For many reasons.

      BTW, what did that feel like to be wrong? :)

    • ines May 2, 2010 at 7:02 am #

      Teri,
      I completely agree with you, the more I think about the spirit of a barcamp or any free conference, the more I think it’s about sharing information for those attending, not so much those watching from afar. (love your thoughts about it not being a free conference – dedication from organizers and attendees is crucial)

      Even if you happen to be an organizer or one that has attended a few of these – the point would be to make it a more wholesome, enjoyable and better learning experience to the ones present. Newbies will have the tendency to pay attention and take notes – those with barcamp experience will participate in the conversation, both on-line and off.

      And let’s not forget the power of the hashtag for those present. I find myself torn between 2 sessions at times and it’s great to get those tidbits, whether noise or signal.

      And I’ll add one more point – from the perspective of a barcamp organizer. In Miami, I was focused on the learning experience at the actual camp, I was focused on exposing new concepts to locals that were clueless about most of the subjects. I went out of my way to keep the conference small thinking quality would be better, and never did I even worry about what was being broadcast during or after the event. (I may be a minoriy in my thinking though)

      • Jay Thompson May 2, 2010 at 7:19 am #

        “(I may be a minoriy in my thinking though)”

        Well, there is at least two of us.

        As an organizer of REBCPHX, I felt my obligation was to the actual participants *at the event*. It was put on for them, not those out in cyberspace.

        Please don’t get me wrong, I care (a lot) about others out there that couldn’t be at the event, but I felt no obligation to make sure they got something from the event. My sole purpose that day was to make sure people physically in attendance were getting what they needed.

        Now if I am *attending* an event, then I personally enjoy sharing with others that can’t be there. But I think the point Jeff made in a comment about the difference between a Word Camp and a Bar Camp is important. It’s a heck of a lot easier to Tweet out a signally nugget when you’re sitting in a structured, lecture / panel like environment than it is when you’re actively engaged in a REBC-like conversation.

        But even in a more formal WCish event, Twitter probably isn’t the best tool if one is looking for a better signal to noise ratio. By its nature, Twitter is noisy…

        • ines May 2, 2010 at 7:29 am #

          jay, and just to play devil’s advocate and continue the conversation – how many people do you think would actually visit an obscure website to get live blogging info? Would it be worth the trouble to organizers who want to put the word out about the conference?

          THAT would be an interesting study. There are certain speakers I would go back and find video of for example, GaryVee and Jeff are 2 of them, but I wouldn’t necessarily look at a live blog.

          • Jeff Turner May 2, 2010 at 8:07 am #

            I’m glad I decided to write this. I’m really enjoying the conversation around this.

      • Brian Copeland May 2, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

        Again, Ines is on the money. As organizers, the attendees’ experience is #1. In Nashville, we had basic sessions like “Facebook for Beginners” to advanced sessions on “Static FBML.” 60% of our attendees were from out-of-state or from over a 100 mile radius of Nashville. The rest were locals. Honestly, our locals aren’t big on Twitter, which testifies to Ines’ statement about most locals were “clueless about most of the subjects.” The out-of-area people had invested a minimum of $200 in hotel and $100 in gas ($200 for airline) plus food; so, a learning experience is quite important for that investment.

        I think most REBCers are just happy to be there. Transmitting that joy, asking questions and sending photos (as REBCNASH showed) proves that this is the priority of the attendees. I think forcing or recommending a population to concentrate on “signal” when what they want to do is “make noise” is not only inhospitable, but breaks every rule of viral behavior.

        • ines May 2, 2010 at 6:27 pm #

          Brian, I don’t think anyone is “forcing” or “recommending” anything here. The conversation is about posing a question whether attendees feel a responsibility to share the wealth of knowledge they are absorbing. It’s also about analyzing everyone’s intent when tweeting from a conference (is the message for those that could not attend, is it to improve the experience of attendees, or just plain kudos for organizers and speakers).

          You have to admit you’ll think a little more in depth the next time you tweet during a conference. Thanks for agreeing with me btw

          • Brian Copeland May 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm #

            Ines, my statement was as a response to Jeff’s question, “Should conference organizers play a larger role in the distribution of the targeted content coming out of their events?” My statement is that to try to encourage/control that behavior is perhaps not a good idea. I’m with you on thinking about what I tweet at my next conference. I think a healthy mix of noise and signal is a good thing. I think I’ll make a t-shirt.

          • Jeff Turner May 2, 2010 at 8:36 pm #

            I’m just trying to figure out how Ines can always be right. It’s disturbing. :)

            I too think most REBCers are just happy to be there. I’m happy when I can attend and I’ve attended way more than my fair share. And, perhaps that’s what’s influencing some of my perception and questioning. There is almost always several someones in attendance who certainly can provide a glimpse into the quality content shared at the event, with or without instruction. Should they? I’m not sure there is a “should” in this. I do know this… someone missed an opportunity to engage and influence both the attendees with their presence and the internet viewers with their sharing. In this case, there was a void. Should someone have filled it? Perhaps not. But could someone have filled it. Most certainly.

            The thing I’ve been thinking about most since writing this is that signal and noise are both moving targets. They are contextual and personal. They’re certainly not objective. My listening goals may be different than others. Therefore, in any given moment, what I consider noise, someone else will consider signal. I might consider a casual tweet from one person as nosie, while the exact same message from another might be considered signal. That’s the beauty of the complexity of human interaction. So, if the goal is to impact the greatest number of people possible (and it may not be for some organizers) then that “healthy” mix is required. I don’t think I can articulate what that means, I’m just hoping I’ll know it when I see it.

        • Joe Spake May 3, 2010 at 6:27 am #

          Brian, maybe lack of signal is a sign of successful engagement at the REBC. REBC Nashville was the first Barcamp I ever attended that wasn’t pre-choreographed in some way. The experience of BEING THERE – the engagement with new people and old friends, for me, far outweighed reporting signal-quality content to the outside world.
          If it were an event with pre-planned live-blogging, live-tweets, a pre-planned agenda and speakers, it wouldn’t have been a barcamp; it would have been a conference.
          I think it is important to keep that distinction.

          • Jeff Turner May 3, 2010 at 6:33 am #

            Joe, lots of REBC’s have NOT been pre-choreograhed. That’s what a barcamp is supposed to be. Those that have been pre-designed aren’t really barcamps in my opinion. And I think it’s possible to have both engagement AT the event and engagement online at the same time. What is becoming clear, is that it’s certainly not a mandate.

        • Kathy Drewien May 9, 2010 at 4:30 pm #

          I’m jumping in at the last minute to share my thoughts on tweeting during events; paid or unpaid. My tweets are for my benefit; a note for later reference with the hashtag is my bookmark.

          It’s not possible for me to tweet and listen to the speaker at the same time. After being asked a direct question during a social media event and forced to answer, “I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening; I was tweeting” I decided my behavior was rude.

          When I learn something new at an event I integrate the tool or concept into my business and share in another medium which allows more depth than a tweet.

          Oh, you can be assured if there’s a tweet about “sweet tea” happening anywhere, I’m commenting or starting the conversation! My goal is to find like-minded folks and develop relationships. It’s certainly easier to develop a bond around sweet tea and mojitos WordPress plugins for enhanced security.

          Thanks for a thought provoking post!

          • Jeff Turner May 10, 2010 at 6:11 am #

            Excellent answer, Kathy! I find, however, that if I’m using twitter to communicate what the important parts of the speaker’s message is, I listen better. But that’s just me.

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