Thank you for not tweeting

I was at the CILIP London Branch AGM tonight, and there was a talk from Professor David Nicholas on UCL’s “Google Generation” research project. Interesting stuff, will probably blog about it tomorrow, but I just wanted to write a quick post about something that happened right at the end of the evening.

I’d been tweeting snippets from Professor Nicholas’ talk throughout the evening. I like to do that at talks like this, it helps me to take in the salient points in the same way that old fashioned pen-and-paper note-taking does, with the added bonus of hopefully being of use to people in my Twitter network who might be interested in the topic, but weren’t at the talk. (Sidenote, but this tweet from Alan Fricker may provide some evidence in favour of this!)

There were a few other Tweeters there tonight, but I got the impression that a few people didn’t approve of all the tweeting going on. One person tweeted that she was “getting glared at by other folks for tapping away” and followed it up with “Guy across from me just got ticked off by another for tweeting. Def not a digital friendly audience!”. No one seemed to be openly glaring at me though, so I forgot about it and carried on listening to the talk.

At the end of the evening, I was heading over to the back of the room to put my wine glass back on the table when someone (I’m not sure who he was actually – think he’s on the CILIP London committee but I’m not great with names!) planted himself in front of me and informed me that the reflections from my “Blackberry” (it’s actually a G1 Android phone) had been making it impossible for anyone behind me to see the speaker. I found this surprising, as it was a well-lit room, my phone screen was set quite dim (low battery), and I was holding it in my lap for most of the talk, but I apologised if I’d caused any distraction. I explained that I’d wanted to tweet snippets from the talk for anyone online who was interested but hadn’t been able to come along. He seemed very surprised by that explanation (I don’t know what he thought I’d been doing – perhaps he thought I’d just been playing on my phone and not listening?), and, after thinking about it for a minute, said that he supposed it was a bit like sending scribes to a lecture, so the information could be disseminated more widely.

It is certainly important to make sure that, if you’re going to be tweeting etc during a talk, you do so without inconveniencing the people sat around you, and I am sorry if anyone was actually blinded by my phone. I just got the impression that this really came down to hostility towards those who didn’t appear to be paying attention. Perhaps there is a perception that if you are typing something into your phone, you are not paying attention to what is being said. In fact, David Nicholas said at one point in his talk that people don’t have the time to pay full attention – they’ll give you 20 minutes to talk to them and spend the whole time on their phones or laptops. I disagree with that assumption – how do you know that they’re doing anything different from what they would be doing with a pen and paper? I was surprised that, at a talk about the Google generation and how “they” learn, with, supposedly, an emphasis on how librarians can tailor their practices to how people use information in the digital age, there wasn’t more awareness of what those people in the audience “playing with their phones” were actually doing.

Unfortunately, that put a bit of a downer on the whole evening. In all honesty – and sorry if I’m over-reacting here – it’s slightly put me off going to other CILIP London events. I don’t expect everyone to be on Twitter, but as information professionals I really think we should have an understanding of how different people process information, and how some people like to use technology to facilitate that. I don’t think there was an understanding of that at the CILIP London branch tonight, so I don’t think I’d be anxious to spend much more time with them.


25 comments on “Thank you for not tweeting

  1. Oh dear – that is a shame. I know Dave quite well – he was my personal tutor, and I’m sure that he wouldn’t have minded at all. I certainly wouldn’t have any sort of issue with you tweeting a meeting – to be honest, I’d probably be sitting next to you doing the same thing.

    What it does show is however that ground rules should be set right at the start of a meeting. Given the ease of use of resources I think any organiser needs to include a statement on this at the same time that they’re pointing out the fire exits.

    It’s certainly odd that you had people there who apparently seem either anti twitter or not aware of its purpose, given the subject matter of the talk. It’ll be interesting to see if anyone from the group gets back to you.

    • I totally agree about setting ground rules right at the start. I’ve been to a few events where statements like that have been made – usually along the lines of reminding people to have their phones/mobile devices on silent and be considerate, and introducing the event hashtag at the same time. I think that approach works really well. Similarly, if someone didn’t want people tweeting (etc) at their event then I’m sure the audience would respect that – but it needs to be made clear at the start.

  2. It’s worrying, I agree, particularly in the context of the discussions about CILIP’s future.
    There was a definite atmosphere of hostility from some quarters, not solely to people trying to use social media to add to the event, but to anyone who wasn’t part of the clique. And this is a long standing problem with this branch. But at the Sekforde Arms meetings, though the power supply is limited, live blogging and tweeting is much more accepted.
    The worst thing about the evening was the AGM. I’ve been in some bad AGMs in my time, but this was one of the worst.

    • Yeah, I didn’t think it was necessary to mention in my post but the AGM was a bit of a shambles! As I think I remember you tweeting, would have been better to leave the AGM until after the talk.

      I can’t say I really noticed it being particularly cliquey, although I got there a bit late and left promptly, so I guess I wasn’t really around to try and network!

  3. That is a real shame. 😦

    I have experienced similar incidents myself, and I think (and hope!) the misconceptions occur when people aren’t aware of what you are doing and as you suggest, may think you are just texting or playing a game. I am surprised that this is still not understood though, particularly with Twitter being so prevalent in the profession and also given the subject of the talk.

    I hope to see changes such as Phil mentions whereby Tweeting protocol is mentioned at the beginning of the event, as photography usually is. Maybe we ought to adopt a similar approach to some US events whereby there are specific areas for those wanting to use laptops and mobiles during the talk, and areas for those who don’t want to be distracted by them.

    • Cheers Jo! The different areas thing can work really well, although I’m not sure the event last night was really big enough to justify dividing the room in half! Certainly something to consider though 🙂

  4. I think it is a definite pity that you and others were made to feel uncomfortable – it adds to reasons why I don’t miss my CILIP membership. However I can see where some objections might lie – I was at a conference last year where people were so busy furiously tweeting to their online networks that it was difficult to have an actual conversation with them face-to-face. So we must not throw the baby out with the bathwater. However, as someone who’s followed several events from twitter feeds the kind of thing you were doing last night now seems to me to be (a) normal and (b) useful. And ‘your screen was so bright we couldn’t see the speaker’ – crikey.

    • Oh, I totally get that – it is irritating when people are too busy typing away to actually have a conversation, and I would never spend my time tweeting rather than networking with the people present! That’s different from tweeting during a presentation though – you’re hardly going to be chatting to your neighbour during a talk, that *would* be rude.

      Still baffled by the whole “your screen was too bright” thing – I mean, seriously? I really doubt that was actually the case, just can’t figure out why he didn’t just tell me he found my tweeting objectionable.

  5. The irrational prejudice against electronic devices at conferences etc is surprising, a bit pathetic, and fairly hilarious.

    A bit like looking down on people who bring a pen and pad just because some people play tic-tac-toe.

    • Yeah, it strikes me as irrational too. At least hopefully this guy came away with some understanding of what I was actually doing – I wonder how many other people there went away muttering darkly about all these youngsters who clearly weren’t paying attention, just playing on their phones, etc…

  6. Wow, what a luddite! No one (yet) has dared to come and moan about tweeting or the like to me at events; imagine I might icely reply about how all the scratching on paper with goose-quills was making it hard for me to hear the speaker.

    I can’t be everywhere (this month seems to make a lie of that statement) but my broad professional interests means the tweets from events (like tomorrow’s #mashlib) are invaluable for my professional awareness. Seems this chap at the least (if not more of them) are part of that hopefully dying breed of CILIP member who won’t engage with the late 20th Century. Let alone C21st.

  7. don’t judge CILIP by one member (or indeed more) of the London Branch – or indeed CILIP members in London – as someone who was following your and other tweets last night (as I did a #latenightlibrarian) I was pleased to catch at least a little of the content of what I couldn;t attend in person

    • Cheers, glad it was useful! I don’t mean to blame CILIP, or even the London CILIP branch for this – they obviously can’t be held responsible for the opinions of their members!

  8. As people have said – there are times and places where tweeting / reading your email may be inappropriate (I am thinking about you man sat next to me who got your blackberry out in the middle of the White Guard at the NT on Monday night – he certainly got a hard stare).

    I agree with Phil’s ground rules comment.

    Would be nice if CILIP could get set up to allow the streaming / recording of such events.

    Oh and AGM wise – as an old hand at these things Tom you know the rules – AGM at the end of meeting = inquorate AGM as everyone runs off. No excuse for it being badly run however!

  9. Woodsiegirl. First thing sorry I didn’t speak to you, and secondly I was astonished at the event. I was admonished for being ‘one of them’ (a digital native). I also discussed in my blog http://librarytwopointzero.blogspot.com/2010/05/irony-in-digital-world.html. I thought daves speech was great, but when your frowned upon in these events who wants to go?

    • Sorry I didn’t speak to you either – would have been good to chat to some other twitterers there. Sorry to hear you got chatised too, but I’m also a little glad to hear it wasn’t just me!

  10. What a shame that you were made to feel like a naughty schoolgirl when all you were trying to do was disseminate information to a wider audience. I too have felt the ‘back of the neck stare’ and the ‘annoyed sideways glance’ when using my laptop to record notes or my phone to tweet from events, which can be annoying. I can understand how some people are easily distracted at conferences but they really just need to filter out the tapping of the keyboard in the same way that I try to ignore those who tap their pen on the table or shuffle from side to side on their seats. Attending a conference is a collective experience – we need to be prepared to accept that we all listen, learn and take notes differently.

    I, for one, appreciate live tweeting from conferences – especially the London ones as I’m based in Scotland and can’t afford to jump on a train to attend every CILIP event that I quite like the sound of. I hope you’re not too disheartened by your experience last night!

  11. This was my first time live tweeting from a CILIP event. I felt so embarrassed being told off that all I could do was apologise. It was as though I had been busted for playing Snake in class! Perhaps I should have been more brave and explained what I was doing better. But I thought my super shiny iPhone might have dazzled those behind me. I kept it quite visible so I didn’t look as though I was checking my emails furtively. Although, I thought it was rather interesting that tweeting was bracketed with email-checking in David’s presentation as distracted or “promiscuous” information behaviour at conferences.

    To think I nearly asked what the hashtag was at the very beginning…! Perhaps making events twitter-friendly, i.e. sharing and announcing a hashtag, would discourage that kind of distracted behaviour. One would feel less like a lone tweeter who is responsible for reporting continuously – even during conversations – for those who can’t be there.

    • Oh no, hope it hasn’t put you off live-tweeting! the number of comments I’ve had about this, here and on Twitter, has really confirmed for me how valuable having a few Twitterers at an event is. So many people have said how useful they find it, especially those outside of London, so it’d be a real shame if people felt like they couldn’t do it any more.

  12. […] It seems it’s quite a complex issue with a number of misunderstandings, as unfortunately experienced by WoodsieGirl recently. There’s been an interesting debate over on CILIP Communities today which I’ve […]

  13. I’m coming late to this discussion. But it confirms all my worst fears about Cilip, and if (a big if) it has a role to play in the future of the information profession. It seems to be a case of books – Yes. ‘Newfangled technology’ – No.

  14. I enjoyed reading your article in the Gazette and thought I’d look you up. You made an excellent point about stating ground rules before the talk. I give many talks including those to readers at libraries (I’m a crime writer) and I have yet to come across anyone tweeting my talk, (though people have attended my talks because they’ve read about it on my blog or twitter). But I’d be thrilled if anyone did tweet it – what great PR! So next time I begin my talk I’ll make sure to say twitter away to your heart’s content, just as long as it’s the techno kind of twitter and you don’t disturb the people behind and next to you!

    • Thanks for the comment Pauline, glad you enjoyed my article! Interesting to hear you say that, as a speaker, you’d welcome people tweeting your talks. One of the main objections I’ve heard recently to allowing live tweeting is that speakers wouldn’t want their talk to be broadcast outside of the room because that would mean less people would be willing to turn up in person to hear them speak. My personal feeling is that anyone who thinks that their audience gets the same amount out of reading second-hand tweets as they do out of listening in person probably needs to work on their presentation skills, but I could understand why it might be a concern. I’m with you on seeing it as great PR – if your audience are so impressed by what you’re saying that they want to make sure their followers can hear about it too, I think that can only be a good thing!

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