Sunday, March 22, 2009

How tweet it was #illad09

I spent part of the past week in Virginia Beach, VA at the 2009 ILLiad International Conference. Rather than dump a huge, general blog post on all of you, I'm splitting it into some smaller posts on certain aspects of my experience there. Today, Twitter! I couldn't not start with Twitter...

ILLiad is software I use in my job in Interlibrary Loan. It is developed by Atlas Systems, who works in partnership with OCLC. Since we've been using ILLiad for not quite a year, my boss Heather, and I went to the ILLiad International Conference for the first time.

Though I brought my laptop with me, I wasn't counting on being able to use it consistently during sessions, and it turns out I was able to use it in a little more than half of the sessions and other events I attended, but I still turned to pen and paper for the others. I had turned on my laptop just before the Introduction to ILLiad 8 to check e-mail and decided just to stay in my spot on the floor (where I managed to snag the last available power outlet) during the presentation (it looks like ILLiad 8 is going to be sweet, but I'm sure nobody outside libraryland cares, so I won't go on too much about it).

Sitting where I was, I had full view of two of the laptop screens between me and the speaker. I likely never would have looked, but a familiar page drew my eye and I realized they were using Twitter. Too bad I had no idea who they were, and I was way too "Ooooh!" and "Ahhhh" about ILLiad 8 features to want to stop listening and introduce myself to find out who these "tweeple" were right then. Instead, I went to and typed in illiad, half thinking I'd get a bunch of stuff about the epic and maybe just a tweet or two about the conference.

Amazinginly, of the six or so tweets on my screen, all but one were about the conference. As I scrolled down, I found a few more. They were from about three different tweeple, so I started following them. Before the ILLiad 8 update was over, two of them were following me back. I started keeping Twitter Search open in a tab on my browser and keeping an eye on it while type-type-typing away at my notes during certain sessions (conferences are a place where it definitely pays to be a multitasker and a fast typist).

Almost immediately after I started using Twitter about a year and a half ago, I discovered that it was a great way to follow conferences. People who tweet their notes (or at least highlights) are wonderful when I can't go to a conference I'm interested in (and conferences attended by the people I'm following are likely to be conferences I'm interested in, because I'm following people who are interested in the things I'm interested in - isnt it great that Twitter works that way?)

I discovered something even better at ILLiad 09. People who were in the same sessions as I was would tweet things I had missed because I was still typing something about the thing before it, or an insight that I didn't make, and it elevated my own experience of the session to a level that would not have been there otherwise. And it's impossible get to every session, so being able to see tweets from other sessions was a bonus. It's like getting someone's notes from a class you missed.

Something that became more clear to me at this conference is the importance of having a profile picture that actually looks like you. It would have been nice to be able to spot more tweeple than I did. The people sitting near me in ILLiad 8 update may have been people I started following, but I can't be sure, and I didn't get a chance to talk to them after the session. I did meet @cyriloberlander at the Wine and Cheese Poster Session, but he had the added advantage of having been on the panel for the keynote, so I had put face to name before I ever followed him. So many people's pictures are cartoon characters or something else. Yes, mine is a Kindergarten picture, but I think that's a step up from the Simpsonized picture it used to be. Obviously, I need to bump up the search for a current picture (I'm working on it, I swear, but I'm just so picky when it comes to pictures of me.)

However, a picture isn't total assurance of recognizing people, either. I realized after I got home and had a moment to look more closely at @traubie's picture, that I had seen him several times during the conference and just didn't make the connection. I think if I attend any other conferences, I'll bring a red marker with me and add my Twitter username to my name tag. Maybe if we all do that we'll be able to find each other in the real world and not just on Twitter, or vice versa.

I even found a couple more people today while going back through the search. I can only guess that Twitter was updating super-slowly (possible, but I don't think so) or I just wasn't paying enough attention with all the other stuff going on (highly likely). I wish I would have found some of them (on twitter or in person, or both) while at the conference, especially @geniealisa, who was the speaker for so many things I attended and whom I didn't realize was on Twitter until today.

Overall, Twitter turns out to be a great conference tool, even with the unfortunate tweet I sent which was supposed to be a personal text message to my hubby (no more texting before coffee for me)

P.S. How bad is it that I'm putting a hashtag in the title of this post so it'll be searchable on Twitter after TwitterFeed picks it up?