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A modest proposal: use @replies and hashtags for live-tweeting and tweet chats

Any sufficiently large number of signals is indistinguishable from noise. I suspect this principle does not figure prominently in the consciousness of people who are live-tweeting from conferences or other physical world events, or participating in purely virtual tweet chats. I have filtered and even unfollowed several friends who have gone on live-tweeting or tweet chatting binges, as I do not care to have my main Twitter feed consumed by tweets from events I do not care about.

A tweet today from Alyssa Royse suggests I am not alone in this irritation regarding Twitter etiquette:

Although I do not physically attend many conferences or other tweet-worthy events these days, when I do, I have adopted a practice that others may find useful. I use the @reply mechanism to reference the event Twitter handle at the start of the tweet - which hides the tweet from anyone who does not follow both me and the event - and then use the designated event hashtag so that anyone who is explicitly following the event hashtag can also see it. Others may remain blissfuly unaware of my avid participation in and live transcription of the event highlights.

As an example, the last conference I physically attended was the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW 2012), last February. I tweeted a number of highlights from the conference, but preceded most of them with the Twitter handle for the conference (@acm_cscw2012) and used the designated Twitter hashtag (#cscw2012), e.g.,

The only people who would see this tweet are those who are following both me (@gumption) and @acm_cscw or those who are following the #cscw2012 hashtag on Twitter.

Now, I do make exceptions for exceptional insights and observations that I believe may be of general interest beyond those who are at or interested in the conference, e.g., 

But generally speaking, I try to maintain a small footprint for my live-tweeting ... and I would like to encourage others to adopt a similar practice.

[Oops - forgot about tweet chats ...probably because I do not participate in them. Briefly, a tweet chat is a period (typically an hour) during which a moderator will post a series of questions or prompts, and then others post responses to that question, all using a designated hashtag. A similar practice can be adopted in such scenarios, in which respondents direct their responses to the moderator (or the person who posted the question) using @replies.]

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