Monday, August 10, 2009

Tweeting a conference presentation

An interesting conversation broke out Saturday on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list (APG-L). The initial post by Rondina Muncy wondered if tweeting a conference presentation violated fair use copyright protections. (Use this link to see the full mailing list thread.)

The discussion has provided the following points:

* Michael John Neill and Elizabeth Shown Mills raised the issue of accuracy of what was tweeted or reported.

* Larry Boswell thinks that "circling the copyright wagons" is a futile exercise in this case.

* Ray Beere Johnson opined that compiled tweets may violate a presenter's copyright rights, but individual tweets may not.

* Elizabeth Shown Mills noted that a tweeter was essentially a reviewer and/or a reporter.

* Karen Mauer Green commented that she learns best by taking notes during the presentation, not from just listening to a lecture.

* Michael Hait thinks that lecturers should welcome tweets - they may encourage more attendees at future lectures.

You really have to read the entire thread for the full exposure of what the "genealogy professionals" think.

I commented today on the issue on the APG-L list, but it hasn't appeared yet. I noted:


I'm late to this conversation...but have two cents to share - from the tweeters viewpoint.

First - thank you everyone for the fascinating and civil discussion.

I do not learn much by just listening to someone talk from notes or memory. I do learn well when I can see a presentation, hear the speaker's words, and take notes for future review and even "reporting."

None of you have seen my handwriting, which has gotten worse over the years. A month later, I often cannot read my notes. If I use my computer to take notes, or tweet, then I can at least read through my typos and make sense of the presentation at a later time. I have found that I can "keep up" on my laptop taking notes better than writing in longhand (shorthand always baffled me).

I tweeted during the Blogger's Summit at the SCGS Jamboree, along with several others. Afterward, I compiled the tweets in a blog post in chronological order (and that was a difficult cut-and-paste job). The 9-person panel presentation was 150 minutes long with a 15 minute break. I posted 87 tweets during the 135 minutes. There is no way that I captured anything close to 10% of what was said or shown on the screen, or even the highlights from each speaker. There was an "audience" on Twitter and on Facebook (where my tweets get posted automatically) living the summit vicariously through the tweets from the Blogger's Summit.

Having had this experience actually tweeting, there were some real problems. The wi-fi was not reliable in the lecture hall. Even though I wanted to tweet something, there were times when I couldn't. Rather than fall behind on the tweeting, I just skipped to the present discussion when the wi-fi came back on.

I doubt that I will tweet a conference presentation again. I will take notes on my laptop when I can because it is easier than writing in longhand - assuming I have power to the laptop!

Elizabeth said early on that tweeting was essentially "reporting" what a person heard or saw during a lecture or presentation. I agree with that. I, and many others - especially local society newsletter editors, routinely summarize the programs and lectures we attend for our newsletters, periodicals, blogs and web pages. Occasionally, print reporters write an article summarizing genealogy presentations - the Mormon Times and Deseret News did that for the recent BYU Conference.

My two cents -- Randy Seaver (


tami osmer glatz said...

I enjoyed reading conference tweets, which made me wish i were there, so I don't really have a problem with random tweets that are more like teasers.

I have to wonder, though, if there isn't a proverbial line being crossed, when the tweeter blogs all the tweet notes, includes links to the websites mentioned in addition to the class syllabus. Is re-posting someone's entire lecture something other than flattery?

Anonymous said...


Seems to me that if they did not want live tweeting, they should not have allowed it?

- Tamura

Amy Coffin said...

The act of Tweeting during a conference presentation is not a bad thing. Any one who conference tweets via hash tag will see the variety of information shared during these events.

Tweeting is a type of blogging. The concerns folks have of Twitter also exist for traditional blogging. This is not a Twitter issue. It is a reporting issue.

Perhaps a dialog needs to be opened on how to successfully report and analyze what one sees and hears at a conference so that the information is shared with others without crossing any lines.

Janet Hovorka said...

Great minds think alike Randy.

September said...

As for any potential copyright violation, consider the fact that tweets are not accessible after about a week and a half - not nearly enough time for any legal process to get started. If you archive them yourself, i.e. in a blog post, or some other way, then you are presenting them after-the-fact in a reporting/reviewer capacity (would this be secondary or tertiary evidence? lol).