UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4 August 2009

When we encouraged use of Twitter at the IWMW 2009 event we ensured that tweets containing the event’s #iwmw2009 tag were archived using a variety of services including Backupmytweets, Twapperkeeper service, wthashtag and Tweetdoc.

A page on the IWMW 2009 event’s Web site provides links to the various archives of the tweets, allowing the different approaches taken by the services to be compared. But the most interesting feature was provided by the wthashtag which provides a record of tweets over a user-definable date range in HTML and RSS formats. But even more interestingly, it provides a range of statistics on usage of the selected hashtag.

iwmw2009 Twitter statisticsAs well as the histogram of usage of the tag which is illustrated, I also discover that over the past seven days the top contributors have been:

  1. @iwmwlive – 255
  2. @spellerlive – 60
  3. @mecb – 58
  4. @bensteeples – 54
  5. @MikeNolanLive – 45
  6. @catmachine – 41
  7. @PlanetClaire – 36
  8. @kammer – 35
  9. @webpackets – 34
  10. @m1ke_ellis – 32

Unsurprisingly the official @iwmwlive Twitter account was in top place (this belonged to the event’s live blogger who had a remit to keep a record of the plenary talks). Two of the other top contributors, @spellerlive and @MikeNolanLive also contains the ‘live’ suffix, indicating regular Twitter users who have chosen to create a second account to be used for live blogging at events. The numbers of tweets from @mecb is perhaps surprising as the user has previously been an infrequent blogger, although, as described in a video interview, Miles Banbery has discovered a new found enthusiasm for Twitter

In addition there have been:

  • 1,530 tweets
  • 170 contributors
  • 218.6 tweets per day
  • 42.5% come from “The Top 10″
  • 4.4% are retweets
  • 20.0% are mentions
  • 34.5% have multiple hashtags

I am particularly interested in the statistics of usage of multiple hashtags. As described in a post on Use of Twitter at IWMW 2009 published a few days before the event began we suggested that “if you wish to refer to a specific plenary talk or workshop session [in your tweets], we have defined a hashtag for each of the plenary talks (#p1 to #p9) and workshop session (#a1-#a9, #b1-#b4 and #c1 top #c5“.

Mike Ellis responded to this suggestion: “I’ll be interested to see what take-up is for your #complexhashtagsuggestion. Personally (as you know!) I think it’s an error of complexity over usability.

I feel the evidence indicates that many of the participants were willing to use multiple hashtags when their use was appropriate (hashtags were not suggested for the bar camp sessions or for social events, so we wouldn’t expect 100% of the event tweets to have multiple hashtags.

Hashtags used to find tweets about #iwmw2009 and #p3We can now, after the event, exploit the  multiple hashtags to more easily find what people were saying about particular sessions. Use of #iwmw2009 and #p3 in a Twitter search, for example, enables us to quickly discover what was being said about Paul Boag’s talk on Making your killer applications… killer!. Why might we want to do this? Well towards the end of the talks we invited participants to post a single tweet summarising what they felt they had gained from the session. This may be useful information to reflect on after the event.

And it should be noted that some of the comments were made after the talk had been given – without the additional hashtag it would have been difficult to relate a comment to a particular session (in the example illustrated the reference to Paul Boag’s plenary talk #P3 was made in the final summing-up session).

An approach to be recommended for future events?

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7 Responses to “Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging”

  1. Mike said

    I’m still going to contest the usefulness of multiple hashtags, even in the face of evidence that people used them when Tweeting… :-)

    I guess the question really is – how many people are *consuming stuff* that has been multi-hashtagged rather than how many people are *authors of* such tweets? There’s no way of ascertaining this, AFAIK. Without this evidence I’d still say no, don’t do it. The danger is you take what is essentially a simple thing, make it complex, and put people off.

  2. Ben Whitehouse said

    One practical drawback that I and a few others I spoke to found was that there were very few power sockets in the plenary hall and other rooms. So anyone with an older or more power-hungry device often found their battery was dead before the end of sessions (especially back-to-back plenaries). I had to be fairly sparing in use of my laptop so was not able to contribute via Twitter, access the blog etc as much as I would have liked. I ended up taking notes for most sessions with good old fashioned pen and paper!

    Realise this is a venue issue but it’s maybe something to consider when booking venues, especially if you want to encourage a lot of online activity. I seem to remember the facilities in Aberdeen were fairly awesome with a personal mic and power point on every desk – but think they might be somewhat exceptional at the mo.

  3. [...] I described on the UK Web Focus blog these tags appeared to be well-used, with over 34% of the tweets containing the event tag [...]

  4. [...] use of these codes, together with the codes we assigned for the plenary talks, in Twitter. And, as I’ve described previously, after the event we captured the tweets for the plenary talks and provided links to this record of [...]

  5. [...] Also very good from the whole conference was the use of twitter. Brian Kelly talks about this on his blog. [...]

  6. [...] A conversation around an event hash tag demands a more timely response, as participants can rapidly abandon a hash tag after the event is completed (as demonstrated by Brian Kelly’s graph of #iwmw2009 tagged tweets in this post). [...]

  7. [...] Twitter proved very popular during this annual event for institutional Web managers, with over 1,500 Twitter posts (tweets) being published during the last week of July. Further statistical information is provided in a post on Evidence on Use of Twitter for Live Blogging. [...]

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