#SGMDub Under The Microscope

This week has seen the SGM Spring 2012 meeting in Dublin. This was accompanied by an unprecendented (for SGM) level of activity on Twitter. (For those new to Twitter, I recommend the LSE Twitter guide for academics.) People who do not know each other can easily communicate on Twitter via a shared interest “hashtag”, in this case #sgmdub. So what can a closer look at the conference hashtag tell us about the meeting and the microbiology?

The Archivist provides some simple visualisations if the activity that went online paralleling the physical sessions:

The Archivist

The Archivist

Nice though the free Archivist service is, this is relatively crude approach to exploring and exploiting the data. To get a deeper understanding of the online interactions we need a three pronged approach:

  1. Network
  2. Content
  3. Context

 

1. Network
Via the generosity of Martin Hawksey I’ve had a look at some of the conversations which went on in order to make sense of them:

Visualizing the #sgmdub network

Visualizing the #sgmdub network

(live view)

This provides the network view of online activity – the size of the names and the arrows indicate conversations. Click on the nodes (circles) in the live view for more information. This analysis also give a list of the Top Tweeters and Top Conversationalists using the hashtag. Finally, for the brave, here is a list everyone who used the hashtag (one spammer removed). What use is this? Use this information to find and follow microbiologists who use Twitter – the people you need in your Twitter network to provide and filter relevant information for your interests.

 

2. Content
For a summary of the online content the best overview tool is Wordle.net:

Visualizing the content of the #sgmdub hashtag

Visualizing the content of the #sgmdub hashtag

Of course delegates also talked about the weather, and I was pleased to get a personal mention. An edited view is provided by this Storify version by _zoonotica_. For the very brave, here’s the complete #SGMDub hashtag archive.

 

3. Context
Analyzing context is the hardest part. This cannot adequately be achieved from the network/content as it requires additional metadata, e.g. feedback forms – why did delegates say what they did?

 

Where do we go with this information? How do we continue the conversation now that the merrymaking in Dublin is over? I’ve already used this information to start talking to more UK microbiologists on Twitter than I was before, and I suggest you might like to do the same.

Please feel free to contact me if you want to discuss any aspect of this post further. And thanks for all those who contributed to a great conference :-)

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3 Responses to #SGMDub Under The Microscope

  1. Great analysis – was a nice experiment in using this technology at a conference. Can we conclude anything about using twitter at conferences? One thing is that why was the amount of people tweeting and conversing so low when compared to the number attending? How can we use this info to encourage and make the whole process better? Also what about facebook and g+? …I think you could write a paper on this :-)

    • AJ Cann says:

      There’s quite a big literature on this sort of analysis, but it’s novel for SGM :-)
      Good to see it catching on finally. I’m going down to talk to SfAM next month about this sort of thing ;-)

  2. Paul Duprex (@10queues) says:

    Totally novel for the SGM and me! These are data which I will use when the Virus Division reviews the meeting and I reckon they are also worth sharing with the Scientific Meetings Committee. I tried it as an experiment to see how many people would use Twitter to communicate directly with one the organizers of the virology side of the SGM Spring Meeting. I see it as a great way to get a feel for what people want to hear and let it impact the planning. The 10 questions idea seems to have worked pretty well and I have had some good 1:1 and online suggestions/

    I found it very interesting that there was much more discussion/tweeting in the symposia than in the workshops. This makes sense to me given the different content being presented. Do you think it’s less necessary to comment as the level of specialization and detail increases?

    I have the feeling it’s just a start. By the way that’s a good link you provided, the guide is well worth a read.

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