by: Mark Sample
It’s come to be expected at digital humanities-oriented conferences that there will be a vibrant backchannel—commentary, questions, dissent, and amplification, usually taking place in real-time (but not always real-place) on Twitter. Even scholarly conferences that are not strictly digital, such as the Modern Language Association, have begun to have ongoing and serious discussions on the conference backchannel.
Derek Bruff has written extensively on encouraging conference backchannels and dealing with distraction and incivility on backchannels, and I want to take his ideas even further in this session, asking how can we build—literally build from the ground up—a better backchannel?
That’s right, I want to hack the way we yack.
The Better Backchannel might be a software solution built on top of Twitter, but I don’t want to assume that Twitter is the best or even default platform for the Better Backchannel. Perhaps the Better Backchannel is a disparate set of existing tools, assembled in a new way. Or maybe the Better Backchannel is not a tool at all, but a set of practices.
To begin, I see four broad questions to consider (there are more of course, and I hope you add them in the comments below):
- What are the limitations of existing backchannels?
- What do we want the Better Backchannel to do that existing backchannels don’t do or do badly?
- What existing tools support these features, or can be hacked to support these features?
- And how can we put the Better Backchannel into operation?
In the ideal world, we answer these questions in the session and actually build the thing on-the-spot. That’s not going to happen, of course (the building, that is), but we may end up with a blueprint that some sort of future One Week | One Tool team might act on. And in the meantime, we might learn something that will enrich our current use of backchannels.
- Backchannel as a game, not just a platform
- Going beyond the Twapperkeeper
- Pretty limited.
- Can’t really pull it out of the system
- Need a more systematized method for aggregation.
- Improving the at the time stuff and the archive is required.
- What disappears in the archive is the time and location stuff
- How to deal with backchannel fatigue?
- “Oh jeez, we’re Twittering again?”
- Using the backchannel pedagogically
- Engage otherwise distracted students in class
- A problem is how to fit that into normal Twitter behaviour / persona
- Q: What do we do when the class discussion “interrupts” the twitter stream?
- Create an archive of the class
- Archives need to be linked to their original tweets
- TwapperKeeper does include information about the original Tweet’s ID.
- Being able to migrate those links when Twitter switches away from the hashbangs.
- How do we bring in communities without the focus on Twitter?
- We have to engage people where they already live, but still be able to own your data.
- We want access to Twitter outside of Twitter’s centralized server.
- Send Tweets to a Twitter list, or by some other mechanism.
- The problem with archiving and link shortners
- We need something with stability
- Some are not 301 redirects, screws with SEO.
- An institution with a history to build its own link shortening service.
- The archive de-shortens the links (ThinkUp un-shortens the links).
- Is the choice of Link Shortener important.
- Should we hack ThinkUp? (It has a very nice interface.)
- Needs to include hashtags and does not track them yet.
- Tracks you and the people who reply to you.
- Giving students a way to speak up without speaking up.
- Finding a recognized way to define hashtags on the fly.
- Hashtags need metadata.
- We are asking hashtags to do so many jobs
- A registry of hashtags loses the “nice easiness of Twitter”
- A better backchannel platform vs a better practice.
- Thick and Thin tweets - David Silver (http://silverinsf.blogspot.com/2009/02/difference-between-thin-and-thick.html)
- “@dancohen: For the #thatcamp backchannel session, does this hashtag disambiguation service help?http://tagal.us/”
- A problem: You get punished by trending, spammers will hit your tag.
- “How do we motivate the naysayers to adopt at least a partial backchannel strategy?”
- Visualizing the archive is key to getting more users - showing them how much they have done, how much they have interacted.
- An archive doesn’t give you the whole of the experience.
- Twitter gives you a real idea that your smaller conference expands.
- Add something to give you more data, perhaps through a specialized client.
- Add just room names as a hashtag?
- The backchannel can be “this form of legitimate peripheral participation.”
- inclusive and exclusive
- Warming up before the event begins.
Requirements for our tool:
- Filter by conference session
- Define #tags
- Provide metadata
- Mute a hashtag
- Intro - a 60sec youtube video on the Twitter backchannel
- Button to start archiving a hashtag
- With links back to original Tweets
- Exportable to other services
- Find sub hashtags and announce the more specific tags
- All the recent links posted in the hashtag
- Trending topics within a hashtag
- Bring people into in jokes
- WordCloud in #tag
- Un-shortens shortened links.