SOLO11: the Science Online London Conference
On Friday and Saturday, 2-3 September 2011 I attended the Science Online London 2011 event, SOLO11. This event was launched in 2008 with a focus on science blogging. I attended the second in the series (and published a post entitled The Back Channels for the Science Online 2009 Conference) by which time the event had broadened in scope to address a wider range of issues of interest to scientists and researchers, those involved in journal publishing and those involved in science communication. In light of the popularity of the event last year the event moved from the Royal Institution to the British Library which enabled up to 250 people to attend, double the previous capacity. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend last year’s event but I was pleased that I was able to get to the event this year.
Use of Twitter at SOLO11
I’ll not comment on the talks and sessions at the SOLO 2011 conference – I suspect we will see a lot of detailed posts about the event over the next few days, particularly since the event will have attracted those who are pro-active in making use of blogs, Twitter, etc. Rather I’ll provide some comments on metrics of the event’s use of the #solo11 Twitter event hashtag.
Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) has already provided a visualisation of the #solo11 Twitter community and this image is embedded in this post.
In addition to the various tools Tony uses to produced such visualisations the TwapperKeeper service is increasing being used to keep archives on event tweets with the Summarizr service providing a statistical summaries of usage.
We can view the Summarizr statistics for the #solo11 tag. But how might we go about making comparisons of Twitter usage with previous SOLO events?
Although not very well documented it is possible to restrict a Summarizr analysis to a particular date range. In a blog post on Conventions For Metrics For Event-Related Tweets I pointed out that in order to make valid comparisons between the use of Twitter at events there will be a need to use comparable date ranges. The Summarizr tool can therefore provide comparable statistics for the SOLO10 and SOLO11 events (note that the SOLO09 event only lasted for one day, with an evening event the day before):
- SOLO11 (2-3 Sept 2011)
- Summarizr stats for 2 days for 2 full day event: There were 2,132 tweets from 413 users. There were a total of 114 hashtags and 120 URLs tweeted. There were 41 geo-located tweets (1% of the total).
- SOLO10 (3-4 Sept 2010)
- Summarizr stats for 2 days for 2 full day event: There were 2,148 tweets from 410 users. There were a total of 96 hashtags and 140 URLs tweeted. There were 28 geo-located tweets (1% of the total).
- SOLO09 (22 August + evening event on 21 August 2009)
- Summarizr stats for 2 days for 1 full day and 1 evening event: There were 72 tweets from 46 users. There were a total of 5 hashtags and 20 URLs tweeted. There were 0 geo-located tweets (0% of the total).
- Science Blogging 08 (1 July 2008)
- No TwapperKeeper archive of tweets available.
We can therefore see that Twitter usage for SOLO10 and SOLO11 seems to be at fully similar levels.
What Else Do We Need?
At events such as SOLO we can expect to see intensive use of Twitter. The participants and organisers are also likely to have an interest in how Twitter was being usage and the impact which its use may have had. In order to carry out subsequent analyses there will be a need to have an archive of tweets. There will also, as the scientists who attend the event will be aware of, be a need to ensure that analyses are carried out in a reproducible and consistent fashion. In addition there will be a need for various analysis and visualisation tools.
Are we in a position in which the data capture processes, tools and methodologies for analysis and interpretation are available in a systematic way? I’d welcome feedback from those who attended SOLO11 and the wider community. For me there seems to be a failure in the lack of a consistent URI to refer to SOLO conferences – how do I cite the SOLO10 event, for example?
After publishing this post it occurred to me that there may be both individual and organisational benefits for being able to analyse SOLO event tweets. During the event I spoke to Martin Fenner and Lou Woodley and, after realising that we had shared interests, started to follow them on Twitter. There were other people I followed during the event, but I can’t remember who they were. It occurs to me that it would be interesting to be able to record details of people one starts to folow at events, especially if this leads to subsequent significant joint work (as I described in a post on 5,000 Tweets On Twitter has led to contributions to a joint paper including one which won an award for the Best Communication Paper at W4A 2010).
From an event organiser’s perspective it would be interesting to gather evidence of growth of networks from a broader perspective. Would it be possible, I wonder, to see how the Twitter networks for participants at an event develop over the duration of an event and might it be possible to relate this to more tangible evidence of impacts or other benefits?