Writing a good dent (or tweet) while at a conference

The next Ubuntu Developer Summit will be starting up tomorrow, and although not everyone can attend the event, there are a number of ways to participate remotely.

Among other things, I like to follow the ‘dents (from Identi.ca) and tweets (from Twitter) from the event. Typically, people will use Identi.ca and Twitter to share snippets about some particular topic that has come up during the conference, but I’ve found that some notices can be more helpful than others.

For example, here’s a fictitious example of what I think is an unhelpful dent/tweet: "I’m going to attend the virtualization session! #UDS"

I saw a lot notices like this posted during the last developer summit. Notices like these show that you’re excited (cool), and they can also help other attendees to know your location at the conference (pretty cool), but they don’t actually tell us much of anything (not very cool). I know that sometimes you just can’t help it … you’re at this great event, and just want to share a bit of what is going on with the outside world. I’m sure that this is not a big deal in the grandiose scheme of things.

With that, though, let’s take a look at some more interesting ways to make use of these social networking tools.

  • Seek feedback from conference participants: "Experimenting with blip.tv for UDS videos: http://is.gd/1Fv5g what do you guys think?" Notices like these can be used both during and after an event.
  • Shareinformation about a social event that will be going on after conference hours: "I’ve created a sign up page for Monday night @ the firing range. Everyone welcome
  • Let others know about room or schedule changes: "Due to overflow crowds, remaining Xubuntu sessions have been moved to Big Texas Conference Hall B. #UDS" (Ok, I made up that dent. I can dream, though, can’t I?)
  • Inform others (okay … complain) about conditions at the conference: "Hmmm, my laptop kept me nice and warm during the pleniary sessions, but it’s still cold in the rooms. Anyone want to max my CPU? !**uds**" After all, the conference organizers pay good money to an event site to host their event there, so rooms should be comfortable for attendees.
  • Share technical information from a session (aka "live-tweeting" a session): "#uds package-branches is the tag used for bugs (in #launchpad) related to source package branches." Notices like these may not make sense to everyone, but they will likely make sense to those interested in the topic.
  • Presenters can use identi.ca or twitter as a presentation tool, too. For example, Tom Johnson recently noted that presenters canpose questions to their audience, and let the audience respond via Twitter. This can provide for real-time feedback to the presenter about a particular topic, and can help to break down some of the barriers between the audience and the presenter.

Of course, I expect that people will use microblogging for fun, too. I wouldn’t want for people to feel uptight about their tweets. I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts for how people can better use microblogging at a conference, thus making things more enjoyable for those in attendance, and for those who are participating remotely. If you have any other suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments.