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:
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:
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
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.
For a summary of the online content the best overview tool is Wordle.net:
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.
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 :-)