The Twitter Backchannel at #PODHBCU

The POD Network / HBCU Faculty Development joint conference had a robust backchannel on Twitter last week, which made me happy since I headed up the “Twitter team” this year. This meant doing a few things:

  • Making sure we had a good hashtag for the conference. After some discussion with the conference team, we settled on #podhbcu.
  • Creating a short introduction to Twitter and sharing it with the POD Network listserv. You can see my creation, “Twitter 101 for Conference Backchannels” below.

  • Recruiting a few people for the Twitter team who promised to tweet throughout the conference, thus seeding the backchannel with good conversation.
  • Lugging a spare laptop and external monitor along with me to the conference so we could display the Twitter stream next to the registration area. We used Visible Tweets for this display.
  • Tweeting frequently at the conference, of course.
  • And, finally, writing the summary of the Twitter backchannel that you’re reading right now!

I used a program called the Archivist to save all the conference tweets to my laptop. The Archivist lets one export saved tweets to Excel, which allowed me to do some basic analysis on the tweets. As of the evening of October 29th (the final day of the conference), there were 1,321 tweets with the #podhbcu hashtag from 106 unique Twitter accounts. That’s an increase of 24% in the number of tweets over last year’s conference (where we had 1,067 tweets), but a slight dip in the number of tweeters (from 115 last year).

You can read all 1,321 conference tweets here in this Google Docs spreadsheet. I’ve shared this spreadsheet publicly with the web, although only I can edit it. If you hit Control-F while viewing (or whatever the analog is on a Mac), you should be able to search the spreadsheet. I’ve not shared conference tweets this way before, so if you have suggestions for making this archive more user-friendly, please let me know.

Here’s a word cloud of those 1,321 tweets, minus the hashtag:

(A word cloud is a very simple text visualization tool. Words that appear more frequently in the text appear in larger fonts in the word cloud. Click on any of the word clouds seen here for a larger view.)

You can see a number of Twitter handles in the word cloud, indicating that the backchannel included a lot of retweeting and conversation. Here’s a word cloud of the tweets with those user names removed to give a slightly better sense of the content of those tweets:

What did we talk about on Twitter during the conference this year? Faculty, teaching, learning, students, sessions, and “great” stuff. That’s not too much different from the hot topics in 2010…

and in 2009…

What do you notice in this year’s word cloud?

I spot a few more focused hashtags used during the conference: #networkedfd for the pre-conference workshop on social networking for faculty developers led by Amy Collier and Jim Julius, #vizthink for my session with Jose Vazquez on visual thinking (also used after the session to denote tweets about visual thinking), #createatpod for the Create@POD special event Thursday night at the conference, and #scpod for POD’s Small Colleges Committee. We didn’t go as far as EDUCAUSE, which identified individual hashtags for every single session at their conference, but we did see some sub-communities form on Twitter thanks to these more focus hashtags.

Among the 1,321 tweets this year, over 160 links were shared. Here’s a list of the most frequently shared links:

Who were the top tweeters this year? Here’s the top ten:

  1. derekbruff – Derek Bruff, Vanderbilt U.
  2. rkniemer – Rachel Niemer, U. Michigan
  3. jjulius – Jim Julius, MiraCosta College
  4. cvhorii – Cassandra Horii, Curry College
  5. MichelleRodems – Michelle Rodems, U. Louisville
  6. scastriotta – Sue Castriotta, Keene State College
  7. amcollier – Amy Collier, Texas Wesleyan U.
  8. aishaivette – Aisha Ivette Jackson, U. Colorado-Boulder
  9. NYITctl – Francine Glazer & Olena Zhadko, New York Institute of Technology
  10. jiglover – Jake Glover, Fort Hays State U.

Thanks to everyone who participated in the Twitter backchannel, even if all you did was lurk!

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