My Adventures in the Twitter Stream: Remembering a name, monitoring conference sessions, and doing a good deed

Using Twitter to monitor the "back channel" at an industry conference

This week, I had the opportunity to speak at TEC 2010 in Los Angeles.  The SharePoint track included lots of SharePoint technical experts ... and me.  The "cool kids" were all using Twitter and the #TEC2010 hash tag and at the kick off, Joel Oleson encouraged people to tweet their way through. So, in the spirit of being a good sport and wanting to fit in, I fired up TweetDeck to monitor the stream.  Here's what I learned.

1.  You can use Twitter to remember someone's name.

Throughout the first day of the conference, I kept running in to someone I thought I recognized but could not place.  Unfortunately, the name tags were small so they did not stay "face up" so it was really hard to use them to know who you were talking to.  [Note to future conference organizers: name tags on strings should be big enough so that they don't flip over.  Otherwise, they don't help identify people.]  I was wracking my brain trying to figure out her name and why I knew her.  Of course, I could have just gone up to her and asked, but the opportunity didn't arise.  She happened to be sitting a few rows away from me during one of the sessions and as I was monitoring the Twitter stream, I saw that she made a post.  Bingo.  As soon as I saw her Tweet (fortunately, her Twitter ID included her real name), I totally remembered!  No unnecessary embarrassment. After the session, I approached her by name and was able to ask relevant questions (she worked for a former client).  Twitter saves me from the embarrassing and awkward "who are you again?" moment!

2.  Twitter can be like a conference Tivo: go to one session but monitor another.

Though the SharePoint track was pretty small, there were several times where there were two sessions that I wanted to attend at the same time.  Twitter to the rescue.  People were tweeting all the key points from each session so after attending Session A, I could get a pretty instant summary of the highlights of Session B by scanning the tweets of people who were in that other session.

3.  If the presenter doesn't know the answer to a question, someone else will!

This is not so unusual and something that most people tout as a huge advantage to using Twitter at events like TEC 2010.  In one session, the speaker was asked a really good question about SharePoint 2010 social computing features: if you are following the activity feed for a colleague and they post or tag a document to which you do not have access, will you see the activity update in your feed?  In other words, is the activity feed "security trimmed?"  The speaker didn't know so one of the audience members volunteered to tweet the question.  The answer did not come back in real time (which would have been even more cool), but later in the day, the answer was "in the stream." Yes, the activity feed is security trimmed. You will only see updates about content to which you have access. (Update: see Christian Buckley's comment below and blog article.  I think the answer to this question is really - "sort of.")

4. Twitter can help you do a good deed.

In one of the sessions I attended, the speaker had a Zune HD to give away to whomever "asked the best question."  A prize for having a big mouth?  Seriously, that's just too easy.  I won. (Full disclosure: the Zune was from Christian Buckley - see item 3 and comments below.)  My iPod ear buds broke on the flight to L.A. so I was planning to go out and buy a new pair later that day.  I didn't know if I wanted the Zune, but I sure wanted the ear buds that it came with so I was totally excited!  The next day, I noticed a tweet from Rick Taylor that someone had stolen his Zune HD at the event (I think he left it on the podium when he was speaking and when he went back to retrieve it, it was gone).  I didn't know Rick, but I now had a brand new Zune I didn't really need (except for the ear buds). Rick was clearly totally bummed (as described in less than 140 characters) and is clearly as attached to his Zune as I am to my iPod.  It seems clear that I just had to give the Zune to him.  Of course, with my novice Twitter skills, I could not figure out how to send him a direct message (I know now) but I did manage to find his hotmail address so I sent him an e-mail offering him my new Zune - minus the ear buds, of course.  He managed to find me - in the real world, not the Twitter world - so we can make the exchange.  He's very happy (and tweets about it, of course, complete with a picture of him smiling with the Zune).  I'm feeling pretty good because the Zune is going to someone who really needs it.  And, I can credit Twitter for helping me do a good deed.  Moreover, today, Rick posted an FF tweet about me.  Had to Google that one.  Really nice guy.  Guess I'll have to tweet more now!

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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