Pre-conferenceThe first communication I received regarding the conference was an email to all previous attendees announcing the dates and calling for papers. This information was also tweeted; the same hashtag is used from year to year, so former attendees (or other conference followers) will know where to look.
I had attended the conference in 2012, and so had a sense of what the talks were usually like, the different backgrounds of the people who attended and the general 'feel' of the thing. As we had just been working on a new project integrate collaborative activities into our Blackboard interface, my line manager and I decided to submit a paper. This led us to the submission page of the conference website:
It was interesting that twitter wasn't listed as one of the 'how did you hear about the conference?' options. Also of note was that the link took you directly to the submission site, rather than (as in the registration link below) to the main conference site:
This site also had a live feed embedded, which for me (who hadn't engaged with twitter backchannel at all in 2012) was helpful in both demonstrating the kinds of tweets that were appearing on this # and in giving the sense of a dynamic community before the event began.
The organisers seemed to be conscious of their tone, usually staying in the 'formal-but-friendly' region. It was evident, as in the tweet below, for example, that they were emphasising the social aspects of the conference as well as the academic:
There was also a bit of gentle persuasion going on...
Most of the attendee tweets at this point were RTs. I was still checking the # regularly, though, as it was updated consistently by the organisers with information about keynote speakers, sponsors, etc. When the draft programme came out, we were a bit disappointed that we weren't included...
...but this had just been an oversight.
Once the programme was out, conference-goers (or going-to-goers) started commenting on how it looked generally, their presentations in particular, and linking their past experiences of the conference to the upcoming event, e.g.:
The first mention of 'community' was in regards to the Blackboard Mobile User Group, which met before the conference began:
As the conference drew near, the tweets increased. My perception of the community was in a state of flux at this time: I had been to the conference once before, but not to other conferences that many of the other participants would also attend; on the other hand, I had probably been 'with' a fair number of these people in a virtual environment in the past couple years. I was presenting at the conference, but wasn't sure what our audience would make of the presentation. Several of the conference-goers were already known to me, but in a diversity of ways: my husband; his colleagues; my line manager; the Durham learning tech team; a tutor from IDEL; another student about to start the MSc; future MOOC participants...
And the tweets, while all positive, were sometimes ambiguous in their audience: