Posted by: Jeremy Fox | July 26, 2011

Should I blog (or tweet?!) about the ESA Annual Meeting?

My blog posts for Oikos are an attempt to do interesting “armchair ecology”, a form which Oikos has a long and honorable history of supporting. Basically, any ideas I have that I think are worth sharing, but that, for whatever reason, aren’t really suited for conventional papers, go onto the blog.

With that in mind, I have a question: should I blog about the upcoming Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting? Should I even take the next step into the modern intertubes and tweet about it? I ask because, on the one hand, I’m not sure that there’d be any point to such posts or tweets. I mean, if I post or tweet that Jane Doe gave (or is currently giving!) a great talk on the population ecology of unicorns, why would anyone care? On the other hand, I’ve heard that a surprisingly large number of people were tweeting the Evolution 2011 meeting earlier this summer, so clearly some folks see value in it (or they just find it fun?).

So you tell me: is it worth the effort for me to blog or tweet the ESA? If so, what should I be aiming to blog/tweet about?

Note that I’m open to bribes, payable in beer. 😉


  1. I would appreciate a blog (maybe each morning) about which talks you think should be interesting to attend for that day, kind of a heads-up about what to check out. Especially for newcomers who may not know all the big names yet, I can imagine this could be useful.

  2. I participated in the tweetfest during the iEvoBio conference at Evolution in Norman this year. I think the hashtag was #ievobio11. Tweets are a great way to add substance to an ongoing talk by sharing links to what the current speaker is talking about, or even (should I admit this?) having a side conversation about a related topic during a talk.

    I could imagine doing a blog post at the end of the day to sum up some cool talks or sessions, but not as the during the talks.

  3. You should tweet during the talks. I was tweeting at ESA in 2007, and it was kind of pointless. I was hoping for a great flurry of action with talk recommendations and bars I should check out. Instead it was more like: “Hello?” But hopefully these days twitter is way more ubiquitous. I could imagine checking the #ESA2011 right before a talk time and seeing that people are posting that so and so is giving a talk. Or that there’s some great music at such and such bar. Or hey Jeremy Fox is drinking here, I’m totally going to go buy that dude a beer because his blog is bad ass. Or “For the love of god people do not wear your name tags while you’re out drinking #nametagsatbarsarelame”

    • Oh, the spontaneity of youth! 😉 I plan which talks I’m going to see before I show up to the meeting.

  4. I’m planning on trying out the Twitter at ESA this year since I got a lot out of the #ievobio11 stream (even though I wasn’t there).

    I also really like the suggestion by Anonymous of posting a short list of recommended talks. I remember when I first started going to ESA that it was really difficult to figure out what to see.

  5. Surely!

  6. What’s the ESA policy on this, Jeremy? I attended the ECEM 2011 meeting earlier this year, and (perhaps surprisingly for a group so heavily involved with computers) there didn’t seem to be any official stance on live blogging/tweeting.

    I posted a couple of very light summary posts on my own blog about the meeting, but I have mixed feelings about online media being used during conferences.

    (1) I’d rather people were concentrating on my presentation that on their keyboards, and I’d rather concentrate on what a presenter is saying than trying to type a summary at the same time. I vaguely recall a study cited during a pedagogy course that students take more info in when writing notes by hand rather than typing them.

    (2) People blogging or tweeting about one’s work is a great way to get exposure, and may make the difference upon publication of getting others to read beyond the title of a paper. “Oh – I remember that guy, they had colourful slides about this”.

    (3) The most interesting conference presentations are often really fresh, hot off the press (i.e. unpublished) kind of things. At ECEM, one of my results slides was so fresh, I later realised it was wrong. Spreading the word beyond the immediate conference crowd has the potential to spread mistakes or misunderstanding faster than a presenter can correct them. This is something that’s been brought up in discussions of science publication and online media before, e.g., the NASA press conference on non-carbon based life forms.

    So, in summary, I don’t know if bleeting or twogging is always a good thing at conferences. But check with the organisers for an official line.

    • Hi Mike,

      Thanks for reminding me to check if ESA has any official policy.

      Re: (1), I certainly don’t plan to post during talks, in part for exactly this reason. Re: (2) good point, I never thought of that. Re: (3), this is a good point, although I don’t know if it’s a huge deal in the context of an ecology conference, where no one’s going to be claiming any major “discoveries” or “breakthroughs” like arsenic-based life, at least not at the sorts of talks I attend (“Breaking news: density-independent dispersal phase locks protist predator-prey cycles!”). I guess all I can do is try to write my summaries in a way that discourages people from making this kind of mistake.

    • A glance at the ESA meeting website reveals no obvious link to a policy on tweeting or blogging.

  7. I actually funded my attendance at ESA this year by promising my readers blog posts about the conference and some interesting tidbits from chats with a few ecologists I can convince to sit down with me for a few minutes. (Any volunteers?) Clearly, if a blog as small as mine can get enough donations to send someone to the conference, ESA is definitely something people are interested in reading about .

    I’ve wanted to tweet past meetings, but the lack of (free) wifi put a damper on that since I don’t have a smartphone. I’ve got my fingers crossed for good wifi at this meeting.

    • Interesting, I wouldn’t have thought of that funding method, or thought it would work. Well done.

      Happy to chat if you want to chat. Because I’m sure your readers are all going “Boy, I sure wish I knew more about what Jeremy Fox thinks about ecology.” 😉

  8. A few of us tweeted at WSN last year, and it was pretty interesting. I found the most useful thing for me was to see when people tweeted really interesting results of some work, but provided who the speaker was. Then I could find them later and ask them about it, or look up their work more generally online if I thought it was sufficiently interesting. As someone not attending the meeting, tweets are not quite as useful, but, blog entry wrap-ups are INCREDIBLY interesting, as it lets me know, from someone’s viewpoint, what was neat, interesting, controversial, etc. It helps folk feel more connected when they can’t make it. Particularly if more than one person is doing it, giving multiple viewpoints and insights into the meeting. Heck, if a number of people converge on one talk or event, it can provide a real map of what were the highlights/lowlights of a meeting.

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