Face It: Twitter Can Often be a Crappy Distraction

By Deane Barker on November 25, 2009

spectacle at Web2.0 Expo… from my perspective : Here’s a somewhat heartbreaking story that gets a little hard to read in places.

Danah Boyd gave a talk at Web 2.0, and the Twitter stream was brutal for reasons that didn’t have much to do with the content of her talk.  The audience became pre-occupied with the Twitter stream, rather than the talk itself, and it went downhill from there.

I walked off stage and immediately went to Brady and asked what on earth was happening. And he gave me a brief rundown. The Twitter stream was initially upset that I was talking too fast. My first response to this was: OMG, seriously? That was it? Cuz that’s not how I read the situation on stage. So rather than getting through to me that I should slow down, I was hearing the audience as saying that I sucked. And responding the exact opposite way the audience wanted me to. This pushed the audience to actually start critiquing me in the way that I was imagining it was. And as Brady went on, he said that it started to get really rude so they pulled it to figure out what to do. But this distracted the audience and explains one set of outbursts that I didn’t understand from the stage. And then they put it back up and people immediately started swearing. More outbursts and laughter. The Twitter stream had become the center of attention, not the speaker. Not me.



  1. I was there. It was I believe a defining moment for Twitter, and social media generally: social media doesn’t belong everywhere. The irony was hanging so thick in the room you could cut it with a knife. Danah was delivering a great talk on information flow and specifically, using the analogy of an information stream. She stated that we all stand in the middle of our own streams and we can choose to consume parts of the stream, divert the stream or let it pass by …. but in this case she was caught up in a tsunami. The conference organizers did apologize the next day and stated that this was an experiment. Fail. Danah gave a great talk and the twitterers were distracting, but didn’t negate the importance of her talk.

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