For those of you who don't know, I heart Twitter. And I double heart live-tweeting conferences. I've got pretty good at it (or so I've been told), from practising at a number of conferences and meetups over the last year or so, and thought I'd share my tricks.
Hardware – Macbook (with iPod Touch as backup)
My trusty Black Macbook is small enough to use on my knees in a theatre seat. If my battery runs out (I'm thinking about buying a second battery, but now in conferences usually scope out the power points), I can do OK on my iPod Touch, but I need the combination of fast keyboard touch typing and being able to multitask (sorry iPad) to work the way I do.
Apps – Tweetie, Firefox (Pages if I'm really keen)
Most people at conferences seem to use Tweetdeck, but I prefer Tweetie. I find it works for me because it has a small screen footprint (I don't need columns in these situations), easily uploads images and has a keyboard shortcut for shortening URLs (a must have). It doesn't hurt that you can have several new tweets floating on screen and get them set up to send.
Firefox and Pages are both out of habit more than anything.
Syntax - #hastag @name, copy and paste (even RT myself to start)
My biggest trick is to have a system that I can easily copy. I put the hashtag at front to get around the whole “can't see that because I'm not following them” twitter thing, (though I may annoy non-conf people because of it). This way also makes it easier to see when you're running out of characters.
I just copy and paste these for an entire session (even RT the message in Tweetie and clean up).
Methods – Google and eagle eyes are my friends
I'll Google a lot of things as speakers are talking to bring up the reference, or type up any links they have on their presentations. If you're feeling sneaky, you can always grab the URLs of any pages that the speakers load up when they're setting up their talk (I often explictly say that these pages are up on screen).
Other tips for live-tweeting
If possible, prepare
I always mean to look up the speaker's twitter names and set up a document for myself at the start of the conference, but never do and sometimes end up with the wrong details until someone corrects me! If your conference gives you all the twitter names, great, otherwise just make sure you check.
Beg, borrow, or buy your own wi-fi/3G connection if you can
This is another of those “wish I did” things – while most conferences offer free event wi-fi, it's also a given that it will probably go down a few times or will be patchy/non-existent in some of the breakout rooms. If you have your own 3G connection you can get around it, or if you're lucky you may be able to buy 24 hour access to a paid network (I know a few people did this at Webstock and were glad they did).
Domain knowledge helps.
As I've got more involved in IxD and the twitter world, it helps as I don't have to look up @jjg's twitter handle when I see a speaker put up what I know is the Elements of User Experience.
Trim and …
I've become pretty good at trimming any fat from points to fit them into the 140 character (less with all the hashtag and name stuff) limit. That said, if it gets too long (like a list) just cross it over.
If you can contribute relevant information, even better
It's easy with this stuff to end up being a parrot, but it's useful to the entire community if you can put out other relevant information at the same time (most speakers these days check the twitterstream after they come off, and some even have it coming up as alerts on their screens!). Add names, links, books, whatever.
So, either that may help those who like to contribute to online notetaking … or have frightened you! Anyhow, works for me, would be interested to hear others' methods.
Top image CC by Jeremy Yuille (overlobe)