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Social networking in scientific conferences – Twitter as tool for strengthen a scientific community

Social networking in scientific conferences – Twitter as tool for strengthen a scientific community

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Published by Martin
Publication for Science 2.0 Workshop / ECTEL / Nizza
Publication for Science 2.0 Workshop / ECTEL / Nizza

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Published by: Martin on Sep 29, 2009
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Social networking in scientific conferences –Twitter as tool for strengthen a scientificcommunity
Martin Ebner
and Wolfgang Reinhardt
Graz University of Technology, Faculty of Computer Science, In
eldgasse 16b,8010 Graz, Austria
University of Paderborn, Institute of Computer Science, Fuerstenallee 11,33102 Paderborn Germany
Twitter is the fastest growing member community of thelast year. With a rate of 1382% it grows 6 times faster than for examplethe world biggest social networking application Facebook. In this paperwe ask how Twitter can serve as resource at scientific conferences andsupport the scientific community. Furthermore we ask if Twitter ads anyscientific value to conferences. We chose this year ED-MEDIA conferenceas example for the use of Twitter at a scientific conference and showhow the micro-blogging tool got seamlessly integrated in the well-knowncommunication infrastructure of conferences.
Key words:
scientific communities, twitter, dynamics of communities,visualization, science 2.0
1 Introduction
Since Tim O’Reilly [14] announced for the very first time the term Web 2.0 anddescribed a new way to dealing with the WorldWideWeb, a dramatically changehappened. Users working nowadays completely di
erent, instead of mainly con-suming information from static webpages, they play an active role, they con-tribute, discuss and share information around the globe. Since then Social Net-works and Social Communities are growing rapidly and aim to connect peoplewith same interests to enhance their daily life as well as working processes.Stephen Downes [5] also mentioned that “
Web 2.0 is an attitude not a technol-ogy - This means there is no technological revolution, it is a social revolution 
and pointed out the importance for learning and teaching, named e-Learning 2.0.Especially in Technology Enhanced Learning lot of research has been carried outto foster the use of Weblogs, Wikis, Podcasts and further popular applications [4,3,20,7] and to improve students’ learning behaviors. However, if we take a lookto all this great research results it can be stated that there is a great potentialby introducing Web 2.0 applications to the classroom. Furthermore emerging re-search on the use of Mash-Ups [12], Personal Learning Environments [18], OpenEducational Resources and the use of mobile technologies for learning purposes
Originally published at Science 2.0 for TEL workshop, ECTEL2009 Conference, Nizza
2 Martin Ebner and Wolfgang Reinhardt
give a promising future forecast. Without any doubt it does not matter if itis called e-learning, m-Learning or even u-Learning (ubiquitous learning) [22]the influence of technology will increase. On the one hand it can be concludedthat researchers did a lot of work to improve the daily education, but on theother hand there are nearly no work about how such technologies can help theresearchers themselves. As Erik Duval announced on the workshop homepagethe main question we have to deal with “
How could we make use of science2.0 opportunities for Technology Enhanced Learning researchers? 
” [6]. In this pub-lication the authors will concentrate about how the micro-blogging tool Twittercan be used on scientific conferences for e-Learning scientists by presenting apractical example. After a short introduction, the real life setting is explainedand statistical data presented.
2 Microblogging, scientific communities, and Science 2.0
Twitter is the most famous, best known and also the very first micro-bloggingplatform. Micro-blogging can be seen as a new form of blogging activity and isdescribed by Templeton [19] as
a small-scale form of blogging, generally madeup of short, succinct messages, used by both consumers and businesses to sharenews, post status updates and carry on conversations
. Owyang [15] describes thedi
erence between blogs and micro-blogs as follows:
[...] long form blog postslike this seem so much slower and plodding compared to how quickly information can come and go in Twitter. [...] Information within Microblogging communities[...] encourage rapid word of mouth – of both positive and negative content.
In anutshell, micro-blogging o
ers a platform for the fast exchange of thoughts, ideasand artefacts. It must be pointed out that each message cannot be longer thana maximum of 140 characters and can put on the web easily. These messages,so-called tweets, can be public or private, can be directed to one or more Twitterusers (identified by the @ sign) and can deal with certain topics (identified bythe # sign). By using a hashtag in tweets it is easy to aggregate all tweetsdealing with the same topic. People who are following anyone are able to readthese tweets, are able to reply or to contact the author directly. However, thestrength of this new communication and collaboration platform is that sendingand reading messages is not restricted to a web interface, it can be done alsoby numerous desktop applications as well as by mobile phones. Latest statisticaldata pointed out that only “
only 20% of its tra 
c comes through the Twitter website; the other 80% (logically) comes from third-party programs on smart phones or computers
” [2].Communities in Twitter are forming through the usage of a common tag thatis part of the message. The CoPs on Twitter deal with brands (e.g. #apple), ed-ucational courses (e.g. #wekm09), conferences (e.g. #edmedia) or world-shakingevents like mass riots (e.g. #iranelection). By taking a closer look to Twitter itbecomes quite useful for the fast information exchange among a community of practice. Dealing with these ideas, that micro-blogging allows us to share, dis-cuss and collaborate online, Twitter was introduced to di
erent scientific confer-
Twitter as tool for strengthen a scientific community 3
ences. A very first experiment at ED-MEDIA Conference 2008 pointed out thatthe Twitter stream can be used to display posts during the keynote speech [8] just in time. Further research also shows how people are using Twitter duringconferences by carrying out short surveys [17]. In this publication we like toconcentrate on practical experiences and point out how Twitter performs duringa live event.
3 Twitter at the ED-MEDIA 2009 conference
ED-MEDIA is an international conference on “Educational Multimedia, Hyper-media & Telecommunication”
and started in 1993 as follow-up after 6 yearsof International Conferences on Computers and Learning (ICCAL). The mainpurpose as stated on the Webpage is to serve as a multi-disciplinary forum forthe discussion and exchange of information on the research, development, andapplications on all topics related to multimedia, hypermedia and telecommunica-tion/distance education. Nowadays it is certainly one of the largest internationalconferences on these topics. About 1000 participants every year attend numeroussessions and workshops for 5 days. Two very recent publications [11,13] pointedout the huge amount of contributions, the relationship of authors, the key play-ers and lots of more trends. In 2008 for the very first time Twitter was used tosupport the conference by announcements and a live stream beside each keynotetalk [10]. This year, the micro-blogging channel should be much more opener byencouraging attendees to participate. Several hints to the Twitter stream weregiven beforehand the beginning of the conference as well as at the conference.
3.1 Analysis of the ED-MEDIA Twitter community
For analyzing the dynamics of the ED-MEDIA 2009 conference, we used ourtool twitterVisBT (see [16] for detailed information on the tool). The tool allowsmaking snapshots of the development of a community on Twitter on a regularbasis and analyzing the contents of the respective communication of the commu-nity. We started the monitoring of the hashtag #edmedia on 2009-06-18. Fromthat day on, we requested Twitter every hour for the latest tweets containing thishashtag and stored them in a local database. Figure 1 shows the developmentof the number of tweets that the Twitter community sent, using the hashtag#edmedia. Until 2009-06-30 1595 tweets containing the hashtag #edmedia weresent to Twitter and analyzed by our application. It is clearly visible that thereis a sharp rise in the number of tweets with the beginning of the conferenceworkshops and the actual conference
. The size of the ED-MEDIA Twitter com-munity grew from 10 users on 2009-06-10 to 177 on 2009-06-30, whereas theaverage daily increase of the network was 29.6% and the highest increase in thecommunity size was on 2009-06-24 with 87.8% growth.
, last visited August 2009
There are some interferences between the analysis date and the actual date a tweetwas sent due to the time di
erence of -12 hours between Hawaii and Germany.

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