There is a lively discussion going on in the genealogy blogging community concerning Twitter and genealogy conferences. The main issue is this:
Does tweeting the proceedings of a presentation constitute a copyright violation of the presenter's materials or could it be considered permissible by the Fair Use doctrine?
The issue was first brought to my attention by Elizabeth O'Neal of the Little Bytes of Life blog who, like me, had attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree in Burbank this past June where Twitter was used quite a bit during the Blogger Summit as well as other presentations.
Randy Seaver of the Genea-Musings blog and Janet Hovorka of The Chart Chick blog have both weighed in and I imagine that many more genealogy bloggers who attend conferences will also post about this. For that reason, GeneaBloggers has created a blog post summary at its site - this will probably be the hot topic for the week and as Amy Coffin of the We Tree blog stated on Twitter this morning, will place Twitter under the microscope at the upcoming Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Little Rock, Arkansas next month.
For what it matters and being someone who lectures on social media and genealogy, here are my thoughts:
- Personally I don't follow any "play-by-play" tweets on Twitter whether they are about a football game (which I think is silly if I could watch it myself on television) or about a genealogy conference. I find such entries are distracting and tend to litter my Tweetdeck screen.
- True confession: when someone tweets a presention I use TwitterSnooze and force them into a Twitter nap. If I need to, I can use Twitter search to look at the individual tweets later in the day.
- I would much rather see a blog post by the person using Twitter during the presentation. As Janet Hovorka mentioned during one of her recent presentations, the wifi went out and not all the points were covered. AncestryInsider did clarify some points in a summary blog post after the presentation.
- I think there are more pluses than minuses for everyone (the presenter, the genealogical conference, the person using Twitter, and those following the tweets) in using Twitter during presentations. I think that a "best practices" can be developed in terms of such Twitter use which does not stray into the area of being too overly structured or heavy handed. To me, Twitter is all about freedom of speech and I'd hate to see too many "thou shalt nots" bantered about in the genealogy community.
- I use Twitter as marketing tool not only for Destination: Austin Family but for GeneaBloggers as well. If they haven't already hopped on board the Twitter train, presenters should learn how to use Twitter to their advantage to market themselves and their presentations.
- As a presenter I would actually not want to see tweets which were verbatim statements from my handouts. While I know it may fall under the Fair Use doctrine (less than three lines of text), if the presenter requests that presentation materials not be tweeted, that should be respected. I'd rather see a summary tweet or true "reporting" in the form of that person's impressions.
- I predict that when you attend upcoming presentations - be they stand-alone or at genealogical conferences - you will see a statement about tweeting the presentation either made verbally by the presenter or printed in the materials.
- Some presenters will actively encourage the use of Twitter during their presentations as part of marketing themselves, their presentation and their areas of expertise.
- Some presenters will request that those who tweet also follow-up with a "report" on their individual blog in case the landscape that is Twitter does not sufficiently communicate the salient points within a 140 character limit. I think this is only fair and not an unreasonable request.
What I appreciate most about this entire issue is that genealogy bloggers are willing to discuss it (within blog posts and on Twitter) and report about it on their sites. This is the power of our community - we can have an exchange of ideas which will impact the greater genealogy community.
As Amy Coffin so deftly mentioned on Twitter, "I sense fear by those who have opinions on Twitter but don't use it or understand the many ways it can be used." Twitter, like other social media tools such as Facebook, are not going away and while many in the genealogy community may not want to embrace them, they at least need to recognize and acknowledge the impact - positive and negative - that they will have on our community.
I look forward to picking up these same discussions when we all meet in person at the next genealogy conference!
© 2009, copyright Thomas MacEntee