Common Courtesy and Conferences

Conceited Cutlery
Well, it's all spinning off again in the Blogosphere and this first post since back from holiday was supposed to be all gooey and soft and all about how I really missed y'all while I chilled out and relaxed and also, what I'll be getting up to in the next few months...

But there it is, smack-bang: a lack of basic, common courtesy.

A while back I drafted a post including Lindsay Clandfield's incredibly useful tweeting during a conference he attended in Japan  and then later a cracking summary of Hollett's plenary (which although I had attended in person earlier, found to be a brilliant review in tweets) but in particular, what I really wanted to highlight was the fact that he asked permission before doing so.

Back then, as now, all I really have to say is about this boiling-over situation on Harmer's blog, is that if you implicitly know that a presenter does not want his session tweeted or live-streamed (and in 18months, Scott Thornbury has been very clear on his views) then do not do it.  

To do so anyway, is nothing short of rude.

To have done so accidentally because you did not know his views prior to noticing others doing so and thought you'd join in the fun is understandable, however it still requires an apology and a backing down off the topic.   

Or just because you happen to own a smartphone bang-out-the-window-go-your-manners?

To have done this, despite knowing how he feels about this issue and exactly how clear he has been  regarding the issues involved begs the question why.   Why didn't you just go to a different speech and simply not attended?

To carry on this discussion on Twitter ad nauseum - what will be gained?  By whom?

Does it prove that no matter if a presenter specifically states a preference for limited viewing of that which brings in his bread and butter, we have a right to violate that privacy?  That we, the Twitterati, can force our educating educators into situations where they have zero control over our personal respresentation of their knowledge - are we really that arrogant? 

Has the intrinsic narcissistic nature of Social-Media warped an adherece to social mores?

Don't get me wrong, I have learned a great deal from reading through the tweporting and I even enjoy the challenge of summarizing someone else's text into 140 characters however I wouldn't enjoy this if I knew the presenter felt uncomfortable about it.

The fear of an eventual misrepresentation of educational statements made by our field's leaders, by one of the Twitter  "reporters," is valid and dare I say, inevitable.

Twitter is not Utopia.

People will, as they have always been, whether with ink or with i-pads, will be people.  And people often have their own agendas.  If a misleading statement is twublished by a competitor or adversary (something which may not be clear to the rest of the Twitter stream) then that statement  could potentially  cause long-running professional damage because, even though edu-Twitter is currently a small bubble, it is one that is growing and one that seems to have a far-reaching public impact.   

The decision on whether or not a conference, workshop or plenary can be tweeted  or not must be the presenter's choice: it must be their decision on whether or not to take that risk: not the Twitterazzi's.

Na ja, I'll write my NewYearsRes's tomorrow, especially as one of those is to write less about Social-Media and more about lessons... hmm...

11 Responses to “Common Courtesy and Conferences”

  • Shaun Wilden says:
    January 11, 2011

    Hi Karenne,

    You’re right that it all seems to have blown up again in the blogosphere not that debate is not a healthy thing. However as someone at the conference that sparked the current debate, I feel slightly angered by the tone of your post and the comment ‘a lack of basic, common courtesy’.

    The key, as you say, is knowing if the person wants to be twittered or not, which is exactly why all the plenary speakers were told before the session that tweeting took place – there was after all a huge sign that gave that conference hashtag next to where the plenary talks were happening. In the case of Scott, him and I had a conversation about it a good half an hour before anyone arrived in the room. At this point he made a comment about me going to tweet him and I informed him that me and about 6 others in the room were tweeting. He did not indicate that we should not. The discussion turned to the idea of tweeting and eye contact with the audience. At no point did he make it clear that tweeting shouldn’t happen nor did he indicate this to the wider audience when they arrived. Had he or any of the other speakers made it clear they did not want the audience to tweet, we would have asked them not to do so. The same procedure was followed before all the plenary speakers started and in the case of Lindsay I doubled checked that he was ok since I have seen the post you refer to here. Actually I even checked with Lindsay during the session when he produced a wordle and he actively told me to tweet it.

    While I do agree with the discussion that has started and that speakers have the right to say no, I do feel that it should be made clear to all that at no time did any of our speakers ask not to be tweeted.

    Have a good evening,


    January 11, 2011

    Thanks Shaun,

    And I think your answer shows, in part, the danger of the Twitterverse, it's 140 characters and on twitter-reporting.

    Having come back from holiday my streams seem to be filled with endless chatter about whether or not Thornbury should have his plenary talks tweeted and if its other people's rights to tweet or not and how some people are so glad that their lack of manners are supported by others with a lack of manners...

    Thornbury has been very clear about this issue and it is not about whether or not everyone should have access to what he has to say but about asking for permission to share what he has to say with others rather than simply assuming one can because one has a gadget in one's hands.

    Obviously, what you have written here above, shows another side to the equation and I appreciate you coming here to fill me (us) in - one would not be able to see or learn this background in 140 characters unless one was tied to a chair and reading tweets 24/7/365.

    Also, it also raises the question namely that is having a sign up a violation of privacy by the twiltia

    (Were presenters emailed prior to the event to signal whether or not they agreed to being live-reported or filmed beforehand? I know that BESIG did ask about video the other month.)

    Anyway, I will leave it to Scott on whether or not he wants to comment on whether or not permission was given by him - however in the entire time he has been on Twitter he has been adamantly and consistently against his talks being tweeted, something I think that most of us who follow his tweets all know.

    Anyway, thank you for stopping by - your comments were very informative and show clearly that there never is a black or white on any issue but multiple levels of grey.


    um, I think you may have misread my postings of Lindsay Clandfield's tweets - these were screenshots taken sometime last year Oct/Nov?- I'd asked Lindsay if I could do a post about his tweporting skills...

  • Shaun Wilden says:
    January 11, 2011

    Thanks for the swift response and sorry for the misreading, blame the red mist :-)

    To be honest I am not sure what the procedure is with filming as I don't make the final arrangements with the speakers, am more the person who invites. However I will be sure to look at what we do and how to make the procedure clear for speakers and filming next year.

    As for 'a sign up a violation of privacy by the twiltia', am not sure it is but then again I guess tweeting is part of the culture of the conference now (and many others as well). I find the idea of having a sign up being seen as as violation of privacy as an odd concept but one that makes a good debate....

    January 12, 2011

    Thanks again, Shaun, overnight I thought about the reason I used such a strong phrase "the twitter militia" or the "twilitia" and thought about the fact that putting our educating educators on the spot, just before they present (when they are running through their notes - the order in which they will say whatever they need to - worrying about whether or not the tech will work or not) to have to be assertive regarding what others think of as good fun and good practice is highly unfair and undemocratic!

    If Thornbury had said to you and whoever else (I'm afraid I don't know the full story) not to tweet he would have looked churlish to the rest of the audience especially as, at that point, how could he know how one of you would have retorted? I think it must have been (and this is only an assumption) quite a difficult position to have been placed in - and for the rest of the global presenters one that needs thinking through as most people, who do not want to be tweeted will not want to treat their audience like naughtly children - which they indeed are if they insist on not asking (rather than telling)...

    Anyway, I hope the red mist has cleared, sorry about that - this is actually a lesson which all of us educators can learn from and teach to our students!



  • Adam says:
    January 12, 2011

    To be honest, I think Twitter has exploded so quickly that it's caught a lot of people by surprise. If someone who hadn't made a presentation for a couple of years were to get back into the action now, they'd probably be in for a bit of a surprise if they aren't aware of how the live 'sharing' phenomenon has exploded into life.

    Let's put this into a context that we could all be horrified by...

    If someone invented a 'super participation' drug that made us a great audience member but could only be taken via an injection directly into the eyeball, we'd probably think we were doing a great service to presenter by shooting up at the start of the session. Nevertheless, such action would be quite disturbing to a) the uninitiated, and/or b) those who'd find the practice distasteful. Illicit tweeting is very much the same, without the needle in the eyeball, admittedly.

    So, who's to blame?

    Well, we can't blame or be angry with a presenter who doesn't share our enthusiasm for twitter, so I think the impetus is on us as the audience to ask permission even if it isn't explicitly offered or 'no tweeting' is clearly requested.

    Common courtesy is a wonderful thing.

    January 12, 2011

    Yup! A great visual that and very well said - I'm not sure why permission wasn't saught in this scenario...

    Also tossing around the fact that
    we also have to look at the reasons people decide to tweet throughout someone else's talk, whether with their permission or not.

    **this list is not directly related to the situation which took place and does not refer to Shaun or the other people who also tweeted ST's talk:

    1. There are those for whom communicating via twitter has become a basic need - not unlike the need for oxygen, sleep, food and water. They simply cannot imagine a life where they are unable to communicate their every waking thought and it would be (seems to be to them) a violation of their "human" rights to be told that they cannot! (psycho-physiological)

    2. There are those who tweet throughout someone else's talk only because other people are doing it and therefore it must be the "done" thing of the time. (Safety) (probably the majority)

    3. There are those who tweet in order to be seen as a person attending conferences (Social) - it makes them feel like they belong and are loved. There are those who do it because they are in fact twoved and so, like with their very own families interested in the same things they are interested in, want to share some of the knowledge they are fortunate enough to be receiving.

    4. There are those who tweet in order to be seen as a person rich/cool enough to own the latest smartphone or mobile device (Esteem) - alternatively they may feel that they may be able to earn respect through their ability to report events accurately and will seriously undertake this activity as a mission to spread the presenters' knowledge - taking time to communicate both accurately and succinctly.

    5. They believe that Twitter is a highly developed form of note-taking and do it in order to hone their own skills (Self-actualization) and that of their community's.

    On the otherhand, for some presenters, they may be

    1. worried that if their knowledge is spread willy-nilly they will lose the ability to earn money, eat, drink and live their lives as they have always done. (Physiological)

    2. are unsure of the medium and its impact and feel threatened. In the case of those who do know and understand the nature of 140 characters - have participated in senseless arguments they may feel threatened that there are potentially members of their audience who may wish to negatively influence others due to old and personal grudges and that these persons may actually change the core messages they intend to impart - who may "boo" them publicly without their knowledge while they are on stage. (Safety)

    3. worried that if too many people receive their knowledge eventually people will get sick of them and move on to other presenters. (Love)

    Alternatively, there are those who perceive the attention they're getting va Twitter as love and may feel a greater sense of belonging by being important enough to be tweeted...

    4. worried that they may lose respect - that they may be challenged for things which have been tweeted by other persons and they will not have the right of reply / alternatively, they feel proud that their knowledge is being shared with a global audience (Esteem)

    5. Feel and welcome the challenge and opportunity of ever-having to hone their craft (Self-actualization).


  • Scott Thornbury says:
    January 12, 2011

    Just to clarify the facts surrounding the actual incident that triggered all this twitterology:

    1. At the IH World Organisation conference last week, as I was setting up for my presentation, Shaun did ask me if it would be all right to tweet, and I said, of course, and that was it - I wasn't aware he was tweeting during the presentation (and he was sitting in the front row). So, absolutely no problem there.

    2. Regarding the filming, I was emailed a request to be filmed long in advance of the conference, and I gave my consent. Post-conference, I was asked if I'd prefer the film to be 'restricted' (i.e. to IH World subscribers) or available to the general public, and because I'm giving the same talk on two different plenary occasions in the next three or four months,I opted for 'restricted' - at least for the time being.

    So, all in all, this was a textbook example of how presenters SHOULD be treated.

    So, my problem - as expressed to Jeremy Harmer - is not that the protocol was ignored, but that the implications of having your talk simultaneously broadcast (in 140-character format) and available as a film afterwards are ones that we haven't really engaged with as a profession. I suggested to Jeremy that he blog about it - and the amount of traffic that the blog has generated is testimony to the fact (I think) that there are important issues here that really do need to be addressed. Important in the sense that they impact on the quality of conference events, not important in the sense that they will solve third world debt or arrest climate change. ;-)

    January 12, 2011

    Thanks for popping by Scott, and for clarifying the situation - it's good to know that no protocol was breached and that you were in fact asked.

    As I mentioned to Shaun, therein lies the problem of Twitter - we aren't all online 24/7/365 and it is incredibly easy to get the wrong end of the stick while reading through numerous surface-level-tweets.

    And yes, it is indeed an interesting situation - the nature of the twitterverse (as opposed to world hunger) that will develop over time.

    I recently saw tweets by a presenter in U.s. who while being in the room found carbon copy slides of his own prior work being used by another presenter (in the U.S) without permission or any form of attribution. Another presenter had parts of a GoogleDoc taken by a company in Australia who then stuck their own logo on to the document.

    Brave New World and all that...

    January 12, 2011

    clicked publish too fast.. the point of those two articles is that they both dealt with the issues via twitter.

    One could argue - good job... but another good argue, perhaps these issues could have been dealt with face2face? Dunno, in the case of the GoogleDoc vs the AustralianCo I was an active participant in putting pressure on them and was glad to have been helpful... in the case of the copycat slides I must say I wondered it wouldn't have better not to have taken it to the 'verse...

    I'm waffling on a bit but I think my point is that respect is a key issue to be included (as was in your case) in the sharing of information.

  • Tobius says:
    January 12, 2011

    I say 'bah' to the whole thing. I admit to only skimming the comments at the end because, hey, I'm not a Tweeter. . . but, come on!

    If people were sitting there with notepads and pens (which I would have been), who would have thrown a fit? Nobody. And if I walked out of the conference and posted 'this really cool thing I just learned' to my blog, who would care? Nobody.

    So, it's being done live? How is this different? If the presenters are worried that this will devalue the market price of their knowledge, they should raise their speaking price to compensate. After all, this isn't the formula for Coca-Cola here, they came to the conference to share.

    And, lastly, Karenne, on your assertion that it's 'undemocratic' to expect speakers to articulate their wishes at the beginning of a presentation. . . you are aware that we aren't talking about a mandatory public-speaking class full of first-time speakers, but instead we're talking about professionals getting paid more for a day of presenting than most teachers get for a month of teaching (disclaimer: I have no idea if that's true, but I can't imagine anybody showing up to present for what I make a month). To expect them to master the stresses and challenges of their job while being articulate isn't undemocratic, it's getting your money's worth.

    Like I said already--and you know anyway--I'm not on Twitter, so I'm not qualified to speak in that sense. But I'm a human and alive and I know that you can't re-define 'basic, common courtesy' as 'never doing things that annoy me.' If I could, then 'good people' would never take a phone call on their cell phone in public, drive aggressively, or start a discussion with the cashier about anything but a life-threatening situation when I'm standing behind them in line.

    I'll stop ranting now.

    January 12, 2011

    Happy New Year, Tobias - and you are always welcome to rant on my blog and is your new one live yet so I can come over and rant on yours?


    In actual fact, in the twisted world of ELT most presenters don't actually get paid to present - some do and I'm sure that ST does but like dunno for sure, I'll bet some of his presentations like the rest of us schmucks aren't.

    And um, the list you gave, all fall under my definition of common courtesy and manners... but ya know, I'll tell ya one thing about Twitter for sure, tweepl are really exactly like people... naja, as ST came over to clarify he had been asked, I'll leave it at that.

    Anyway, good as always to hear your thoughts!



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