Play by Play or Color Comments:
The evolution of tweeting from conferences
Christina K. Pikas
The increasing use of Twitter from conferences
gave rise to new roles of tweeters, such as
color commentator and play-by-play
commentator, and to many functions of tweets,
such as persuasion and coordination.
As part of my dissertation work studying
scholarly communication in science, I have been
studying how geoscientists tweet at
conferences. This poster reports some
interesting insights from that work.
Tweets about the American Geophysical Union
meeting were gathered for 2010-2012. I
reviewed weets from 2013 in real time.
“there’s a lot of the equivalent of sitting around the
dorm late at night shooting the breeze”
For 2010 an archive tool, TwapperKeeper, was
used to gather and obtain preliminary statistics
for the tweets with hashtag #agu10.
Titan and Rhea as seen by Cassini and studied by participants
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
In subsequent years Twitter terms of service
caused the closure of such tools so I gathered
the Tweets using the site’s search (for #agu11,
#agu2011, #agu12, #agu2012) and copying to
Excel. I used Open refine to extract the user
participants. I performed social network analysis
to visualize the communication networks
As is apparent from the visualizations, in 2010
many tweets were initially directed at the two
major institutional accounts: @agu and @nasa.
Much of this was about press releases and may
not have come from meeting participants. In
2012 and 2013, the graphs are more
I conducted semi-structured interviews with
participants selected from meeting tweets.
Interviews were transcribed and analyzed.
Initial coding was based on a comprehensive
communication framework developed through
an extensive review of the literature. I added
new codes as they emerged from the data.
Groups of geoscience tweeters form a close
network – even a “family” – and support each
other at meetings and over the course of the
Year Tweeters Tweets
2010 @ network, nodes sized by degree, largest component only
Participants described various roles that were
“If there’s only one person in the room people tend
to take it more seriously because people feel that
they are providing information from that room”
Example: “Emile-Geay: using non-marine proxies for
SST reconstruction potentially problematic; unstable
“I sort of switched over to be a color commentator.
Because you only need so many people in a session
saying the dawn spacecraft found the radius of Vespa
“Sometimes I’ll tweet something I hear the audience
say during talks … sometimes you’ll hear the person
behind you say bullxxxx under their breath … so you
give people a sense of what it’s like in the room”
Example: “This is pretty awesome - Pearson and
Tierney are a great team on stage during questions
“…a way to bounce things off of people … ‘hey this
is how I’m interpreting this’ and  who’s a dynamics
guy could say … ‘that’s kind of crazy and here’s
why. Here’s this paper that I’m working on that
shows that this isn’t what’s going on’”
Taking a longitudinal view of Twitter use has
revealed evolving behavior not apparent in the
snapshot view of a single year. Increasing
numbers of tweeters has allowed for
differentiation of roles and has also extended
the reach of the meeting to scientists unable to
attend and interested publics.
More recent conference tweets fit more neatly
into science communication framework derived
from the literature.
•Dissemination: preservation of notes
Participants extended the reach of the meeting
beyond the physical presence:
2011 @ network, nodes sized by degree, largest component only.
2012 @ network, nodes sized by degree, largest component only
“There are people in the field who don’t have twitter
accounts but they watch a couple of us when we go
“…meetings that [well-known science
communicator] couldn’t get to and she would
encourage people on twitter – ‘hey it would be great
if you could write a blog post if you could send some
tweets if you could keep people updated’”
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