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November 5, 2013 / Mervyn Dinnen

Social Snarks and Hashtag Hecklers

I’m heading off to Manchester later for the CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. Condensed to two days this year there promises to be much rich content with a wide range of speakers and contributors. We’ll be opening with a keynote on ‘Creating the Best Workplace on Earth‘ and closing with ‘Leadership and the New Principles of Influence‘. The latter session will be delivered by Daniel Pink – after live tweeting, and blogging about, his two presentations at HRTechEurope I’m in danger of becoming a fanboy!

For this event the CIPD have put together a blog squad of more than 20 of your favourite HR bloggers and tweeters, and between us we will endeavour to capture the essence of what’s being said, and which exhibitors have an interesting story to tell.

For some of the squad it will be their first live tweeting/blogging experience – I’m looking forward to reading what they have to say – and with such a cross section of people there will inevitably be a range of styles and viewpoints.

I noticed during my visits to HRTechConference and HRTechEurope a greater embedding of bloggers in to the event conversation as they become important conduits of the various messages. Everyone has their own style – I tend to live tweet a lot of what’s being said as an aide memoire to help me blog about it later. I don’t often give my perspective on it until my post event review – I see my role as someone who is taking the content to people who aren’t able to attend, drawing in a much wider audience than usual, and then reviewing afterwards. A bit like a sports journalist commenting on the live action and the writing an opinion piece later.

Others in the blog squad are likely to do it differently, giving a view or perspective on what’s being said. Only by following the hashtag #CIPD13, rather than individual tweeters, can you get the full picture.

For those of you following from afar there are three channels to follow:

The event hashtag on Twitter – #CIPD13

The individual blog squad members, their tweets and blogs – this list from Steve Bridger will help

The CIPD Tumblr – curated by Doug Shaw

It’s been noticeable during events over the last year or two, particularly those around recruitment and HR, that the twitter hashtag thread often draws in comments from those not in attendance. This is a good thing as it broadens the conversations, and also offers a useful way to spot examples of those two growing live event phenomena – the Social Snark and the Hashtag Heckler.

Social Snark

They aren’t in attendance, usually because they are too busy – but not so busy they aren’t following the twitter chat for 140 character updates that they find less than insightful or (cardinal sin) something they’ve said before. They are usually dismissive of the quality of the content believing that the conversation hasn’t moved on and hence justifying their decision not to go.

Hashtag Heckler

They can’t shoot down the message so take it out on the messenger. They’re different from the snarks in that they want a debate, usually to publicly call out the speaker, so start disagreeing with the live tweeter. Again there is usually a link to something that the heckler has blogged previously. This type is not to be confused with the Hashtag Hijacker who basically uses any popular conversation thread to promote themselves irrespective of whether they have anything to contribute.

Enjoy the conversation and if the buzzword bingo gets too much you can always go snark and heckler hunting 😉

Here are a few posts I’ve written from previous CIPD conferences:

Unlocking the Potential of Our Future Workforce
The Elephant in The Room for Tomorrow’s Workforce
Blogging and Learning at #CIPD11
Trust is The Word

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3 Comments

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  1. Jane Bozarth (@JaneBozarth) / Nov 5 2013 1:40 PM

    The hashtag heckling (and its cousin, born when people not attending create an #xeventNOT tag) is especially tiring coming from training/learning practitioners who never present at anything but endlessly criticize those who do. A conference is a lot of work, and kudos to organizers and speakers both. As we say around these parts: Put up or shut up.

  2. andyheadworth / Nov 5 2013 2:41 PM

    Snarks and hecklers – like it Merv!!
    There is another point to add to your observations – Twitter is only 140 characters. As you know trying to get some of the salient points out during a conference speech is not easy, especially in 140 characters. These snarks and hecklers are often seeing tweets a little out of context in their twitter streams, without an aggregated view of the hashtag stream.
    I am with @JaneBozarth on this 🙂

  3. claireatwaves / Nov 5 2013 9:01 PM

    Whilst I agree that there can be a lot of bad behaviour online, I think you’ve sold yourself, the conference, and external audiences short.
    “They aren’t in attendance, usually because they are too busy – but not so busy they aren’t following the twitter chat for 140 character updates that they find less than insightful or (cardinal sin) something they’ve said before.”
    1. As a working freelance with dependents, I don’t have the budget or time to attend lots of conferences. If I was there I wouldn’t need to engage with – and thence help amplify – their tweeted content. I’d hope to be too engaged to Tweet if I’ve given up time and money to attend.. So yes, you’re talking about me. (I dip and out as work allows)
    2. I often follow hashtags and will, in turn, flag up to the people following me/the businesses I work with that I think a particular hashtag has some useful insight. Sadly, too often, people live tweet without thought or moderation, leading to tweets with no real insight (see Social Media Week for that debate!) so good streams deserve to attract an audience.
    3. Within those tweets,, I’d sometimes look to provide content, either mine or from others, that’s pertinent to the conversation if it adds something to the person who’s tweeted. If someone raises a question and I’ve seen an answer I might send them something I’d seen in a spirit of helpfulness (and this might sometimes be content that’s from a client, but that’s natural – it’s stuff I’m familiar with) or debate..From my perspective, that’s what Twitter is great for, and I love it when someone makes the effort to send me something I’ve asked for/about.
    4. If someone’s tweeting an opinion, or something someone’s said, unless it comes with a comment, agreement with what’s been said is implicit: I’ll sometimes question it and debate with them – I’m an adult with a keen desire to learn more, and there’s a whole load of rubbish gets shared and becomes fact at conferences. If you don’t want a conversation, surely it’s better not to Tweet?
    So presumably because of any of these things,, I become a Social Snark, a heckler, AND probably viewed as a hijacker too? Presumably you’d all rather just have a load of bland sycophantic retweeters, instead?.
    The very essence of Twitter is that it IS inclusive: attributing motives and characterising people who try and add value for others/ raise the bar on debate and knowledge is offensive.
    Tweets spend 2 seconds in your stream and are easy enough to ignore or mute – every conference if it’s successful starts to attract Twitter spam..I would question whether you’ve done yourself, or the conference, any favours by criticising other people’s online behaviour – it might have been better to focus on what you would like people to do?
    I’m normally a bit of an online fan of yours, and sadly feel you’ve done yourself – and the conference – a disservice with these somewhat upsetting and unpleasant stereotypes/characterisations.
    I for one will now be disinclined to engage with any of the content, partly for fear of being stereotyped further, but most especially as it sounds like the noise is being created by the conference organisers (over 20 bloggers!) rather than genuine attending audiences..

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