Sopan, A., Rey, P., Butler, B., Shneiderman, B. (September 2012)
Social-media-supported academic conferences are becoming increasingly global as people anywhere can participate actively through backchannel conversation. It can be challenging for the conference organizers to integrate the use of social media, to take advantage of the connections between backchannel and front stage, and to encourage the participants to be a part of the broader discussion occurring through social media. As academic conferences are different in nature, specialized tools and methods are needed to analyze the vast amount of digital data generated through the backchannel conversation, which can offer key insights on best practices. In this paper we present our two fold contribution to enable organizers to gain such insights. First, we introduce Conference Monitor (CM), a real time webbased tweet visualization dashboard to monitor the backchannel conversation during academic conferences. We demonstrate the features of CM, which are designed to help monitor academic conferences and its application during the conference Theorizing the Web 2012 (TtW12). Its real time visualizations helped identify the popular sessions, the active and important participants and trending topics during the conference. Second, we report on our retrospective analysis of the tweets about the TtW12 conference and the conference-related follower-networks of its participants. The 4828 tweets from 593 participants resulted in 8:14 tweets per participant. The 1591 new follower-relations created among the participants during the conference confirmed the overall high volume of new connections created during academic conferences. We also observed that on average a speaker got more new followers than a non-speaker. A few remote participants also gained comparatively large number of new followers due to the content of their tweets and their perceived importance to the conference followers. There was a positive correlation between the number of new followers of a participant and the number of people who mentioned him/her. The analysis of the tweets suggested that remote participants had a significant level of participation in the backchannel and live streaming helped them to be more engaged.