Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Tweeting At The Conference

Twitter is all the rage. A social networking site that allows users to post short messages of 140 characters or less on the web from the comfort of their computers or phones, it has grown exponentially this year, and is now a tool in use at our 2009 conference.

Conference attendees have been posting tweets (the vocabulary for a post on twitter), marked with the "hashtag" #GHC36 so that we can track comments related to the conference, and it has been a resounding success. Hundreds of tweets already, and hundreds more to come! The tweets comment on everything from landing at the airport and DC to being excited about the conference, to thoughts and commentary on all aspects of the conference.

And I was extremely excited today to set up twitter for use in our opening plenary session. The plenary, Tranformations: Discovering New Strategies Using Proven Technologies, focused on the use of mobile devices to transform the way that global health is implemented worldwide. I met with Cyrus Favriar, the moderator, who is a freelance journalist with frequent articles on NPR, the CBC, and more. We briefly discussed the idea of using twitter to ask questions at the plenary, and set it up so that a unique hashtag, #GHCp1, would be used to direct questions from mobile devices. Not only was it amazing to see it in use, but it was amazing to see the effect of mobile devices upon communication in this manner. While the panelists were discussing the use of mobile devices in global health, they were receiving questions on twitter via the same means.

It was a great opportunity for me to set up a new technology for use at our conference, and it was amazing to see it in action. Twitter is a new phenomenon, an internet creation that is a fine example of how technology can enhance and aid everything from large conferences to global health.

- Geoff Calver