Walking on Eggshells: Commemorating a Tragedy on Social Media


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Last week’s anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was predictably somber. The tenor of the conversation on social media, in particular, struck a quiet and respectful tone. Many organizations either stayed off social media altogether or posted simple messages of unity and patriotism.

At a time when emotions are raw and tensions are heightened, social media managers have to be particularly sensitive to the messages they put out into the world. Even when intentions are good or mistakes are honest, the already-critical social media masses are on hyper alert on days like 9/11.

This is why it was particularly jarring to see major brands make really egregious errors in judgment last week.


The Los Angeles Lakers started the day by tweeting a photo of their own controversial star player, Kobe Bryant, wearing the American flag ribbon they and every other team wore the season after the attacks. The social media sphere erupted in outrage that the team would tweet an image of a player to mark the day, culminating in a post on the site Deadspin that simply asked, “The hell?” The Lakers realized their mistake and almost immediately pulled the post (though not before it was screen-captured a billion times). They later offered this apology by email, documented on Yahoo Sports:

We apologize to anyone who took this differently than we intended and were therefore offended by it. We used a photo of how we commemorated 9/11 in the 2001-02 season, shortly after the tragedy occurred, because we wanted to show our support of what we felt at that time and continue to feel now.  Out of respect for the intensely personal nature of how people remember this day, and that we recognize that not everyone understood the intent of our message, we pulled down our tweet and photo.  Ultimately, our intent was to honor the spirit of remembering a day that we should all never forget.

Esquire Magazine had to deal with a different sort of mistake. A truly unfortunate technical glitch on their website caused an image associated with an article about the attacks to be paired with a frivolous headline about looking good on the way to work:


The reaction on social media was equal parts baffled and irate, and only intensified when Esquire offered this pseudo-apology, as noted on Huffington Post:

Screen Shot 2013-09-18 at 10.12.56 AM

One of the most essential decisions an organization makes is whom to put in charge of social media. The easy thing to do is to hand it over to the tech guy because it feels like technology, but (sweeping generalization alert!) tech guys are notorious for holding everyone in the world in contempt for being hopelessly stupid—and that’s the last person you want responsible for being the voice of your brand. Esquire’s “Relax, everybody” Twitter response to an understandable but horrible technical glitch should have been utter humility. Instead, their snarky response became the story—and the new focal point of the social media mob’s rage.


Finally, a lesser-known brand made headlines before 9/11 when the Tumbledown Trails golf course offered a tasteless 9/11-themed deal on rounds of golf, as seen on USA Today and a million other sites. The outrage was so intense that two apologies, a promise make donations to the National September 11 Memorial, and the plea on Facebook that “We are a family owned business & proudly support all local charities and have always gave 20% off everyday to all Police, Fire, Emergency, Military, etc.” were not enough to placate the internet masses. The golf course received threats and other vitriol heaped on its Facebook page to the point that they considered closing on 9/11 for their own safety.

Every day brings new challenges for social media managers. How and if we respond to national or international events on behalf of our brands can be an identity-altering decision. On Monday, I stared at my computer screen for 10 minutes when posting a simple message on NAI’s Facebook page that our office in Fort Collins, Colorado, had reopened and staff members were safe after flooding ravaged parts of the state.

What it boils down to is awareness. Whether we specifically acknowledge events in the news or not—from tragedies like wildfires or mass shootings to positive news like holidays or (in my mind) major sporting events—social media managers need to know how to strike an appropriate tone and analyze how their words might be perceived regardless of their intentions.

And then if we do get it wrong, we need to know how to apologize sincerely without telling people to “relax.”

Getting Lost in the Wilderness


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I’ve always enjoyed telling people where to go.  I spent five years in one of the most rugged national parks in New Zealand’s South Island – Arthur’s Pass – employed to answer questions like “where’s the toilet?, where can I get something to eat? And where shall I go for a tramp? (US readers, that’s a hike to you and not a reference to the wildlife….)

Nicknamed by the locals “Miss Information” I would spend my days poring over topo-maps; running my fingers up and down steep valleys and passes, explaining the best ways through the wilderness.  Of course to be credible, I had to have walked the tracks and routes myself. (Best job ever!) But no matter how much advice I gave, it was still up to those that ventured out into the wilds to make sure they came back. Self-reliance and the ability to think; to find a route where others may have stumbled; these were the essential tools of the back country adventurer.

Of course, these days there’s an app for all that. Outdoor apps that “connect you with nature” are a growing phenomenon. No smartphone is complete without Google Maps. You can download all NZ Topomaps as an extension to the free app Outdoor Atlas.  MotionX GPS tracks your location while skiing, hiking, running, sailing, geocaching and more. The new NZ-made  ‘Get Home Safe’ app takes it even one step further; it tracks your position and calls for help if you’re missing in action.

It seems these days that true wilderness has been reduced to those small pockets that still don’t have cell coverage.

Google Trekker hits the Abel Tasman. Photo: Project Janszoon

Google Trekker hits the Abel Tasman. Photo: Project Janszoon

A few weeks ago the big news was that Google Street View’s Trekker camera was hitting the Abel Tasman Track, with plans to complete all nine Great Walks of New Zealand. The Trekker – a wearable backpack with a camera on top – has been specially designed to photograph places that are only accessible by foot. Great Walks our premium tracks – well managed and booked – but still remote. The back country of New Zealand will soon be viewed from the comfort of your ergonomically-designed desk chair.

Reading through the archives of Media Platypus this might seem like old news to some of you folks as they visited Canada months ago.  And I love Cal’s discussion on the subject of creating connections to places through virtual experiences. I do really; I’m not just sucking up. I also agree with quite a few of the comments below.  And  I wonder, are we not perhaps, getting to the point where we are giving too much away? In our rush to add more and more content online; to adopt these new ways of telling stories, are we stopping to ask why? Why are we not putting more into making sure more people have the real experience? How do we, as interpreters and managers of wilderness make sure people still value the “real thing” – that they are not content with just the virtual version of wilderness?

A new TV series called “Wild about New Zealand” also visited Abel Tasman this week. It has provided added value to the on-screen experience, with a series of complimentary ‘how to’ video clips such as ‘family friendly tips’. I’m sure it will inspire some families to give the great outdoors a go. But we can and should do more. To become truly “Wild about New Zealand”, you need to experience it!

Just in time for me to get to the point, Richard Louv published this education blog and a great quote that sums it up:

“For every dollar that is spent on the virtual, another dollar must be spent on the real.”
Richard Louv.

This is as true for interpretation as it is for education. Perhaps, as my good friend Robinne suggests, the time is right for a “Get Lost!” movement. Who’s with me?

You will never believe how golden the sand is at Abel Tasman until you sink your feet into it.

You will never believe how golden the sand is at Abel Tasman until you see it for yourself…


What kind of discussions take place on an interpretation LinkedIn group?


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This is the UK calling! I’ve put my feet up this time and passed responsibility for this blog over to  the Chair of the Association for Heritage Interpretation, UK, who has got some thoughtful insights into the use of LinkedIn for interpreters… Lisa Keys

“The Association for Heritage Interpretation LinkedIn group was created almost two years ago and now has 973 members. I was intrigued to find out what the range of discussion topics might be and whether a social media group would concentrate on new technology or whether the discussions were more wide ranging.

Putting aside all those people who post to promote their companies either overtly or more subtly, of which there are quite a few, the discussions fall into a number of categories..

There are a fair few posts around new technology and digital media.

For instance, QR codes vs NFC (Near Field Communications ) and the relative merits  of one over the other for use in interpretation.  Comments vary from ‘a waste of time’ to ‘useful to add extra depth to information especially in gardens’.  A number of posts describe their usefulness in marketing e.g. use on beer mats. I was recently involved in a project where collections of various Hampshire and Isle of Wight  museums were put on line in a quirky and interesting way www.heritage100 and QR codes were used on posters on selected railway stations.  This increased traffic to the website significantly.

Other technology discussions include the use of augmented reality, whether the excitement of producing an app. for a mobile phone is seducing interpretive planners away from using film on-site, and indeed whether it is the year of the app?

There was only one discussion regarding social media itself,  on an experiment where a person tweeted about the Coronation as though she was there in 1953.

Active discussion takes place around work based issues such as copyright infringement and procurement generally. In response to the ongoing queries on procurement and tendering, AHI has produced guidelines on commissioning and tendering for interpretation projects, from a UK point of view,  available to members on the AHI website www.ahi.org.uk.

Some people post interesting things they have seen or observations on their  interpretation work. Jonathan Knight observed a country difference in the take up of a button operated  solar powered audio device vs those powered by a dynamo which need a handle to be turned to make them work. USA prefers solar devices whereas UK, Australia,  Scandinavia go for the handle turning dynamo option. Why?

Other observations include the Interpreters as pollinators at the Eden project, and an app. that allows you to walk with dinosaurs on the Isle of Wight. Then there are the quite frankly ‘off the wall’ observations such as the use of rap to convey important safety messages on pre-flight instructions to airline passengers.

Most interesting are the in-depth discussions on interpretation these include a debate on the National Trust’s changing approach to interpretation provoked by the Alan Bennett play  and National Trust Chairman Simon Jenkins response; ‘Is there such a thing as an interpretation free zone?’; and ‘Do our backgrounds, cultural upbringing and interests influence the way we curate and design interpretation?’

All in all an interesting range and well worth managing a LinkedIn site. ”

Dr Ruth Taylor

Chair  Association for Heritage Interpretation

Lesson at the Library


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Well, kids, gather round. It’s time to tell a story again.

The other day, I was visiting my friendly neighbourhood library, when I saw something of great interest.

I was standing in line, waiting to use one of the computer terminals for the library catalogue (for those of you who don’t use the library, it can be like browsing Amazon but everything is free!). The two terminals each had a computer screen, keyboard, and mouse.

It’s not often that there is a line-up, but the delay seemed to be from the presence of two children, each about 9-10 years old, at one of the terminals. I didn’t pay much attention, but instead stood, patiently waited, and looked at the wicked Tintin adventures I had already picked up (nope, I don’t have kids. I am a kid).

Seriously, you need to read Tintin.

Seriously, you need to read Tintin. Image from www.tintin.com

But, after a while, I couldn’t help watching the two children.  They seemed to be having a somewhat animated discussion. The older boy was jabbing the screen with his finger. At first, I figured he was angry that Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 was checked out. But, as I listened in to their conversation, I realized they were arguing about how to use the computer. Whaaaaaat?

You see, the older boy was adamant that the computer screen was a touchscreen. He kept poking and swiping, but it wasn’t responding. “It’s frozen,” he said.  The younger boy didn’t believe it was a touchscreen, but didn’t quite know how to prove it to his friend. So, there I stood, wanting to help, but in too much shock to actually tell them the reality. The older boy would rather think that it was broken than to accept that it isn’t a touchscreen.

So, what is the moral of the story? That it is indeed possible for me to be speechless? That Breaking Dawn Part 2 is difficult to get from the library? Nope, the moral is that we often have no idea of how rapidly visitor’s expectations change – especially when it comes to technology. At our sites, we may think to ourselves, “My target audience for this program/activity/exhibit component is 9-10 year olds.” But, what was true of this target audience 5 years ago may be completely different today. Knowedge, beliefs, education, expectations – they all change. The more we understand  our audiences, the more effective we will be at meeting their expectations.

I wonder how many 10 year olds are standing in our museums or visitor centres and jabbing their fingers at screens that don’t respond?

This just in! How social media campaigns can be successful


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I am often a great supporter of procrastination. Not a proactive supporter, just a passive one. In fact, I often find that the mere act of doing nothing has the unintentional effect of encouraging procrastination.

So, I was busy procrastinating from writing my latest blog post for Media Platypus. I guess I was just waiting for something to happen on its own, when – ding! – something suddenly appeared in my inbox. It was a report from Ipsos, a worldwide market research firm. But, this isn’t just any report. It is a report about social media campaigns. Bingo! Procrastination 1. Hard Work 0.

This new report (from Ipsos’ UK office) attempts to identify ways that social media campaigns can be successful. It is something that I fully intended on coming up with myself, but how about I just tell you what the report says instead?

In a nutshell, this report identifies three things you must do to be successful with your campaign:

1. Play to the strengths of each platform. They are all different. I can’t stress the importance of this one enough. Just because they are all grouped together under the umbrella of social media, it doesn’t mean you should take the same approach with each platform. They are all different and have different users. And, these users have different behaviour and reasons for using those platforms.


Social Media – as explained by the act of peeing

According to their survey of UK users, Facebook is about sharing enjoyment with friends, Twitter is about discovery and connection with like-minded individuals, and YouTube is about entertainment and relaxation (like TV). The implication? Your content for Facebook should be focused on bringing friends together, your content for Twitter should be about discovery, and your content for YouTube should entertain and inform.

2. Deliver content people want to engage with. This seems obvious, but I see a lot of examples of content that either isn’t engaging or is on the wrong platform. When surveying how people interact with brands on various platforms, Ipsos discovered that people look for promos and offers on Facebook, and news on Twitter. Linkedin was more for learning from experts.

3. Be relevant and add value.  If we want people’s time, we need to reward them for it. 45% of people that “like” a brand on Facebook subsequently unlike it. There are all kinds of reasons for this, but often it is because there is some immediate one-time reward or contest, and there isn’t enough relevant and rewarding content to continue.

If you would like to read the entire report (it isn’t very long), you can check it out here. As for me, I have some serious procrastination planned.

Heresy or Sanity? I stopped using Social Media for Awhile


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screenshot of an iphone

Iphone screenshot

Over the past few weeks, I’ve virtually ignored and neglected any social media that I’ve been using for the past few years. This is what I’ve learned in this experiment.

First of all, I didn’t start out to do this. I got busy with my work life, involving a new docent class, a collaboration with UC Davis, deconstructing some exhibit design, writing a budget, etc.. I also got busy with my personal life, involving a new roof, solar panels, the Sacramento RiverCats, and the Sierra Club, among other things. The next thing I knew, I hadn’t logged on to Facebook or LinkedIn or Twitter in over a week.

“Cool! I wonder what would happen if I stayed away longer?” So I merrily went on my way, living what seems to be my life. Now, I’m trying to pick up again with social media. I’ve regularly used Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Messenger, and occasionally play around with G+, Foursquare, LinkedIn and Formspring, plus dealing with Yelp and Groupon on rare occasion. Frankly, it’s been difficult to pick things back up and check my accounts, not to mention being able to add pithy and prescient content. It’s also been difficult to just add the usual crap, too. I’ve also missed some birthdays of people I really care about, I haven’t kept up with some environmental and political causes that are important to me, and I’ve probably missed a few relatively important issues among some friends. Anyway, here is some of what I’ve learned by staying away from social media.

1. No One Cares Whether I’m There or Not. Now keep in mind that I’m not complaining (much) about this, but I’m a bit surprised that no one has either asked or emailed me to check on my status.

2. The World Goes On Without Me. This really isn’t much of a surprise, but I’ll never have the time to look at a couple of weeks of posts from I’mNotRightInTheHead.com or The Onion or HuffingtonPost or even BloggersToBeNamedLater. There are others, including good friends whose wit and personal journeys I value and enjoy keeping up with.

3. There Was No Way To Make A 100% Break. First of all, I didn’t set out to do this. Secondly, I have actual paid work responsibilities that involve social media. But even with my personal materials, there were three instances I remember when I made an isolated post or comment. The odd thing is that none of them seemed particularly important. It was sort of like an obsessive-compulsive thing. One was really unimportant, when a wonderful friend of mine commented that she thought that a generally untalented personality seemed to have talent, based on a fluke of a movie. Trust me, the personality is really a one-trick pony, but because I value my friend so much, I

referred them to some additional material about the hack in question. A couple of Saturdays ago, when I went to a Sacramento RiverCats game, I just couldn’t resist posting a couple of photos of the field at sunset.

photograph of Raley Field, home of the Sacramento Rivercats

Raley Field at Sunset

Baseball does that do me, I guess. It’s just so American and so emblematic of summer that it’s one of the best universals that I know of.

4. I’m Not More Productive Without Social Media. This one surprised me. I’ve never audited how much time I spend with social media and associated things, but it’s a bit of time nearly daily. I thought that I would get some project work done or at least moved along, do some more carpentry, perhaps some (wall) painting, but no, not really. I did do a lot more hiking than normal, but I was hired for several guided hikes with various groups. I did do some serious writing and research, but again, this was in connection with paying gigs. I learned a lot about roofing, because we put a new high-tech roof on the house, and I was able to spend a bit more time outdoors than usual, but I’m not sure if there is a correlation.

5. I Genuinely DON’T Care What You Had For Dinner. This didn’t surprise me; on occasion, I don’t even care on some nights what I have for dinner (example: tonight’s dinner was popcorn.) Oh, sorry. You don’t care either, I’m sure, but among my Facebook friends, there are a few who seem to think that I care about their meals, or the errands they’ve run (or are planning to run) and other genuine nonsense. I may be guilty of that on occasion as well, I think, but I’m not going to check and you can’t make me.

What is this human characteristic that if we seem to have a platform, some of us feel the need to use it, whether or not we have anything to say? It might be easy to say “Hey Phil, just ignore that stuff,” but to get to the posts that are important and interesting, invariably we need to scroll past this nonsense.

6. I Think That Sometimes I DO Care What You Had For Dinner. I’m not necessarily rethinking my previous thought, but I have at least two friends who may have foodie tendencies, and they will sometimes post info about these amazing combinations of food that are creative and fascinating. In that case, I do care. What I don’t care about are people saying “I had a burger on my way to an oil change, then I bought socks at Target, ending up at the Doctor for a hernia exam.” True story, and TMI.

7. In Spite Of All This, I Think That Social Media Is Vital For Most Of Us To Communicate In 2013 And On Into The Future. In spite of my observation that no one cares whether I contribute to the conversation, I care about my friends, and I care about the causes that I feel passionately about. Social media is a great and pretty-near ubiquitous way for me to check in on my friends (albeit combined with filtering out a lot of crap) but isn’t that also how real life works? How many of us shop for groceries without passing by most things in the store to get to what we actually want? How many of us go in and strictly stick to a pre-defined list, and absolutely do NOT wander the aisles, even a little bit, just to see what’s around? No one? Bueller? Bueller?

I thought so.

8. I’m Not Against Silliness, But I Am Against Stupid Stuff. To those who know me, this statement is probably unnecessary, and some may challenge me on claiming that I don’t like stupid stuff, but I just don’t want people to think that I’m trying to be a puritan or an actuarial-type.

Social media, whether personal or interpretive/business in nature, should probably by and large be light hearted with a dash or two of silliness and humor and nonsense. Without social media, there would be no memes. They aren’t all that important to me, but they are very popular and some of my colleagues spend enormous amounts of time creating them. It might be okay for me to imagine, say, Paul Caputo sitting on a curb on Cherry St. in Fort Collins, holding a properly lettered sign that says something like “Will Meme for Food” [spoiler: Meme idea!] but there are actually a lot of things that I see that are wonderful– O. Henry-type self-deprecating stories, charming photos of family life where the love and genuine affection pops off of the screen, astounding scenes of nature and human endeavor, or even ridiculous historic vignettes to remind us of just how odd our species is, and this doesn’t even take into account photos of people in Walmart.

I was hoping to have at least ten relatively intelligent observations, but eight will have to do. So where do I go from here?

I’m not going to recommend that you take a break or a sabbatical from social media. I’m not going to give up on my interest in social media as an amazing form of communication and interpretive media. I’m going to continue to look at emerging technologies and modes of using social media, and I’m going to continue to follow my friends and colleagues. I’ll be both delighted and frustrated with the content. I’m going to get back up to speed about posting, but I may not post as often, at least for awhile.

I’m not sure what this all means, but it sure is an interesting ride. What about you? Are you slavish in checking your social media? Do you think “Hey, I can quit any time I want! I enjoy the time I spend with my phone/tablet/computer on Facebook. Honest!” Okay. No problem.

No problem at all.

Dealing with negativity and trolls, Al Roker style


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I’m going to say something I’ve never said before, and certainly thought I never would say: I was inspired recently by weatherman Al Roker. One of the things we talk about in social media is how to deal with unfettered negativity and trolls, which, unfortunately, is something you see a lot online.

Most of the time, we argue that you should set standards for your page and make those standards known. Typically, you might delete spam, foul language, and outright slander, but otherwise, you are pretty much forced to let people have their say. Often, people who are negative will go away if you ignore them, but if you engage them, they are encouraged and it only makes things worse.

Al Roker has taken a different approach. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, and being a prominent weatherperson, is frequently going to incur the ire of knuckleheads who blame him for things like clouds and rain. However, he has been doing the near impossible for the last month: having a lighthearted, funny exchange with some anonymous dude who picked a fight with him. The Twitter war, which is detailed on the website Gawker, has included some of the following barbs:

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The exchange had the chance to be good because the instigator is clearly just having fun, rather than being malicious or crude. It ends up being extremely funny because mild-mannered celebrity Al Roker, who must get hundreds or thousands of this sort of message, engaged him on his own terms—rather than in any sort of way his publicist would have approved of.

Obviously, we’re all faced with negativity in some way when we manage social media. Any time you engage a troll, you risk inflaming a delicate situation—the absolute worst thing you can do is try to shout down an anonymous jerk who is just looking for attention. We may not always have the opportunity to be funny with people picking fights with us, and when we do, they may not play along like Dr. BAE does here with Al Roker, but this is one of the rare occasions I’ve seen where celebrity/follower Twitter war has been entertaining for any reason beyond the spectacle of people losing their minds.

‘Tall Poppies’ in the land of hobbits


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Like all good leaders, I love to delegate. So this second post from Interpretation Network New Zealand is penned by our esteemed Secretary, Oli du Bern, whose day job title is Visitor Experience Manager for Wellington Zoo. Like all good second-in-commands, he starts off his missive by complimenting his leader; adding fertiliser to the roots of this ‘Tall Poppy’. Enjoy. 

When we (INNZ) agreed to make contributions to Media Platypus, we wanted to provide insights with a uniquely kiwi flavour.  In light of this, I will do my best (in this and future posts) to reference flightless birds, The Flight of the Conchords, hobbits, our rivalry with Australia, and the world’s greatest sport – rugby (in which, we are better than Australia). Sarah did a great job with our first contribution, sharing the success of Sirocco the Kakapo (hurray for flightless birds!).

For this post, I want to address a challenge that we face working with social media and interpretation in New Zealand.

Ever heard of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’? It is a phenomenon widely recognised in the UK and Canada, but also part of our national identity in New Zealand.

Tall poppy syndrome (TPS) is a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, criticised or cut down because their talents or achievements elevate them above their peers.

Credit: Jo Caird/Rugby Images.
All Blacks do the haka, led by their fearless captain Kieran Read; Credit: Jo Caird/Rugby Images.

A perfect example is our national rugby team, my beloved All Blacks – the world’s number one rugby team, and the greatest team in the history of teams. They recently beat France in a three game series 3-0 – a fantastic accomplishment, as France is a formidable rugby nation, ranked 5th in the world.

At the end of the game the third game our fearless captain, Kieran Read, was interviewed. The first comment from the interviewer was not “well done” or “bravo”, but instead, “A tough game tonight Kieran.  A lot of mistakes were made.   Your thoughts?” To which Captain Read replied, “Yeah, it was a frustrating match…”

Where was the celebration? Where was the “Wow, fantastic! Congratulations on an entertaining series, how does it feel to have beaten France?”

I think this syndrome is a barrier to engagement in social media.  The nucleus of social media is people’s willingness to share things about themselves. Share their lives, their work, what they like and what they are proud of. In a social climate that likes to cut participants down for their success, putting yourself or your work out there can be difficult.

In the big wide world of social media, there are plenty of challenges to conquer. In New Zealand, one of our challenges is curing TPS through the celebration and encouragement of success. In September, at the INNZ Spring Workshop, one of the sessions is social media for interpretation. I, for one, can’t wait to learn from some of the successful social media programmes out there. Hopefully we can share some of our social media tall poppy stories with you all.

I will leave you with these wise words from Bret, Jemaine and Murray of Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand’s forth best folk parody duo).

Jemaine: “Bret dissed a lot of people in that rap thing he did.”

Murray: “Who were these people you are dissing? The only one I could make out was Snoopy! What’s your problem with him?”

Bret: “No, Snoop Dogg.”

Murray: “Yeah, I know he’s a dog, I’m not totally in the dark ages. I do go out every once in a while. But, Snoopy’s loveable! Leave him alone.” 

Flight of the Conchords; Credit: Monik Markus.

Musical Comedy Duo ‘Flight of the Conchords’ – Credit: Monik Markus.


Using Twitter at a conference


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A big hello to everyone out there from the Association for Heritage Interpretation (AHI), UK. AHI are very excited about the opportunity to be part of the international conversation on the use of social media for interpretation, here on Media Platypus.

ConferenceTweetingMany interpreters, including AHI Committee Trustees and members, have recently returned from the International Conference on Heritage Interpretation in Sigtuna, Sweden. If you want to find out what happened at the conference Twitter won’t help you much. It wasn’t as if nothing was happening – there was plenty, and all of it great – but Twitter simply wasn’t employed as a discussion and reporting tool. A few tweets appeared from delegates (mostly UK-based) using the hashtag #InterpretEurope.

Swedish folk dancing in Sigtuna to kick of #InterpretEurope conference. 160 delegates from over 40 countries. pic.twitter.com/Goajy22xpw (@HeritageBSU 2013)

The last two annual AHI conferences have used a # (hashtag) and it has been valuable, not least to obtain  feedback on how the event went-

Driving back from #ahiconf12 head buzzing with ideas. Long, thoughtful & inspiring conversations (@storylinestew 2012)

to enable delegates to share and comment on what was going on-

#ahiconf John Oxley encouraging interpreters to enable personal discovery. Interpretation to allow and encourage individual experience (@plbltd 2011)

and also to provide follow-up information after the event-

There were a lot of questions about NFC technology at #ahiconf last week. Here’s an example of its use http://www.engadget.com/2011/10/22/brand-table-concept-revolutionizes-fast-food-nfc-still-wont-ma/?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=pulsenews … (@imagemakers_uk  2011).

In November 2012 I attended the ‘Culture Matters’ conference in Norwich, UK. A presenter (sourced from the local BBC team) chairing the conference promoted the use of Twitter (and #cmconf in all tweets) throughout the three day event. A live Twitter feed was shown on screens in the delegate refreshment area, and Tweets would be read aloud to the conference between presentations in order to strike up debate and to fuel question-time.  This has strongly influenced my idea of how conference tweeting should work. An interactive experience between the presentation and the audience – isn’t this just one of the things that good interpretation should be?

In researching this blog I stumbled across #Twittergate – a debate about etiquette and ethics of live-tweeting at academic conferences. See here for a record of that debate. Unless you live on another planet you must know that the age of information is well and truly upon us. It couldn’t be easier for people to share their thoughts and opinions. To many this may seem threatening and a breach of privacy, but we can’t control it. So how about we embrace it and use it to our advantage?

So how should we deal with the ‘conference tweeting’ phenomena? Ernesto Priego explores ‘conference tweeting’ in relation to academic conference in detail here. I have drawn on his article and my own experience to produce a rough guide to tweeting at interpretation conferences:

To conference organisers:

  1. Establish and promote a # for your conference. If you don’t establish a #, one of your Twitter-savvy delegates will! It will also allow others to follow what is going on (if they are not fortunate enough to make it to your event).
  2. Using a # can be a useful way of evaluating your conference and it can be used as a useful marketing and advocacy tool.
  3. Capture the conference tweets on Storify for future reference (the #Twittergate debate above has been captured in this way).
  4. Make sure there is a decent wifi connection!

To delegates:

  1. When quoting someone’s presentation in a Tweet, use quotation marks and reference who said it. This is just professional ethics…
  2. If you see an inspirational piece of interpretation while at the conference, or hear about a good case study, Tweet about it and if possible include an image or url for delegates to see/follow and find out more. Promoting best practice and sharing experiences with others can only strengthen our profession.
  3. Where possible get permission before you publish photos of the people at the conference in your Tweets.
  4. Be respectful of others. If you disagree with what a presenter is saying, by all means start a debate, but be polite.
  5. Always use the conference #!

Lisa Keys, AHI Committee Trustee and e-News editor news@ahi.org.uk


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