in Design

Wordle-like Twitter screens for conference keynote presenters?

I’ve been at the PELeCON conference this week. After her keynote, Keri Facer mentioned in a couple of tweets that the Twitter wall being visible to the audience but not the speaker can be problematic. Everything was positive in Keri’s session, but this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone (see danah boyd example).

So it got me thinking about what I’d like, as a presenter, when doing a keynote. There’s lots of different reasons tweet about a session using the conference hashtag. For example:

  • To let those who aren’t there know what’s being said
  • To give a voice to the livestream audience (if applicable)
  • To provide links to what’s being discussed
  • For banter/puns/general merrymaking
  • For agreement, disagreement and questions

…and many more.

Whilst you’re presenting there’s no way you can keep up with the stream in the same way that you (potentially) can when in the audience. But it would be nice to know the gist of what people are saying in the backchannel.

Thinking about it, I casually remarked that some kind of Twitter screen in front of presenters would be useful. And if those tweets that had been retweeted (RT’d) several times could appear bigger, so much the better.

Chris Atherton mentioned this sounded a lot like Wordle and Pat Parslow riffed on the idea talking about the potential for sentiment analysis.

That idea look something like this with traffic light colours for sentiment:

Twitter-Wordle idea

The trouble is, that’s still too much to take in whilst you’re presenting. So, thinking some more, I reckon all that’s needed is the top three most RT’d tweets. Which would look something like this:

Twitter wall for presenters

What do you think? Would this be useful?

How hard would it be to make it a reality?

  • Craig Taylor

    Seems like a great idea Doug. As somebody who speaks fairly regularly, I’d really benefit from this quick, but useful, glimpse into what was happening in the backchannel.

    Now who’s up for making it a reality…….?

    • Doug Belshaw

      Spread it far and wide! I’m sure someone could knock something together. :-D

  • John Popham

    I rremember the audience once bursting into laughter while I was presenting, and it wasn’t because I had said anything funny. I, of course, checked my flies, but then someone pointed out the amusing tweet on the screen behind me

    • Doug Belshaw

      That must have been quite disconcerting?

  • daibarnes

    Great idea Doug. TBH it might actually be fairer for this concept to be what is presented to the audience as well. In my relatively small conference experience, I’m a big fan of the back channel but not particularly the potential for public flogging or spam tweets. The back channel can be enlightening but having the *behind the presenter* display only showing tweets that have aggregated from audience (physical and virtual) reinforcement would lead to a more refined and pertinent feed. Tweets would only make it through via democratic support.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Dai – hopefully someone will build a beta I can test in my ILTA keynote at the end of May! :-)

    • Andrew Flegg

       I was thinking the same. It also will help keep track of the most important bits of the backchannel conversation. The stream itself, for a popular conference, can be too overwhelming so some form of real-time extraction/summary would be good.

      It’s also difficult to see the new content if you see the umpteenth retweet of something you’ve already read ;-)

      • Doug Belshaw

        Seems like the idea’s a winner! Now we just need someone to help develop it…

  • Andy Guy

    I think you’d need a scoring system for most RT’d tweets that decays with time. Otherwise a tweet may hit the top spot in the first few mins and never leave!

  • jfb57

    I like the idea of the democratic  support. I would not like some of the audience to mis-use it to gain an apparent moment of glory.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Difficult, isn’t it? Any system will inevitably be gamed, I think.

  • Doug Belshaw

    Good point, Andy. There would have to be variables that could be tweaked!

  • Masjones

    THis can be done, although not with the simplicity in your last diagram.  PollEverywhere lets this happen.  I use it in my classroom and it can be used in this manner.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks for the suggestion. :-)

      I’m sure it’s entirely possible using other platforms, I just want something that makes sense of what people are *already* doing!

  • PatParslow

    I suggested this to @markpower as quite a nice little useful project for him to do to get used to jquery and a more in depth knowledge of JavaScript.:+)

    • Doug Belshaw

      One of my mates (@aerotwist) is kindly looking into it. But the more the merrier! :-D

  • Nthompso12

    Have you looked at TodaysMeet? You can save the backchannel to review later.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks, but it’s the realtime aspect I really want to focus on! :-)

  • Masjones


    I would also suggest the book “The Back Channel” by Cliff Atkinson.

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks! :-)

  • Sue Beckingham

    This doesn’t answer your question but on the lines of visualising Twitter in a colourful way I just came across - nice dashboard in beta 

    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Sue! :-)

  • Emmadw

    You’d need some pretty good AI though … that tweet you had from “thoughtful tweeter” could have been from “critical tweeter”, if the book referenced said that the speakers’ view point was a lot of rubbish. 

    • Doug Belshaw

      True! :-)

  • zecool

    Hall Davidson did his keynote at Saturday’s online Social Learning Summit, where he had prepared a couple of open-ended Q’s via polleverywhere, and we all saw the flow of answers. He then, on the spot, tried to generate a Wordle of these replies. Although quick and entertaining, he did have to copy-paste from his columns of answers to Word, then to Wordle and then, had to clean out some irrelevant info (ex. time of day). But you have to be a Hall Davidson to go out on a limb and do it this way. Personally, I’ll have screen #2 show the Twitter backchannel during my keynote, have someone I trust intercept issues or Q’s arising and relay them to all, at a couple of fixed moments. That way, I concentrate on my presentation, but can still use the backchannel as an added value for all.

    Yes, soon, there will be an app for that! Thanks for the post.


    • Doug Belshaw

      Thanks Jacques. Although it sounds a bit clunky I would have liked to see that!