A hard day’s tweeting on the first day of Vascular2013 in Montreal – an unprecedented gathering of some of the biggest medical associations in Canada – has left me contemplating some of the benefits and shortcomings of Twitter as a communications tool.
As someone who has been hugely enthusiastic about the benefits of Twitter and the use of the hashtag to bring together tweets from medical conferences, I have been quite unquestioning about how to use Twitter at these meetings – I play reporter (well, I once was one in real life) and tweet in headlines of 140 characters.
But using Twitter at this particular meeting – which brought together plenary presentations, new research and poster sessions for the Canadian Cardiovascular Society, Canadian Diabetes Association, Stroke Congress and Canadian Hypertension Congress – had me pondering a number of issues which I want to explore over the next couple of days.
My first point is about how easy it is to Tweet some presentations and how impossible, others.
My day started with an interesting lecture by the scientific director of the Canadian Stroke Network, Dr. Antoine Hakim, tracing the 20-year history of the network and developments in stroke diagnosis and treatment over that period.
Dr. Hakim’s presentation was eminently tweetable as his quotes and factoids could be easily compacted into interesting tweets – even when you included both the main conference hashtag and the appropriate sub-meeting hashtag (the fact this meeting was utilizing at least six hashtags could be the subject of another blog).
Fast forward to one of the afternoon presentations from Dr. Sandra Davidge, from the University of Alberta, Edmonton on estrogen and the endothelium. This lecture consisted of complex but important information on the interaction between estrogen and vascular disease in women.
Due either to my lack of in-depth knowledge about the subject and the topic’s its intrinsic complexity, the talk did not lend itself to tweeting. All I could manage were trite summaries or abbreviated snippets of the main points. To wit:
Thinking back I realize the same is true of many presentations at medical meetings no matter what the specialty. Even poster presentations can be divided into those who lend themselves to great, summarizing tweets or those that have to be passed over because the research involved is just too convoluted to fix into 140 characters.
All of this means some caution is needed when following a conference twitter-stream because it may not be giving a comprehensive picture of what is going on by the very nature of the medium itself. But it also speaks to the value of multiple tweeters at conferences to provide a more comprehensive picture of what is happening. The fact there seem to be just a few stalwart few tweeting from this conference is a topic for another day.