“Attending a medical conference using Twitter is like the difference between driving a Mini and a Ferrari”

This nice quote (paraphrased) from my  New Zealand twitter community friend, Dr. Rebecca Grainger, nicely sums up the intensity of the dynamic of using Twitter at a medical conference.

Having grown a little stale and tired of the big medical conference over the last few years (read here, here and here), I find myself once again regnited, reconnected and enthused.

Whereas I have been live-tweeting from conferences for a few years now, this year’s experience was dramatically different .The numbers of doctors tweeting at the ACR has increased dramatically and this has added a a whole new dynamic to the meeting;

One of the difficulties I have had with meetings in recent years is that I have been overwhelmed by the amount of information on offer. Twitter now allows a valuable community of information seekers to collect, filter and share knowledge through the lense of their respective experiences. The growing size of the Twitter community means that there is much bigger net available to to do that job efficiently – with specialists from different backgrounds, clinical, and research interests –  all working with the focus of trying to understand and summarise information for themselves, their colleagues, and patient community.

The #ACR13 Rheumatology Twitter Community Visualised (Symplur)

The #ACR13 Rheumatology Twitter Community Visualised (Symplur)

Live-tweeting as part of a community also allows participants to feel that they are taking part in the meeting – rather than just being passive recipients of information. It is during the informal information exchange between people that the real learning resonances and cementing of useful information takes place. Twitter information exchange is like the learning experience that takes place in real life between delegates during and between sessions, on the bus to convention centre, or over a beer in the evening – but on a much bigger scale.

Seeing what numerous other co- attendees at a session are thinking affords a number of valuable perspectives on the same information (and a great way of ironing out any misunderstandings of ‘cognitive wobbles’ any tweeter might have had with information coming from the podium). Noticing that the volume of Tweets had dropped during a technically difficult presentation (or when I was bored) reassured me that others were in the same boat. During these periods, it was possible to shift focus to juicy nuggets of information emanating from fellow tweeters at other sessions.

Our community was further strengthened by a series of meetings of tweeting delegates. Being there was for all the world like being at a school reunion – for people who had been at different schools – all at once familiar and fun, with a common shared experience, focus and curiosity..

Thanks to all of the live tweeters from #ACR13 (click here for full transcript and details) and Dr. Paul Sufka (@psufka) for organising the Tweetups and to the American College of Rheumatology for providing the raw data and thanks to the guys at Symplur for the Twitter visualisation

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