Blog Post

Postmortem: Public Humanities & Public Scholarship Twitter Chat

We've just finished our Twitter Chat on Public Humanities & Public Scholarship organized by Emily Esten, Eleanor Mahoney, Kefaya Diab, Michael DeAnda, Francesca Albrezzi, J.J. Sylvia IV, and Kalle Westerling. You can see the conversation on my other blog post

In game development, postmortems are reflective documents written by a development team after a completed game has been shipped to market. These documents offer insight on the design and development processes of games for other developers to tailor their own development processes. 

Following our Twitter Chat (my first), I am posting a postmortem of the experience to aide future Twitter Chat organizers in developing and carrying through your own Twitter Chats.


What went well.

Emily Esten and Eleanor Mahoney had a clear vision of the Twitter chat and communicated this in their call for organizers. 

We had a diverse group of scholars who offered different ways of approaching and interrogating Public Humanities. This allowed us to develop a pool of interesting questions to have at the ready. We didn't order the questions, and this allowed us to adapt our approach to moderating the Twitter Chat based on the voices from participants. 

We co-created a document using Google Docs with sections that included Name, Contact, Bio, Possible Themes, Possible Questions, Suggestions for Invited Guests, Loose Schedule. Allowing some wiggle room in our organization afforded us the possibility for our chat participants to guide our moves. We didn't want to structure it too much to allow people to explore different topics. Our group really worked well together to build off of each other's questions in the document and inform the way we approached moderating a chat on Public Humanities. I specifically saw this in the way my perspective in games studies was adapted into a question on how we approach engaging in public scholarship/contexts.

Having a "Loose Schedule" afforded us a way to develop the conversation without steamrolling participants and still keep track of time. We realized that people would continue responding to the first question while we moved to the final question, but we were able to tailor our final question and concluding thoughts to build from the established questions and responses from the conversation. 

Emily Esten designed an image and flyer early on for the Twitter Chat and posted it on HASTAC. We used this to advertise the event at the HASTAC Conference and on other SMS platforms. She made sure to post the different time zones on the flyer to avoid any confusion, and included a few questions to indicate the focus of the conversation. Kalle Westerling and HASTAC helped a lot with advertising by retweeting our invites. It also had "#HASTACpublic" on it, informing participants this would be the formal tweet we would use. Our team used this to create tools to track the conversation.

Luckily, many of the scholars we invited to participate did attend and offered interesting considerations and questions.

We used Slack to communicate with each other during the Twitter Chat because our Twitter feeds filled with the chat, and it often became difficult to see which question was asked when. Though, by having Slack available, we were able to organize and edit our questions before posting them to make sure we were directing the conversation in a positive and compelling manner geared towards our participants. We each selected different people to ask each question and would indicate how/when we would ask the question.

I think starting by welcoming everybody to introduce themselves primed the Twitter environment for an engaging conversation.

Kalle suggested that we label each question with "Q#:" to indicate that it was a question asked by organizers. Many respondents would then use the same label or "A#" in their response. 

What could have gone better.

I didn't feel the hour fly by at all! If we didn't have people monitoring time and suggesting when to ask questions, I probably would have gone over time.

Make sure all organizers know the hashtag and how to follow it. Kalle created a bitly to direct people to the Twitter feed.

It was hard to keep up at times (not that that was a bad thing). The retweets of questions with responses/answers seemed to work the best. Maybe a little how-to guide within the outgoing call for participation might be helpful and a possible suggestion to participants alongside the introduction might aide in this.

Two of our organizers created tools for people to use. I made a Twitter Widget for #HASTACPublic but lacks certain features that would be nice. For one, it only shows the most recent tweets and does not update in real time. Though we have a collection of all the tweets from the session. Secondly, the widget doesn't allow people to send tweets, so it is merely a tool for observers, unless they open Twitter in another window.

Early on, I realized I needed to use multiple tabs because I was being flooded with many notifications and there were an abundance of tweets going towards the conversation. It becomes hard to keep up with them all, so multiple tabs helps. Respond when you can, but really focus on what people are saying and what questions from your pool to select/tailor. 

I'm not sure how well we offered outside sources, but maybe have some of those at the ready. You may even want to create a document for your participants to contribute links to projects and readings on the topic, or even have an organizer's sole job to collect any that are shared during the timeframe.


You might schedule it for an hour, but you will continue receiving notifications past that as people continue to RT, like, and respond. Take this as a sign of doing a great job! See the Storify of the HASTAC Public Humanities Twitter Chat.


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