The 1st Twitter Conference?

Question for all you people out there (and non-people; I’m not prejudiced): was the 1st Episto Twitter Conference> (#twecon) the first tweet only conference? I don’t ask because I want to claim “Look at me; I’m new, novel and original.” Rather, I want to know if there is any prior art and how, if anything, #twecon was different. My suspicion is that similar conference-like uses of Twitter probably do exist; like Leibniz and Newton both developing calculus at the same time, I think using Twitter for giving papers is just a logical extension of the emergent technology of Social Media1.

Whatever the case, new or same-old same-old, #twecon was, I think, a resounding success. Mike Dickison has written his thoughts up about the affair over at Statistically Improbable Phrases. Cheryl Bernstein has also shared her thoughts on the matter over at Art, Life, TV, Etc.

My thoughts, such as they are:

1. Choosing, arbitrarily, to limit papers to six tweets or less, was a good idea. It forced me, at the very least, to focus my argument on the essentials.

It also made me realise that some of the terminology in my thesis is just there to make things look fancy; when it comes to turning the thesis into a book I know what terms are going to get the boot.

2. The 140 character limit to a tweet was also a hidden bonus (as kids might say); once you numbered the tweet and added in the hashtag you were down to 132 characters. If you added in a link or a photo, well, that made it even harder.

Academics like to think that they are clear and succinct, but that’s a lie we tell ourselves, mostly to justify our use of (increasingly) wanky jargon. Whilst I didn’t end up using any txt spk or the like (because I’m a wanker who thinks he is above such things as letting the language evolve to suit new forms of communication), keeping my premises/tweets to under 132 characters was really quite a challenge and I’m glad I spent a fair bit of time writing and rewriting my paper to get it to the fit the limits. The constant rewriting actually allowed me to add in an extra premise when I realised that two tweets said essentially the same thing and could, with a bit of license, be rewritten into one.

3. Next time (and there will be a next time) I think I’ll announce the conference and start accepting papers and not have a final due date for paper titles and abstracts.

I ran this conference as if it were a fairly standard academic affair, and, really, I think it would be better to just let paper suggestions come in right to the last second. I don’t know, actually; I keep changing my mind on this one. Maybe make the due date the day before the conference?

4. Not having a brief for the conference was good; I imagine that had I said “Philosophy Twitter Conference” I’d have had two papers and about as many followers of the hashtag. An open brief meant an exciting diversity of content.

5. I wish I could find out how many people were following the #twecon tag.

6. I’m very tempted to announce the next conference now, but that might be a silly idea. Still, I might make the Episto Twitter Conferences a quarterly affair, with a yearly Proceedings published in December or January.

7. Whilst, conceivably, tweet-papers (someone suggested I coin the term “epistotweets”) can be written up quickly, having a suitable topic upon which to base such a paper requires a lot of thought.

8. A lot of people, after #twecon, have said they wished they had known about the conference as they would have liked to have presented at it.

I originally only wanted to advertise the conference via Twitter to see just how well that would work, but the problem with tweets is that they can be very easily glossed over. I might lean upon friends with both twitter accounts and high-traffic blogs to aid and abet the next call for papers.

9. Which brings me to my last thought. Twelve papers, an opening and a closing address were conducted yesterday.

When I posted the opening address at nine yesterday morning I worried that the conference would be over in about an hour, with everyone rushing to put their material up. In fact, we finished at about six, and we only had one case of two presenters posting at the same time. The day actually felt quite busy, in part because of the aforementioned surprising amount of content in the papers themselves. If we had more papers, would it have been two busy? Or am I just being a bit old-fashioned? You don’t have to read the papers live…

I’m proud of the 1st Episto Tweet Conference. It worked, and worked well. The reason why it worked was that the presenters all had interesting material and worked hard to offer it up in six tweet-sized pieces. So, really, I’m proud of all of you who presented material yesterday. You all rock, as the kids definitely do say. You’re all awesome; you’re all O for awesome.


  1. That’s probably the wankiest thing I said in a while. Well, the last five minutes.

About Matthew Dentith

Author of "The Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories" (Palgrave Macmillan), Matthew Dentith wrote his PhD on epistemic issues surrounding belief in conspiracy theories. He is a frequent media commentator on the weird and the wonderful, both locally and internationally. On occasion he can be caught dreaming about wax lions but, mostly, it is rumoured he works for elements of the New World Order.