Monday, October 12, 2009

HighEdWeb Great Keynote Revolt of 2009 - Analysis

I've decided to do a bit of analysis of the backchannel during the 2nd HighEdWeb Keynote, in order to provide a little better understanding of what went on. Dave Ferguson has already done a bit of this.

First of all, in the hour from 11:59 to 12:59 (the keynote ended around 12:51) there were 536 tweets with the #heweb09  hashtag according to What the Hashtag. Of those, I counted 488 (91%) that were related to the keynote or the discussion of the keynote.

There were, according to my count, 155 retweets, 140 of which were about the keynote.

HighEdWeb 09 2nd Keynote Tweets

Virtually all tweets after 12:20 were about the keynote, and the peak of tweeting came at 12:43 with 22 tweets.

The "Snark" Factor

One thing I wanted to look at was the nature of the tweets during the keynote - were they positive, negative, respectful, disrespectful, etc.

In looking through the data, I didn't find a single tweet that could clearly be classed as possitive toward the presenter, so I was forced to skip that evaluation.

Then I went through and assigned a subjective 'snark' score to each tweet, where 1 = factual tweet with no sarcasm or criticism, and 5 = completely sarcastic/critical tweet, bordering on personally disrespectful. Here are a few examples:
1: Galper: "e-mail from a trusted source is the best way to communicate with students" #heweb09
2: How old is this presentation! #heweb09
3: I think it's safe to say David Galper won't be checking Twitter #heweb09
4: We need a drinking game for everytime he says "actually" and "actionable". #heweb09
5:OMG ICQ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #heweb09 i heard its still big in uzbekistan
Acknowledging that the scale is subjective, I assigned a 'snark' value to all 488 keynote related tweets. The chart below shows the average 'snark' score for all tweets during each minute of the keynote.


The second chart shows the number of tweets each minute by 'snark' score, where 5 equals the most critical and sarcastic tweets.


Note how the 'snark' factor rapidly rises after about 12:15, indicating that the speaker got nearly a third of the way through his presentation before the audience turned on him.

This paints a somewhat different picture than some of the commentators who weren't there indicate. Some have suggested that the Heweb09 audience was out for blood, but this analysis suggests that they actually waited until 15 minutes before turning on the presenter.

By that point, the audience had already been subjected to two extremely loud and confusing (irrelevant?) videos, a plug for a company no longer in existence, and a lot of talk about outdated technologies. Rereading the tweets, and having been at the keynote, it's possible that what might have finally sent the audience over the edge was a particularly egregious slide that was packed with dense paragraphs of texts. Or it could have just been the aggregate weight of how out of touch this speaker was with his audience and how out of date he was with his materials.

Regardless, after 12:15, the tweets began to get more and more critical and sarcastic:
12:17 - Best keynote EVER #sarcasm #heweb09
12:17 - Are you serious right now? I feel like an alternate universe. #heweb09
12:19 - David Galper, ur doin gr8, and ima let you finish, but @jmspool had one of the best keynotes ever! #heweb09
12:25 - Would he like the immediate feedback of us all walking out? #heweb09
12:25 - *insert ROLFcopter here* #heweb09
And by 12:28, someone suggested, "Can someone live-Kanye this guy? @fienen? #heweb09", effectively recommending that someone tell the speaker to shut up.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Takeaways from the Great Keynote Revolt of 2009

By now, the HighEdWeb "Great Keynote Revolt of 2009" has been commented on by a number of writers, including  Dave Ferguson (and here), Denise Graveline, Silicon Beach Training, Michael Fienen, and several others. I'm not going to go into the keynote directly, even though I was there. If you want background, read these posts or the transcript (beginning at 11:59AM).

I want to talk about something different. I want to talk about the keynote as a social experience.

Soon after the keynote began, @stomer commented:
conspiracy theory about the keynote: it's a test of the power of the back channel; social experiment. #heweb09
And what a social experiment it was. We were there as an audience, to participate by listening attentively to the presenter. But since the presenter failed to engage us, we turned our attention to the backchannel and began to partcipate with each other. But what we were participating in was not what the speaker was intentionally sharing.

The strange thing about that keynote was that it was the high point of the conference for everyone who experienced the backchannel. Not only that, it was a shared experience that bonded us together. I think that we all felt closer to each other by sharing that experience, by sharing our reactions with each other during the keynote, and by being able to share our thoughts and feelings with each other afterward.

It set the tone for the party that happened that night, and I know that we had a higher energy and a closer bond than we would have without that keynote. We all talked about it over and over that night, and it became a shared inside joke that anyone in the conference could refer to and that everyone would immediately understand.

The bottom line was that this was an intense shared experience that brought all of the attendees closer together, not entirely different from the way that survivors of a shared tragedy are often bonded.

Regardless of how I may feel for David Galper, I think that for the conference and for the conference attendees, this was an almost universally positive experience. Where before that keynote we were 450 mostly strangers, after it we all had something we had in common that we could connect on. I met and spoke to more new people in the day after that keynote than I had in the two days prior to it.

In the end, no one will remember my talk on redesigns three years from now, but everyone will remember the "Great Keynote Revolt of 2009". And they will remember it in a very positive way... in the way of how 450 mostly strangers came together in the backchannel to learn that they held common views and feelings and were able to share them with each other. It joined us and humanized us to each other in a way little else could have. In the end, regardless of any of the other presentations, this will probably be remembered as the best HighEdWeb conference ever.

You may be horrified that we would take that away at the cost of that poor man's ego, but I doubt many people there feel that way. If he was ridiculed, it was because he was in no way prepared to present to this audience.

The big takeaway of all of this for me is this: to make an event like this a true success, you have to find a way to bond people together in the experience of that event - to make that event a milestone in their lives. David Galper did that better than anyone I have ever met. It's only unfortunate that he did it unintentionally.