Tuesday, December 27, 2016

#AAS229: Making the Most of the AAS Winter Meeting with Twitter

It can be intimidating to attend the AAS winter meeting, especially the first time. This winter ~2500 astronomers will gather in Grapevine, Texas to exchange ideas, discuss research, and network with other professionals in astronomy. The program can be overwhelming, with thousands of oral and poster presentations as well as dozens of workshops and events. But for our relatively small community, it’s also a fun week to reconnect with friends and meet new people who may become lifelong colleagues. 

This guide is for those who are looking to expand their AAS experience by utilizing the power of Twitter. We highlight some great ways to connect digitally at the conference.  If you have further suggestions for how to make the most of AAS+Twitter, please contact Nicole or Jessica and we will add them to this post.

Twitter is for Anyone
You don't need to have a twitter account to consume public twitter posts. Even if you don't consider yourself a social media person (and you don't want to sign-up for your own twitter account) you can still read posts by others by going to twitter and reading AAS-related posts and hashtags.


One of the best aspects of Twitter is its ability to connect people who may not otherwise interact. You can use the conference hashtag to find out about meetups or other events you might want to attend. If someone gives a fascinating talk about an alternate career you’d like to pursue, you can reach out via Twitter to invite them to coffee. If someone’s spot on commentary catches your eye, you can follow them to stay connected once the meeting is over. Sometimes engaging with other people on Twitter can lead to future projects or even scientific collaboration. Twitter can provide the means for mutually beneficial relationships just like traditional networking, with the added benefit of continued digital interaction.

Before the conference, you might want to start following some of the most active astronomers on Twitter.  Many of them will be tweeting from the conference and so by following them before the meeting you insure that their tweets will show up in your feed.  Here are some lists of active astro-tweeters:

When posting to any social media platform, it’s important to use hashtags to categorize your posts. This insures that other people can find your content and that it easily comes up in searches. At AAS
the meeting hashtag will be #AAS229. By using #AAS229 you are indicating that the tweet is about the conference. You can also use other hashtags to categorize your post by research topic, session, or location.  For example:
If you want to respond to someone on twitter, include them in the conversation, or give them credit for a piece of content, @-mentioning is the way to do this.  By @-mentioning someone (using their twitter username) you will send the person a notification that you are talking to/about them.  When posting content that someone else generated (like a talk or a poster) it is best-practice to give the person credit by @-mentioning them or mentioning them by name (if they don't have a twitter handle).  Presenters should include their twitter handle on their slides/posters so that it is easy for people to give the presenter credit when tweeting about their work.  Here is a great example of Carnegie giving credit to Erika Carlson in this post from #AAS228:
Please note that if you start a tweet with an @-mention only the person you @-mention and their followers will see the tweet, so it's common-practice to put a dot or a space before the @-mention if you want the tweet to be published to all your followers (H/T @astronomeara for the tip).

Live Tweeting
Because of the sheer volume of content at the AAS winter meeting, it’s impossible to attend every presentation. That’s why tweeting about sessions in real time (live tweeting) is so important: it allows attendees to catch the highlights of the talks they missed, and folks at home can take part in the conference from afar. Live tweeting is a service to the community that makes the AAS conference more accessible.

One downside to live tweeting is that you can miss some of the presentation as you’re typing. Using a laptop or a tablet with a keyboard attachment can help with efficiency and also conserves precious phone battery life. 

You can see what other people are tweeting by searching hashtags or clicking on the hashtag from a Tweet. This can be useful if say, you are interested in two sessions that are happening at the same time and you want to know what's happening in the one you couldn't attend. When tweeting about a session, it’s helpful to state the presenter, topic, and room number as the first tweet, then continue tweeting as a thread. Which leads us to...

Proper Threading
It’s important that all tweets in one group (say, from one specific talk) can be read as a single thread. This will make it easy for anyone to get your commentary for that talk in one place. To build a thread, post your first tweet as you normally would. Reply to that tweet, erase your username (it automatically appears) and write your next comment. Continue replying to each subsequent tweet - not the original one - and Twitter will configure all the tweets as a thread. Now, when someone clicks on any tweet in that thread, they will see the other tweets displayed on the screen as well.  You can also thread tweets by using one of the tweet-storm tool listed below.

Twitter Tools
Many people find it useful to use tools like TweetDeck to organize their twitter feeds so that they can group tweets by topic/hashtag.

TweetDeck with #AAS229 hashtag and Astronomers list

There are also tools like Storm it and Tall Tweets which will automatically turn a paragraph of text into threaded tweets or image tweets if 140 characters is not enough to get your point across.  Here a list of tweet-storm tools.

After you have gone back to work and the conference dust has settled, you may want to create a Storify of your favorite AAS highlights. Storify is a website that allows you to piece together all your tweets (and any other public tweets) into a story that anyone can enjoy. It’s easy to do, but time consuming if you’d like to include content that others posted throughout the conference as well as your own. Storifying is also considered a service to the community, since folks who were not able to attend the meeting can read the main points in a single place. It’s best to complete your Storify within a few days to a week after the conference is over, while it is still fresh on everyone’s minds.

In the digital age, social media can be a powerful professional tool, and astronomy is no exception. We hope this quick guide will make the AAS conference a little easier, more enjoyable, and more fruitful. See you at the meeting, and happy tweeting!

If you have further suggestions for how to make the most of AAS+Twitter, please contact Nicole or Jessica and we will add them to this post.