Conference Tweeting or What Is Up With That?

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed: I was at a conference last week. Not only did I announce it several times, but I’m sure that the frequency of my tweets increased at least slightly. (Actually, I think it increased a lot, but who am I to say?)

The problem with tweeting from conferences is that it can easily scare those who don’t really have a connection with whatever I’m talking about. There probably were a couple of questions: What the hell is up with that? Why is she tweeting so much? And what’s she talking about? And why is she suddenly tweeting in English?

Well, there are answers to all that. But let’s begin from the start…

About the same time last year I was at a Lean/Kanban conference in Munich. Those were two days filled with talks, keynotes and pecha kuchas about Lean and Kanban, agile and processes.

I didn’t really think about it when during the first talk I unpacked my laptop and began tweeting about what was happening on stage. Even better, and faster than I expected I got feedback. People replied to my tweets, retweeted and faved them. Pretty quickly there was an official hashtag for the conference so that it was even simpler to follow all the tweets between and during the talks.

„Ah, you are Anne. I think I’ve retweeted you“, someone said when I sat down for a talk. I’m not one of the hot shots of the Agile scene, but using Twitter made it unbelievably easy for me to get to talk to other people. After all, we had been going back and forth on Twitter all day.

It was at this conference that I learned how to use Twitter. Before that I didn’t really feel comfortable replying to people who didn’t follow me. I thought it would seem weird, even a bit pushy, since – after all – they didn’t know me. At the Lean/Kanban Conference I learned that this is bullshit. Twitter, for me, is best when used as a tool for communication and that’s what I’ve been using it for ever since.

A lot of the people I started to follow at this conference, I still follow. Some people who started following me then actually still follow me, although a lot have dropped out when they realized that usually I don’t actually tweet in English and very seldom about software topics. I can’t blame them. But it means that I’m even happier for those that stuck around.

This year, once again, I was at a conference. This time it was the Agile Testing Days in Potsdam. Because I was pretty certain that I knew what was about to happen I wrote a couple of warning tweets, including the hashtag of the conference. And indeed it was just as predicted: The minute the first keynote started I was there with my Laptop tweeting along and following the tweets of my fellow conference tweeters. Of course I wasn’t alone, actually a lot of the speakers of the conference were big on Twitter, too. There was Lisa Crispin, active as always, as well as Mike Scott and Matt Heusser (whose talks I unfortunately missed), Sigurdur Birgisson and Huib Schoots, who walked up to me during one of the words saying „I have to meet you, I’ve been retweeting you all day“.

The experience basically was the same as last year. The timeline was busy with people writing, replying, retweeting and faving. I seem to be at least fairly good at what I call „conference tweeting“, at least that’s what I gather from my average retweet quota. Conference tweeting isn’t actually that easy and has some disadvantages. First of all, it’s hard to adequately squish the content of a 45 to 60 minute talk or keynote into a couple of 140-character-or-less snippets. And secondly, it does require some of your concentration. I’m still busy repeating these last three sentences in my head to write them down as truly as possible while on stage it just goes on. Nobody waits for me to be done with that tweet.

It’s a trade-off: Trade you loads of awesome interaction and communication for a certain percentage of your concentration. But since I believe that this interaction and communication is one of the most important things at a conference I’m happy to trade. I can understand why other people won’t do it, though.

But I will keep on doing it. For all my „normal“ followers, there’s no need to be scared. I don’t go to conferences that often, and it’s likely to stay that way. But maybe now it’s a bit clearer why I do what I did. And if you don’t happen to find what I tweet from conferences interesting I’m sure there’s a neat filter option in your Twitter client that you wanted to try out anyway.

Most of all I was amazed that some of my tweets actually got positive feedback from people who were not at the conference, sometimes not even involved in software development, but still seemed to like what I was writing (or at least some of it). I actually would like to write about „Agile“ for non-software people, but I will have to think about finding the right angle to attack this huge topic. We’ll see.

After all, you can have a lot of fun on Twitter. When in the first keynote of the conference, Scott W. Ambler said „in the real world“ one time too often, Gojko Adzic couldn’t help but writing:

another f*ing „in the real world“. does everyone else live in the unicorn land? #agiletd

Gojko Adzic, November 20, 2012 10:05


new task for #agiletd speakers. add unicorn pictures in your slides

And that’s why at least 75 percent (that’s a complete guess, by the way) of the presentation suddenly contained unicorns. This caused enthusiastic cheers from those who knew and some irritation for those who didn’t know what the hell that was about. It wasn’t until the second day when I realized that in this case, what happened on Twitter kinda stayed on Twitter, when I overheard a conversation from three conference participants who tried to figure out what was up with the unicorns. Apparently they didn’t use Twitter.

I love tweeting at conferences. Before you know it you are in, communicating, getting to know awesome people and having fun. It’s also great for those who cannot make it to the conference but get to follow it at least a little via Twitter. If anyone is looking for professional conference tweeters for software or internet conference, I’m totally up to it! Although I’m sure there are lots of people who will be there anyway willing and able to do the job. (Damn.)

(All) Boys Club Follow-Up: Links and Stuff

There are a couple of interesting organizations and articles regarding the gender gap I talked about in my last post. I only have listed a few here, if you know more, please don’t hesitate to post in the comments or send me a mail.

There’s the Ada Initiative and Ladies Learning Code, both non-profit organizations aiming to get more women into coding by organizing conferences, workshops, trainings, etc. You can also check to see whether there is a Girl Geek Dinner organized in a city near you.

Then there’s a very cool blog post on the Fog Creek Blog called Girls Go Geek… Again! which (amongst other things) briefly sums up the history of women in programming and includes an article with a female developer at Fog Creek Software.

Another nice article over at Sharp Skirts focuses more on the communication differences and what it means in the workplace and it’s called Girl Developers vs. Women In Tech: More Conversations That Need To Change.

My favorite article though is located over at Microsoft, more specifically Jennifer Marsman’s MSDN blog. It deals with the question why there are so few women giving talks at conferences. This is one of the articles I routinely search for and link when someone asks the „Why so few women?“ question. It’s called Why are more women not speaking at technical conferences? Insights from the WiT discussion at CodeStock and most of all it’s awesome.

Yeah. And there’s this. I thought you shouldn’t miss this.

How Well Did You Sleep Last Night?

P1010928A couple of months ago I got a wakemate to track my sleep. Actually, I had told my husband about it and he asked me to order one for him. When it finally arrived he didn’t really bother to set it up, so I started to use it instead and now it’s mine.

Here’s what it does:

1. It tracks my sleep and uses the data to analyze my sleep patterns.

2. It wakes me up at the best time within a 20 minute time frame.

As you can see, the wakemate has been used a lot. I usually wear it on weekdays when I have to get up early, but also occasionally on weekends and when I’m on vacation because I’m curious how my sleep patterns change.

What it does is that it tracks my movements during the night and somehow figures out how deep my sleep is based on that. I was sceptical at first, but it seems like Actigraphy, for that is what it’s called, is a standard method to measure sleep patterns.

I’ve also noticed that whenever I remember something about last night’s sleep I can usually trace it back in the data from the wakemate. So if it takes me longer than usual to fall asleep or if I wake up in the middle of the night, I found that this is reflected in that night’s sleep graph. I still can’t tell whether I really had a deep sleep phase when the wakemate says I did, but since the data I can check is usually correct, I’m pretty confident that the data the wristband collects and how it is analyzed isn’t complete nonsense.

As for the waking part, how it works is that you choose the time that you need to wake up the latest and the wakemate tries to find the best moment to wake you up in the twenty minutes leading up to that time without disturbing your sleep pattern. If it can’t find the best moment it will just wake you up at the latest possible moment. The theory is that you will feel better and more awake when you haven’t been woken in the middle of a deep sleep phase.

While this seems to work well, it unfortunately doesn’t work so great for me. The problem is that I’m a big lover of the snooze button and it’s not so much that I am too tired to get up, most mornings I’m just too lazy. So I ignore the wakemate alarm and just wait for my regular alarm to go off. And then I hit the snooze button three to seven times and then I get up. But that’s not the wakemate’s fault. I have noticed that sometimes I’m half awake and the moment my brain starts to work in consistent thoughts the wakemate alarm goes on. Which is another indicator that the movement measuring seems to work fine.

Vollbildaufzeichnung 11.01.2012 193629.bmpYou can track your patterns on the website of the wakemate. You need some kind of mobile device (Android, Blackberry or iOS) which connects to the wakemate via Bluetooth. This device will also transmit the data to the wakemate server and also provides the alarm clock feature –  basically: There’s an app for that. You can then check your nightly graph, compare graphs, add tags and look at some statistics.

Basically I know now that on average:

  • It takes me 8 minutes to fall asleep.
  • I wake up 2 times a night.
  • I sleep for 6 1/4 hours a night.

The last one isn’t quite true, since I usually sleep for at least another 30 minutes after the first wakemate alarm has gone off. Also, I don’t always wear it on days when I don’t have to get up in the morning, which are probably the nights I sleep a lot longer to make up for my lack of sleep during the week.

There are other devices similar to the wakemate, wristbands, but also headbands. I like the wakemate, because it’s relatively hassle-free (I also haven’t tried any other devices, so I can’t really compare). The only complaint I have is that the band has already widened with time and I’m not sure whether that affects its measuring precision. Scott Hanselman tried the Zeo headband and wrote about it here.

 I don’t claim that the science is soundproof and totally accurate, but from what I can tell it works surprisingly well and is quite a fun way to check up on what’s really happening when you sleep.

(It’s also fun to walk into the office in the morning and with a loud voice claim that “Last night I got a sleep score of 85! Woo-hoo!”)

The Technology Gap or Why I Should Not Email My Parents (and a Bit About How Little I Like Phone Calls)

My parents are not technophobes. They’re not technophiles either. They’re somewhere in between.

We had our first computer in 1985 or so. We actually went through two computers, the first with green letters on black, the second orange on black before we got our first all colors Windows computer.

I distinctly remember one program where you could enter a combination of letters and numbers and you would get beautiful patterns painted on the screen. That was the green computer. If someone could identify this program (or the computer) for me, I would be much obliged.

I also remember our printer with TWO different fonts and you could buy some kind of extension to get an additional FOUR more fonts. (We never got the extension. It was very sad.)

I do remember navigating through the file system with only the keyboard, using arrows and function keys to write stuff or play games where the monsters were Hs that you needed to crush between square blocks. It was kinda awesome. And hell, I created my first database of the CDs I owned (Or was it taped videos? Whatever.) with Quattro Pro. Yeah, you heard right. Quattro Pro. At some point in my life I knew how to work with that.

So as far as I was concerned there was always a computer in the house. My mother was less interested, but she would always hold the high score in both Solitaire and Moorhuhn. (She was crazy good at Moorhuhn.) Once she found something that she liked she would learn the exact steps she needed to get it to run and then she was happy.

I tell you all this to explain that both my parents view on computers is mostly that it’s something that helps them do something they like or need to do anyway and that’s it. My father uses it to save and listen to the recordings he makes of bats (no kidding!), my mom uses it to research antique stuff, and from what I hear (and have witnessed myself) my father spends a lot of time browsing YouTube for music videos.

A couple of months ago we got to talk about communication and social networks. Apparently my cousin had showed them my Facebook page, and though my mother has no real objections she really doesn’t see the need for something like Facebook. For her putting your personal stuff on the internet is somewhat strange and I guess she just doesn’t see the point.

My parents seem to be phone and meet people. What I mean by that is that they seem to prefer phone calls and meeting in person to email or anything socially networky. Communication via email, chat or whatever else there is on the web is a very unnatural means of communication for them.

My father does have an email address – he has two actually, but I’m not sure if he’s ever used the second one -, my mother has none. Sometimes I sent them little mails with links or just a short message about what I have been up to. I’ve learned that they don’t regularly check their mail, so whenever I sent something I am well aware that it could be a week or so before they actually read it.

What I wasn’t aware of was that the emotional reasons for the phone versus email thing would be so different from what I would have expected.

I don’t particular enjoy phone calls. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I don’t specifically like to be called or to call someone. That is not to say that I hate it with a passion, it’s just that I don’t enjoy it. I can enjoy a specific phone call and I don’t despise you for calling me. But I am not someone who calls someone up just to talk (except for my husband, my parents and my grandmother). In fact, I don’t even have a mailbox because I don’t want people to be able to leave me messages making me feel forced to call them back. Ugh. Never.

When I want to just say hello, how are you, what have you been up to, I would probably write a mail. Or post something on Facebook. Or whatever. For me that’s saying: „Hello, thought it was time to say hi again. Nothing urgent. Let’s get in touch. How are you? Reply when you find the time. Thanks. Bye.“

I thought that was the normal conception: Phone is immediate. Talk to me now. I called you. Pick up. Email is relaxed. Just thought I’d say hi. Don’t hurry. No rush.

For my parents somehow the emotion is reversed. When they get an email they feel pressured. They think they are somehow required to reply with a carefully put together mail. They feel like it’s something at least partly official or at least formal. Especially my mother, who still needs a lot of time typing, feels pushed into doing something that she doesn’t really like to do. An email, for her, is time-consuming as well. Not quite the five minutes I take to write a quick reply.

There was no special point to the discussion, but it was interesting to hear such a completely different take on way to communicate than what I feel myself. I’m not saying either of us is right or wrong. We’re both right, because it’s just a personal experience and preference of how to communicate with other people. I tried at least to make my parents understand that I was pretty sure that when someone was sending them an email it wasn’t meant to make them feel pressured for a response, probably rather the opposite.

I’m calling this the technology gap because I’m pretty sure that it’s not a generation gap. I know a lot of geeky people on the internet who are as old or older than my parents and who probably use the internet as well and heftily or even more so than I do. And I’m bad. I think it’s a technology gap. It’s a question of interest and whether you feel comfortable with delayed and somehow removed communication or if you prefer talking to someone directly. The gap will probably get closer but I’m not sure if it will go away completely. It’s probably a good thing if it doesn’t.

At least now I know a little bit more about what my parents think about communication and it actually really helps to know why they feel the way they do and why I shouldn’t expect my mother to write me a mail. It’s okay. I can call.

One other thing: My mother now has an Android phone and while she’s not thrilled with the touchscreen („I always touch something that I didn’t intend to touch“), she said that she planned on keeping it. She even signs up for a limited data plan whenever they’re not at home to be able to access the internet when she needs to. So I’m curious to see how that works out for her.

And another thing: I’m apparently not alone in this. I once read a blog post somewhere (I really don’t remember where) on the web, comparing phone calls to someone just walking into your living room and expecting you to interrupt whatever it was you were doing and TALK TO THEM NOW! And I was thinking, YES, YES! That’s exactly it. I guess I am just not really a phone person.

This is the original quote and below are two links (one to the quote source and one to an article of someone who shares the feeling). Enjoy.

I am one of those people. But let me explain something to you. The telephone was an aberration in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior. We have a thing now called THE TEXT MESSAGE. It is magical, non-intrusive, optional, and, just like human speech originally was meant to be, is turn based and two way. You talk. I talk next. Then you talk. And we do it when it’s convenient for both of us.

Original quote

Response on Prickly Goo