Is it good or bad to tweet during a webinar? That's what Ken Molay is pondering on The Webinar Blog, and it's something I've wondered about, too. I've moderated a few webinars this spring, and we did keep a Twitter chat on a related hashtag going before, during, and after the webinar. I'd be tweeting snippets, and the presenters would join in when they weren't presenting, as much as they could. And of course a some in the audience and others who just stopped by the hashtag also contributed to the chats. We even have a dashboard that allows participants to easily tweet (and post to Facebook and LinkedIn) right from the webinar interface. But is it a good idea?
Ken calls it a double-edged sword. On one side, it's a great way to promote the event, the presenter, and the topic, and it allows those who can't attend to follow along at least somewhat. On the other side, he worries that all that tweeting takes away from the learning when people are more involved in tapping out what he just said instead of taking in the next point. (As a presenter, he doesn't want to have the distraction of following the hashtag in real time.) I'd add that the distractibility factor is already pretty high on a webinar, and adding in social commentary could make it harder for people to keep up than in live events.
But I also think it depends on the person. I know some people use Twitter as a notepad--that's how they record what they're learning, rather than using a pen and paper or a Word document or whatever (a practice some think should be outlawed). I know others who find it incredibly distracting and want to digest what they learn before they talk about it, whether on Twitter or a blog or face to face to a colleague in the office. I remember reading, but now of course can't remember who or where, about one speaker who asks the audience not to tweet or live-blog his sessions—he wants them to take some time to think and make the info their own before sharing.
I don't really see it as anything as sharp as a sword. There are benefits to both of the aspects Ken points out. If you're into sharing, using Twitter for notetaking, or just like the instant gratification of getting the info out there, and your brain can handle the multitasking live-tweeting entails, go for it. If not, don't; let what you learn mix and mingle and turn into something even better that you can later share. Or do both, or neither.
We all learn and use our learning in different ways. As the minister who married my husband and I said during pre-marital counseling, the most important thing is to learn to respect the differences. I have found that to be one of the truest and most useful pieces of advice I've ever received for not just staying happily married, but for life in general.