Backchannels are all the rage at tech events these days, connecting presenter and audience like never before. They allow audiences to get more value from a presentation by communicating with each other about it. And the audience can feed back to the presenter, which helps him stay on track and know that he is being understood.
But there’s a point where a backchannel goes beyond adding interactivity to an event and begins to undermine the event itself. In November, I witnessed this at the launch of UXMTL, a community for user experience design in Montreal.
Twitter has made setting up backchannels trivially easy — with or without the consent of conference organizers — since anyone can start a Twitter backchannel simply by using a hashtag. Unlike Google Moderator or Backnoise, no specialized software is needed. At UXMTL, the event organisers simply announced that audience members should use the hashtag #uxmtl on Twitter, and all tweets for that tag were displayed on a large screen behind the panelists, using Twitterfall. For me, this completely changed my experience of the event, both as an audience member and a backchannel contributor.
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