How The American Diabetes Association Unleashed The Streisand Effect

The Streisand effect is the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further public attention to it. (Wikipedia).

Once people are aware that something is being kept from them, they become highly motivated to access and spread the concealed information. Last week, at The American Diabetes Association (ADA) annual congress, the Streisand effect was unwittingly unleashed when the ADA attempted to ban photos and tweets of slides during presentations.

As described by cardiologist Kevin Campbell MD:

The fiasco began when an attendee posted a picture of slides on twitter — in an attempt to “LIVE Tweet” during a session on the recommended #ADA2017 Hashtag. The @AmDiaAsso twitter feed then began to post tweets instructing individual attendees to take down specific tweets that involved photography. In fact, the ADA twitter feed at one point was dominated by their repeated requests for attendees to delete tweets. Quickly, the censorship became the focus of the hashtag — not the science.

While stating their intention was to prevent unauthorized sharing of medical data to protect authors’ ownership rights, the ADA’s strong arm tactics reveal how hopelessly out of date they are in an age of open sharing and rapid global dissemination of information.

“Medicine is now digital and any effort to change that will be poorly received”— Kevin Campbell MD

In its “Photography and Audiovisual Recording Policy”, the ADA states: “Taking photos of or recording the content of meeting room slides, poster presentations, and supporting materials is prohibited, considered intellectual piracy, and unethical. Attendees who ignore this policy will be at risk of losing their badge credentials.”

Emily Kopp, writing for Kaiser Health News, points to the irony of applying the ban even to sessions about open innovation.

For reasons of time commitments, or financial barriers, not everyone who wants to be there in person can attend scientific meetings. Kaiser Health News brings up the $500-$900 ticket prices which precludes many physicians, researchers and patients from attending.

Conference attendees who tweet live from conference proceedings extend a meeting’s reach beyond its traditional temporal and geographical boundaries. Most meetings now promote live tweeting at their respective annual scientific sessions.

With the potential to reach anyone, anywhere in the world, live-tweeting has wide-reaching implications for science communication. Members of an audience at a scientific conference may tweet what they hear or see, and because these messages are free and open, they have the potential to reach anyone, anywhere in the world. This has profound implications for the communication of science, enabling discovery, discussion, teaching, and learning outside of the confines of the conference itself. As Dr Campbell points out:

Rather than only having 300 attendees hear Late Breaking Clinical Trials presentations, hundreds of thousands more can benefit from new treatment insights in real time when LIVE tweeting is promoted.

Mark Brown, a UK-based mental health advocate summed this up with his observation: “There have been many recent publications and events imploring us to have a national conversation about mental health. Why then do so many fascinating discussions happen at conferences, uncaptured and inaccessible to people wanting to join them?”

Brown believes “this democratisation of access is vital if we want to broaden our mental health discussions and raise the level of sophistication in our arguments and debates. For this to happen we need some brave souls who know how to cover an event via live tweeting and who are prepared to do so out of a sense of public service.”

It is my opinion that all healthcare conference organizers and attendees should consider how best they might use live-tweeting to enhance shared learning and extend conference proceedings beyond the event. Success is determined by the level of engagement of conference organizers with Twitter and active encouragement of tweeting before, during, and after the meeting. What follows are my suggestions for capitalizing on live-tweeting at your next event.

1. Create a conference hashtag

The first step is to create a conference hashtag (#) and let people know in advance what it will be. Your hashtag should be ready from the moment you begin promoting your event.

How to create an effective conference hashtag

  • Make it short. Remember people only have 140 characters to tweet with and you want to leave some room for re-tweets.
  • Make it intuitive and relatable to your event but not so generic that it’s confused with something else.
  • Make it easy to remember and type for delegates. Many will be tweeting from a smart phone or tablet.
  • Make sure it isn’t already in use. You don’t want to duplicate an existing hashtag which may result in two simultaneous but very different conversations colliding on Twitter. Do a Twitter search to find out.
  • Make sure it doesn’t have a meaning that can be misconstrued (check urban dictionary).
  • Monitor your hashtag on a regular basis to see if someone else is using it for something unrelated.
  • Register your hashtag with Symplur’s Healthcare Hashtag Project. Doing so will also allow you to access analytics after the event.

2. Promote your conference hashtag

Once you’ve decided on a hashtag, your next step is to promote it. Include the hashtag in all of your social media bios and your email signature. Print the hashtag on all your conference material and display your event hashtag as a Twitter feed on your website.

3. Appoint official “live-tweeters”

Designate a person (or persons) to live tweet from the event. Provide them with a list of speakers’ Twitter names, affiliations and links to their websites and blogs. Give them good access to the stage for live-tweeting photos and sufficient power supplies and chargers as back-up.

4. Be Responsive

People will use the hashtag to ask questions (what room is Session X in?) or alert organizers to a problem (lights not working in Room 3). Respond immediately to anything raised in real time, even if it is only to say you will get back later with an answer (and make sure you do). Use the hashtag to tweet announcements such as alterations to the program or room changes. It is also your responsibility to deal with any criticism and negative comments appropriately. Don’t forget to respond to positive comments too with a polite thank you or a re-tweet.

5. Encourage participation from conference “watchers”

If your conference involves a question and answer session, ask for questions from people ‘watching’ at home. This serves to increase the conference’s reach. Help session chairs to facilitate this by relaying these questions to them.

6. Archive Conference Tweets

After the event has finished, you can still add value by using a tool like Storify and/or Twitter Moments to archive tweets. You could also summarise the event in a follow-up blog, embedding selected tweets to illustrate your points.

We have now entered an era in which the digital world is disrupting the nature of medical and scientific meetings, much as it has done to other industries.

Source: Len Starnes The medical conference is dead, long live the medical conference

With virtual attendees set to outnumber in-person delegates in the future, the needs of virtual participants must be factored in to meeting plans. This goes much further than creating a meeting hashtag and requires a more strategic and far-sighted approach; one that is not limited to the duration of the meeting, but extends beyond the event (as illustrated below).

Source: Len Starnes The medical conference is dead, long live the medical conference

Above all, Conference 2.0 requires a paradigm shift in an out-moded meeting model of closed participation. It calls for an embrace of open dialogue and data dissemination, collaborative learning, and ongoing discussion.

Over 80 years ago, economist J A Schumpeter, first coined the concept of ‘Creative Destruction’ as one in which “the new does not grow out of the old but appears alongside it and eliminates it competitively.” What we are witnessing today is nothing short of a revolution in medical and scientific meetings, and to quote quantum physicist and author of Reinventing Discovery — The New Era of Networked Science, Michael Nielsen

Revolutions are sometimes marked by a single spectacular event, but often the most important aren’t announced with the blare of trumpets — they occur quietly and if you aren’t alert, the revolution is over before you’re aware it’s happening.

Related Reading

Diabetes advocate and ADA attendee, Renza Scibilia’s thoughts on the topic Welcome To The Internet

Linda Cann, ADA’s senior vice president of professional services and education, has made the following statement:

“After this year’s meeting, we will re-evaluate the policy and our legal obligations to the researchers who present at Scientific Sessions.”

Social Media Consultant. Keynote Speaker. Digital Storyteller.

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