What a difference two years makes!

Only about 1% of the AAUW members ever attend convention, but many more are extremely interested in what happens.  As someone who’s been on communications teams at the branch and state level, I’ve been passionate about getting information out “to the folks back home” since my first convention in 1999. At first (1999, 2001), I was concerned about posting information of my personal activities (e.g. IT 2001 campaign), but then I started documenting the North Carolina delegation (2003, 2005, 2007). Those were mostly posts I did from my room after all the events were over.

In 2007, in response to the culture change to have more information immediately available, we also tried using twitter to get information out from the floor of the convention. Louse (@weegspin), Kate (@skeggy), and I (@nes49) were pretty much shouting into the void, though — there was no real way to get the word out to the members that another information stream existed. See the report on that experiment.

This year, however, there was a rich “twitter stream” on all aspects of the convention. Staff and members both contributed, and while there was limited “conversation” with the folks back home, at least the word got out to many who were able to follow along. See the transcript.

What changed? Here’s my list:

  1. Facebook happened. In the spring of 2007 a student from Alabama had started the first (and still the largest) AAUW Facebook group. After the 2007 convention, a second group was started by students from Illinois Iowa to help unite the younger members.  Starting in the fall of 2007, Facebook started attracting the “not so younger” members who were able to find each other, and they started conversations on how to use Facebook to advance the mission. The 2009 convention itself had a group.
  2. AAUW started a blog in early 2008. The staff’s use of “web 2.0” technology to raise awareness and support conversations legitimized the use of “putting unfiltered information into the public domain” in addition to the tightly controlled e-mail lists and the properly more formal research reports and www.aauw.org in general.
  3. In late 2008, AAUW committed to sponsor the Feminism 2.0 conference, and that conference in February, 2009, demonstrated the possibilities of both blogging and micro-blogging to forge connections and build support for a wide range of issues on the feminist agenda.
  4. So by June 2009, we had folks with blogs, facebook profiles, twitter, flickr and more who were ready to report back to the members at home about all that was going on. More than that, they could find each other and share photos, comments, and updates. I don’t know all that went into the staff’s decision not to publish a daily “newspaper” about the convention — but I think the coverage was pretty good without that extremely labor intensive project. Of course we’re still using e-mail lists and other tools to gather information for state newsletters and web sites, and more will be coming out in the next few weeks. But I think we did a credible job of getting the flavor of convention to those who couldn’t attend but were engaged enough to follow the information stream.

Again, I’m just seeing part of the elephant, but I have to give credit to Linda Hallman who took over as ED in January 2008 for supporting a culture that allowed this experimentation by the staff. Thanks, of course, to all the staff members and volunteers who participated. After such a big disappointment with twitter in 2007, this 2009 information sharing has been great.

I wonder what things will look like in 2011…

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