This weekend I had my first experience live tweeting a public event in the Boston area: the Ig Nobel Prize Informal Lectures, which were held in a large classroom at MIT.  The Ig Nobel awards are held every year by Improbable Research, which, in the words of the organization’s website, honors research “that makes people laugh, and then think.” That’s one way to describe the smattering of ridiculous research questions that are honored each year: this year’s winners included a biology prize for a man who alternatively lived as a badger, a deer, and a bird; a perception prize on whether things look different when you examine them from between your legs; and an “Ig Nobel Peace Prize” for the study of “pseudo-profound b*llsh$t.”

The winners were first honored at a ceremony at Harvard University on Thursday evening, and the informal lectures took place on Saturday to allow the researchers to attempt to explain “what they did and how they did it.” Fortunately for me, they were free and open to the public.

I had way more fun than I thought I would with this assignment, namely because I felt very at home spending two hours in a room full of exceptionally nerdy and quirky scientists. I also learned about some of the pros and cons of covering an event via Twitter.

Pros:

  • It was easy to post a variety of quotes, photos, and other multimedia (including videos).

  • Documenting this event so thoroughly means I’ll have a really clear memory of it – probably even weeks later.
  • Tweeting is way more fun than taking notes and writing them up after. It also made me feel like I was a real part of the conversation at the event.

Cons:

  • I felt a little rude being on my phone constantly, even though I was actively attending the event.
  • It was difficult to balance quality and quantity – did I post too many tweets? Did I make some mistakes that I didn’t catch? Did I miss any crucial details?
  • If I did make a mistake or publish something that I wanted to fix, it took extra time to delete the tweet and redo it. Sometimes I had to write a correction tweet, which was a little embarrassing. In short, it was hard to keep up.

Instead of posting most of my tweets here, I decided to try my hand at using Storify. Here’s the link to my story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this assignment and I’m glad it gave me an introduction to the Ig Nobel Prizes. I’m definitely going to keep my eye out for next year’s winners, and have also added the Improbable Research blog to my blogroll.

 

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