Facilitation Antipattern: Terrible Tweeter

Posted by Doc
Mar 06 2009

twitterMotto: I have important work to do, and can multitask.
: I am able to do multiple things at once, and give each the sufficient attention to get value from it. I’m not bothering anyone, so why not?
: Is typing on notebook computer, sending and receiving emails and tweets and IM on phone, and/or working on paperwork regardless of what else is going on.
Characteristics: Articulate, connected, overcommitted, busy, self-focused

Someone suggested calling this one “Typist” or “Emailer” or any of a number of other things.  They all apply.

I was giving a presentation the other day at ITARC Atlanta, and a friend of mine was sitting in the back of the room with his computer open. It was a large room, with about 12 rows of tables and chairs, so my friend was way in the back. Still, I was aware of him working on his computer the whole time I was presenting. I knew he had a presentation the next day, and was probably working on his slides. I suspect that some of the attendees were aware of him working on his computer, and maybe it didn’t bother them. Still

First of all, it doesn’t matter what the Terrible Tweeter believes about themselves, it’s distracting for others. Seeing/hearing someone typing and reading on some device, while I’m trying to focus on the meeting, is just distracting. Period.

Second, having been guilty of this myself, I can tell you that it’s not possible to give more than one thing appropriate attention, nor to derive real value if you’re not paying attention. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “would you repeat that, please?” when doing something other than paying attention.

In fact, the Terrible Tweeter is one of the things I love about Open Space Technology. Why? Because folks who attend OS events seem to fully embrace the idea that anyone might not be completely engaged in what’s going on, and also that the spirit of OST allows them to say “what you’re doing is distracting me – would you mind either stopping or doing it elsewhere?” without leading to offense/hurt feelings, most of the time. It’s also entirely acceptable to tweet/blog/whatever within reasonable limits without it being distracting.

Take a look at the tweets that were posted during the recent ALT.NET Seattle Open Space Conference. There was a lot of value there. I have no doubt that some of the attendees were actually updating the event wiki during the sessions.

At most meetings and events, however, this kind of behavior is distracting and detrimental to the goals and purpose of the group.

Be engaged, or be disengaged. Don’t pretend to be one while doing the other.

The Terrible Tweeter is a perfect candidate for the Facilitation Four-Step.

3 Responses

  1. Twitter Comment

    RT @athought: Blogged: Facilitation Antipattern: Terrible Tweeter [link to post] for me even blackberries distract!

    – Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. Hillary says:

    I just had a twinge of retroactive mortification reading this–I often sit in sessions, open space or otherwise, with my laptop open. I’m not working on something else, but taking session notes–but it is true that there’s no way anyone would necessarily know I’m not working on some fool PowerPoint!

    I vastly prefer to record notes on my netbook, rather than on a notepad, as I am a fast typist and can capture salient points verbatim. I’m curious what others thing–is this inappropriate/rude?

    • Hillary,

      I’m sympathetic. I type MUCH faster than I write. If you want to take notes during a session, make it overt by asking the permission of the others. Make sure you state the benefits, without going overboard. Will you share your notes? Will you record action items? Or is it just for you? Any of those is okay, as long as you let everyone know.

      Letting them know is respectful, and takes away the negative stain that you accrue if they think you’re just being rude, inattentive, or distracting.


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