Reclaim the Stream: Why Community Behaviour Matters

Shortly after I shared this blog’s first post the #MLA13 stream on Twitter started to get badly spammed.

This is a basic, clear post explaining why spam happens (please do ignore the comments, though, which miss the point).

#MLA13 getting spammed is not surprising. Any busy hashtag will attract spam. (Spam is automated: it does not care if you are an academic or a Lady Gaga fan, or both).

Spam does not appear randomly and it does not get sorted by itself: it is important not to ingore it. A hashtag stream can be completely ruined by spam. We must not let this happen and we cannot just leave it to spammers and move somewhere else (this has happened in other conferences).

It is very important Twitter users are able to distinguish spam accounts and do not follow them or engage with them; spam accounts must always be reported for spam.

You can also help by reporting the problem to Twitter Support:

We need educated community behaviour, if many hahstag participants take the time to report accounts for spam as soon as they start appearing it is possible to control the problem and even erradicate it for good. Communities of Twitter users that take care not to follow spam accounts and other spam applications tend to have spam-free timelines, even when they mention popular spam-attracting keywords like iPad, video-games or sex.

Can we please all get together and help ensure the backchannel fulfills its purppose? Let’s reclaim the #MLA13 stream! For some of us, following remotely, it is the only stream…


Not There, Yet Here


“…to know that writing compensates for nothing, sublimates nothing, that it is precisely there where you are not– this is the beginning of writing.”

―Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments



Welcome to MLA Commons. This is the first post I make on Far Away, yet Close, a site I thought I would set up to try to encourage or at least document some ideas/discussion on how those of us that for various reasons weren’t able to make it physically to the conference can still participate.

It is a cliché to say that online mobile communications are changing nearly every aspect of culture. Following the #MLA13 backchannel provides an (always partial) glimpse of what the conference is like. The distinction between those here/there blurs: “are you here?”

How can the MLA conference engage with remote participants? Can it be avoided? Should it?

I personally believe that remote participation and online engagement is not a challenge to conferences but a perfect ally. I know some people disagree. It is true that online communications are disrupting the way academic events are taking place. I believe there are some good things about that disruption.

As attitudes to and levels of social media adoption vary wildly, it can be said that the academic backchannel is still relativelly a minority phenomenon, and those who choose to engage in the conference backchannel without being physically there might be an even smaller group. Nevertheless, no one can deny that (not only in the case of the MLA) remote engagement and participation with/in academic events via Twitter is rapidly increasing.

I just wanted to leave these quick notes as a my pinch of salt.

Greetings from London!