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Twitter Chat 101 for #radonc

August 13, 2014

As the first radiation oncology Twitter chat approaches this Friday, one of the big questions many of you may have is: how do I participate? Some links were available on our introductory post.  If you don’t have a Twitter account, here is an overview on how to set up an account and of your account settings. I’d start following some people or cancer organizations to get a feel for the user interface, but basically new tweets show up at the top of your screen and the others flow downwards. To do a search for a person, Twitter account or hashtag, just use the search box in the upper righthand of your computer or smartphone screen. Our chat uses the hashtag #radonc. Twitter defaults to ‘Top Tweets’ but for the chat you can select ‘All Tweets’ to see a real-time conversation for anyone using the #radonc tag in any tweet.

For people to see your tweets in the live stream, you have to include #radonc somewhere in the tweet. Otherwise only your followers will see it. Think of the hashtag stream as a sort of interactive radio station. If you don’t use #radonc frequency, others don’t hear it. Using the tag allows other people interested in radiation oncology to discover you. It’s a great way to connect in general, but essential for a tweet chat to function.

Asynchronous chat

By tapping into the #radonc tag’s ‘All Tweets’ at this link, you can see what others around the world are saying. It may not be real-time but you can respond to them, and it will show up under their ‘Notifications’ tab. The asynchronous chat means anyone can comment and share whenever following the #radonc stream from Friday until Sunday 8PM Central Standard Time.
There are a whole bunch of abbreviations to learn. The etiquette for Twitter is abbreviated attribution of your sources. Here are the big ones:

RT = retweet.  Not radiation therapy! This is when you share the message unchanged.
MT = modified tweet.  It’s fine to edit a tweet to fit if you don’t change its substance. But acknowledge it’s your change.
HT = heard through/hat tip   You share something directly but acknowledge someone else gave you the idea/content.


Live Chat Preparations

The idea is that it’s more interactive like a real conversation. Many use the analogy of a cocktail party: network, banter, discuss important topics of the day. So how does that work on Twitter?


I usually have three tabs open in my browser on Twitter.
– One for the live #radonc stream: Click here
– One for ‘Notifications’ so I can see who is mentioning, talking to me
– One on my home page so that I can easily enter a new comment without interrupting the #radonc stream.


Some people prefer Hootsuite , Tweetdeck or others. The advantage of these tools is to preload tweets which can be particularly helpful if you want to cite data and give a hyperlink. You do have to sign up though and link your Twitter account to them. The disadvantage for me of using them is that my display is too busy and distracting to focus. You may have to tinker a bit and find what works for you.


Live Chat Etiquette

The usual pattern/etiquette of these chats is the following:
– Chat starts and people gab and introduce themselves for 5-10 minutes.
– Moderator calls chat to order (@Rad_Nation) with instructions then starts by posting first question.
– Discussion around a given topic should include the question. So for Q1 responses, usual replies and conversation something like
“T1: Radiation is an effective treatment to relieve pain and preserve bone integrity w/bone mets #radonc”

@Rad_Nation will keep moving the chat along. Each topic (T1-4 or so) will have approximately 10 minutes.

 It gets a little messy because some folks are still discussing T1 when T2 is started. But by numbering which question you’re on, participants who want to delve into a topic can linger, while those ready to move on can ignore the T1 tweets in the stream. It takes an extra second but makes the chat much easier to read and participate.

Keep in mind we will have the study author joining us. If chatter becomes a distraction from the main conversation, the chat moderators may politely ask that we focus on the topic at hand. If you want to chat with someone out of the main #radonc chat, you can always leave the hashtag out of your tweet. Then it’s not in the chat stream. Do keep in mind that regardless of whether it’s in #radonc or not, all tweets are public domain.


Conflicts of Interest

If we are discussing a topic for which you may have a financial conflict of interest that’s no problem, but transparency is important. Consider sharing it during the discussion.

Any questions? Please ask in the comment section so we can help others.
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