I have seen social media’s future – and it’s full of chest physicians (#CHEST2017)

Recent observations from CHEST 2017 by the inestimable Pat Rich!

Days of Past Futures


Last week, I spent valuable time jealously guarding the only power outlet in a conference hall of about 3500 people so I could live tweet the presentations without fearing suddenly losing power in my laptop. At least at that meeting I had a chair pilfered from the rows of interlocking seating rather than having to sit on the floor next to the outlet which has often been the case.

Imagine my awe to read that the American College of Chest Physicians annual meeting being held in Toronto this week was actually holding designated seating for live tweeters at its most important sessions. Wait, there’s more: Delegates were able to add an “I tweet” ribbon to their name badge at the conference as well as find designated selfie areas throughout the conference to take and share photographs.

In addition, many of the sessions were live-streamed via Facebook and YouTube, an educational…

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How I use tweet threads at conferences

I tweet 10-20 times per week on average. But I’m far more active on Twitter when I attend conferences. At conferences, I write as many as 300 tweets over two days. I use conference hashtags to share my thoughts, generate discussion, and disseminate others’ work. Conference tweeting is a way to electronically meet other attendees and have an online conversation with them. I try to use live-tweeting etiquette as much as possible.

Along with tweeting, I normally take notes on my laptop during conference presentations. Lately, along with my usual conference tweets, I have been writing what I call tweetnotes. These are tweet threads I write by tweeting my notes and threading together replies. The tweets become my notes, hence the term tweetnotes.

Before creating tweetnotes, I used to write a dozen or more discrete tweets during presentations. But I can thread tweetnotes together, meaning they can be saved as a narrative instead of a basketful of discrete tweets. In the past, I would scan through old tweets to find tweets from a specific presentation. Now, I just save or embed the tweetnote links and I can easily access the entire thread. Here are a few examples from the annual Qualitative Health Research conference I just attended.

Tweetnotes are useful for me and for others. For example, when I finish a tweetnote I will often retweet it with a summary of the presentation I attended. The presenter, conference organizers, and other audience members can now interact with either individual tweets or to the entire tweetnote. For example, CADTH retweeted my tweetnote on some presenters form their organization.

So far, I think the uptake of using tweetnotes has been well received by my network. What do you think of tweetnotes or other ways of using Twitter threads? Share your thoughts as a comment.

Rethinking qualitative research coding: insights from Sally Thorne

Sally Thorne’s Interpretive Description: Qualitative Research for Applied Practice is now in its second edition. Among many other qualities, it’s a thoughtful and pragmatic invitation for researchers in applied disciplines to rethink coding. I know this because something interesting happened when I recently attended Thorne’s workshop at the annual Qualitative Health Research (QHR)  2017 conference.

A bit of background: QHR is an excellent conference hosted by the University of Alberta’s International Institute of Qualitative Methods (IIQM). For full disclosure, Sally and I volunteer on the advisory board for IIQM. You might think I am writing this post because Sally asked…But it was actually another respected qualitative researcher who requested a summary of Sally’s workshop.

(It was at this point in the workshop that @trishagreenhalgh asked for a blog, so here we are. When Oxford’s inestimable Trisha Greenhalgh lurks the conference hashtag #QHR2017YQB, you’re doing something right.)

One of Sally’s most relatable points was that qualitative research often is taught as a set of highly procedural, theoretically dense steps. She’s not against using qualitative methodologies, but she reasons that educators, clinicians, and other applied researchers can be distracted by unnecessary methodological procedures.

Sally endorses an approach to qualitative data analysis that centres on how applied researchers understand their data, not how closely these researchers followed a procedural series of methodological steps. A breath of fresh air blew through the room when Sally said she believes coding can become the motivation and driver for research rather than research questions.

Sally defended her position on coding with two key points. First, she reminded us that it is easy to code but hard to uncode. Once we reify an idea into a code it becomes a knowledge object. From this position, then, it becomes difficult for us to ‘uncode’ our work because this involves destroying a knowledge object.

Second, Sally reminded us to consider how coding involves signification, the act of assigning a concept or object to a symbol. While signifying our ideas occurs as an essential part of qualitative analysis, Sally noted a common trend where researchers assign codes too early. Coding too early can negatively impact how researchers think about their data later in their projects. “Coding,” says Sally, “is not the same as deep, real exploration of qualitative data.” When we establish codes too early, they demand we feed them our data instead of supporting the development of new ideas.

Sally invited us to consider some alternatives to our impulse to name and label codes too early in the analytic process. Instead of labelling a code with a word, like Frustration, Sally recommends using labels like Category A or I don’t know why this is important yet. These techniques resist the urge to early labelling that can impact later and potentially deeper thinking.

Sally explained that she sees these coding problems frequently in manuscripts submitted to the journal Nursing Inquiry, of which she is the editor-in-chief. She describes under-theorized qualitative manuscripts that foreground codes as if they are analytic results in and of themselves. “I have 14 codes and 2 categories is not a finding,” quipped Sally to gales of nervous laughter. (Come on, we’ve all done this!)  Writing results involves not only summarizing the analysis, but also creating a rich narrative that can be applied in practice.

Oh. And hell no,  don’t even bring up saturation with Sally! She calls this concept a relic of the early days when qualitative researchers had to measure up to their quantitative colleagues. It’s “absolutely antithetical to applied health disciplines” because after all, “we would never trust a health professional who told us there was no more information to be found” on a topic.

I’ll let Sally’s last slide speak for itself. Needless to say, she’s amazing. Thanks for reading. I hope this was helpful. If you’re interested in this topic and you’d like to know more, please consider following Sally on Twitter as well as the IIQM. 


A word cloud of anti-diversity


I created a simple word cloud based on the text of the recent anti-diversity manifesto published by a now-disgraced former Google engineer. The visual speaks for itself, but I wanted to share some thoughts on the sentence where I simply stopped reading:

“Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.”

There are many statements I disagree with throughout this diatribe–and if you haven’t read it you’re not missing out on much. But this sentence rubs me raw.

Where do facts come from? The author should note well that emotional engagement is central to what propels science, research, and the people who choose scientific careers.  We gain nothing by separating so-called “matters of fact” from the emotional human contexts in which those facts exist, profligate, and influence human action.

Not only do we observe this artificial separation of reason and emotion throughout this manifesto, we frequently observe this separation used to justify the mythos of innate male and female skills and virtues.  Here is the link to the Gizmodo article containing both the original anti-diversity memo as well as the corporate reply from Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown.

What do you think? Let me know!