Autism Twitter Day, A Digital Scrapbook


Yesterday I briefly blogged about an event that was going on right that moment — Autism Twitter Day. What is Autism Twitter Day? Well, yesterday it was the first ever Twitter-based 24-hour international marathon discussion of autism, Asperger Syndrome, and autism spectrum disorders by the people who have it, their parents, family and loved ones, all talking about care, treatment, education, interventions, strategies, blessings, gifts, talents, grace, challenges, anger, insurance, and much much more.
Now, I had been informed beforehand that this was going to happen, but beforehand, it seemed like just one more social media do-right event. There are lots of them, and I attend or help with as many as I can, and they ALL seem to have wonderful things happening. This one was something magical. It far surpassed any of my expectations, which were admittedly vague. There was a synchronicity, a dynamism, an energy to the event that crested early and just kept going.
I came into the event pretty late — it was already midafternoon. I had missed most of the early discussion. I quickly realized something special was going on, and wanted to capture the archive, but discovered that I was already too late – Twitter Search allows you to capture the archive for a topic going back 100 pages, with an average of 15 tweets per page (roughly 1500 tweets maximum in the archive). I’m not sure when the even actually started, but by 3pm the 100 page limit was only going back 6 hours — about 10am. The first several hours of discussion are forever gone.
As soon as I realized the problem, I did what I could to capture the conversation and archive it, with the assistance of AJ Turner who wrote a script to harvest what was available then of the archive. I supplemented with a lot of cutting and pasting, and will be attempting to glue together pieces. Why I mentioned this is because knowing that I missed several hours worth of conversation, I still have around 5,000 tweets in my collection. If that collection represented the entire 24 hour period, it would average at about three and a half tweets per minute on autism throughout the day. Trying to not just keep up with the flow of conversation, but to also contribute to it!
For comparison with other trending topics, today the 100 page archive for Obama goes back 4 hours, for Santa 6 hours, Xmas 5 hours, and for iPhone 4 hours. The day of the Autism Twitter Day event, the stream of discussion about autism was so intense that twice during the day it outstripped every other topic on Twitter. For one December day on Twitter, autism was bigger than Obama, bigger than Xmas, bigger than Santa. WOW.
I tried to capture a bit of the flavor of the event, from how it was arranged and managed, to the significance for the participants. While autism as a condition is on the rise in America, it is still a topic about which most folk are pretty uninformed. Trust me on this. My son is on the spectrum, albeit on the high end of the spectrum, and I know just how little knowledge is typical from conversations with people at church, in the community, peers at work, and even more surprising educators and clinicians who are in the situation of working with my son professionally. I belong to a couple family groups, email groups, subscribe to a couple newsletters and magazines. I buy books that I skim and mean to read but never manage to finish. You know the drill — what you do when you need to know and care but can’t always cope beyond just getting through the day. On any given day, I might typically receive and notice from one to a half dozen communications about autism spectrum concerns. Comparing that to the thousands that streamed past during Autism Twitter Day is impossible.
The following slideshow is a very selective overview of highlights from the amazing people who highjacked Twitter for a day to function as an autism awareness and advocacy tool, and the amazing experience that was Autism Twitter Day.
Disclaimer: Autism Twitter Day was an amazing experience, but was almost too much to absorb. I suspect that each person to participate experienced the event quite differently. This collection represents only my personal experience and highlights from the event.
This is what the presentation looks like on my computer (since it didn’t translate quite right into Slideshare).
Autism Twitter Day, A Digital Scrapbook
This is what it looks like in Slideshare. The important part is you still get the general idea about some of what happened in the event.

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