“It’s complicated”: A lesson in trying to summarize discussions in 140 characters…

… And then other people trying to summarize multiple 140-character tweets in a single tweet

Yesterday, I tweeted from a meeting session where some of the comments made in the room were too complex to summarize in a single 140-character tweet. When this happens, I use multiple tweets to summarize the comment, using “1/2”, “2/2” to show that a tweet is part of a series. But sometimes even then, it’s not possible to capture the exact words of someone in 140-character bursts that make any sense. When that happens, I try to find shorter alternative words, which invariably can slightly change the nuance of the person’s original comments. Often, I receive compliments from the speaker for summarizing in 140 characters what took them a much longer speech to explain. Sometimes I get it plain wrong. When that happens, I retweet corrections sent to me via Twitter, or tweet corrections that people make at the microphone.

As usual, people who aren’t in the meeting room follow my tweet stream to follow the room discussions. In yesterday’s case, a person summarized some of my tweeted summaries in a single tweet. A couple of others objected to the secondhand summary, resulting in the summarizer trying to direct quote from my original tweets to explain where the summarizer had got the information from. Unfortunately, in summarizing the summaries, the original text was edited, but without the edits being clearly identified. In 140 characters, this is hard to do, of course. Compounding the issue, and spurring me to write this short post, was the fact that the discussion moved from Twitter to email, where the summarizer included text from my original tweets in direct quotation marks, but again with edits made  but not noted (I assume the summarizer made the edits in an effort to make the content clearer in the context of the emails). If the original email exchange had remained the quick and dirty exchange between the debating parties, I wouldn’t be posting this. Unfortunately, the email exchange was then cross-posted to a few mailing lists, which has resulted in people, who had neither read my original tweets nor were in the actual meeting discussion, coming up to me and asking me what was going on.

As a freelancer who relies on a reputation of being a neutral source of information and analysis, for the record, I feel compelled to publish my original unedited tweets. The debate that resulted from the summary of my summary tweets is between the parties involved, and I have no wish to become involved in that discussion. Therefore, I am not naming the parties or mailing lists involved. It’s really not of any interest to the purpose of this post or to anyone outside the debate. I also take full responsibility for my original tweets. If I summarized in a way that misinterpreted the original comment, the error is mine alone.

Lessons learned

  1. Attempts to neutrally summarize what is going on can still be interpreted and used in very different ways. If possible, it might be useful that when people (including me) tweets their own conclusions based on content from someone else’s tweets, to also retweet the original tweets in their entirety. Alternatively, when summarizing or rephrasing the original tweets, be sure to use “[]” (often used in editing or academic circles) around any and all new text that may be added in an effort to provide clarity or further information not present in the original tweets.
  2. What can start off as a small discussion on email can easily be CCed to other mailing lists, archived forever, and have third parties wondering what on earth it’s all really about. So before dashing off a reply, thinking it’s only got a lifespan of minutes, think of it as living somewhere on teh Interwebs forever.
  3. Communication in any medium is subject to ambiguities and reuse. That’s life.

When I have time, I’ll update my Twitter guide based on what I’ve learned.

Stop the presses! ITU is not resolving to take over the Internet!

pp14-busan-twitterYesterday, at the ITU’s Plenipotentiary’s Sunday session, the Working Group of Plenary’s Ad Hoc Group on Internet-related resolutions agreed to remove the most controversial of proposed changes to ITU’s resolutions. You know the ones – the proposals have been  causing some in the Internet governance community, the media and a small smattering of Member States to flap about, telling anyone who’d listen, “OMG, the ITU’s about to take over the Internet!”

So, in today’s non-news, let me summarize what ITU Member States have not resolved to do in the Internet-related Ad Hoc Group:


1. ITU is not going to re-engineer the Internet. What has become known simply as “the Indian proposal” was not adopted by Member States. Instead, the Chair of the Ad Hoc Group on Internet-related resolutions will read a statement during the Working Group of Plenary today explaining that the proposal is not going forward as a resolution, but that the Ad Hoc Group welcomes approrpriate forums taking up the issues raised by the proposal.

2. ITU is not going to mention mass surveillance, or attempt to protect State sovereignty from unlawful surveillance at the international level through the development of international Internet-related public policy. In fact, the words “surveillance” and “privacy” are not going to appear anywhere in the four main Internet resolutions, 101, 102, 133 or 180. Despite this being the first big ITU conference since Snowden’s revelations, attempts to raise surveillance and privacy issues in Resolution 101 and 102 crashed and burned.

3. ITU is not going to investigate becoming an Internet registry or even mention that some developing countries want ITU to become an Internet registry. Proposed amendments from the RCC to Resolution 102, that would have inserted “considering further” and “resolves” text about ITU becoming an Internet registry was withdrawn last night.

I’ll blog about why these things happened later, but for now, I thought folks just might like to keep up to date with what isn’t happening at ITU Plenipotentiary.

The offspring of PP14 Working Group of Plenary

pp14-busan-twitterThe Working Group (WG) of Plenary is responsible for a seemingly endless number of proposed amendments to resolutions and proposed new resolutions. Clearly, not all of them can be thrashed out in the WG, so many have been spun out into smaller discussion groups.

In case you were wondering exactly how many Ad Hoc Groups (AHGs) and consolidation efforts had come out of the WG of Plenary to date, I’ve put together a quick chart. Click on the smaller image below for the full sized version:

wg-plenary-chart-v1A couple of explanatory notes:

  • I haven’t included the correct full titles of resolutions, but used shortened names in the chart.
  • I haven’t noted (yet) when a consolidation effort has already resulted in a document approved by the WG of Plenary.
  • I’ve put the chart together while also listening to PP14 sessions, so it may contain errors or be missing AHGs or consolidation efforts. If you notice anything missing or wrong, please contact me.

DiploRoo goes to ITU

DiploRoo first made its appearance at ITU Council 2014 in May and was an instant celebrity. Other Member States spent thousands on their election campaigns during Council. All Australia had to do was blow up a plastic kangaroo and delegates were lining up in the aisles to have their photos taken with the marsupial superstar.


DiploRoo was called on again to help Australia’s cause at Plenipotentiary. If anyone could help Australia be re-elected to Council, DiploRoo could.

A day in the life of a Diplomatic Kangaroo

It starts with a bus ride.


…Followed by a rather too intimate body scan at the security check point at BEXCO.


You brainstorm Australia’s last-minute Council election campaign strategy with the humans.


You then listen intently to Channel 1 (English) during Plenary.


Word gets around that a celebrity is in the room. (Standing on the desk at the front of the room makes you hard to miss.)


Everyone wants a photo with you.


You get papped.


Even your fans don’t always treat you with the respect you deserve.


You get a bit of loving, which makes things better.


You participate in the official Australian post-Council-win photo shoot.


Yet more fans want to meet you.


After a long day, you then spent hours debating text in a late-night ad hoc group, which leaves you feeling rather deflated.


Will DiploRoo make another appearance?

Keep an eye on late night ad hoc group meetings. He may pop in to brighten up his fans’ coffee breaks.

And a big thanks to the Aussie delegation, who provided me with photos 2, 3 and 5.