#AMIA2012 Trip Report: Best Conference I (N)ever Attended

[UPDATE: @AMIAinformatics kindly mentioned this blog post in two newsletters! 11.15.12 and 11.21.12. Thank you @AMIAinformatics. Also, since this post I've changed my Twitter name from @EHRworkflow to @wareFLO.]

I’ve live-tweeted lots of conferences, but I never live-tweeted a conference I didn’t attend. Until #AMIA2012. #AMIA2012 was the Twitter hashtag used during the recent American Medical Informatics Association Conference in Chicago.

When AMIA published their program, I published a blog post (EHR Usability, Workflow & NLP at AMIA 2012: Presentations You Don’t Want to Miss!) listing the tutorials, workshops, panels, presentations, and posters that I wish I could attend. Why? To get people to attend them and tweet so I could listen from afar.

That’s all I thought I’d do: listen. Ha. Check out the #AMIA2102 social analytics…


I was one top five #AMIA2012 twepes for mentions, tweets, and impressions (tweets times followers). That’s me, @EHRworkflow, in the “HatCam”.

Twitter has a neat feature of being able to embed tweets into a blog. I embedded the most interesting tweets (from my point of view) into my blog and wrote this post around them. For another example of this, see my Clinical NLP at 2012 NAACL Human Language Technology Conference.

“Two informaticians walk into a bar…” and This Blog Post Walked Out

The above tweet was a spark in a dry forest. Whoosh! Out of shear megalomaniacal grandiosity, I’ll include some of my own best efforts below. On November 7th, in Chicago, Illinois, before an assembled horde of medical informaticians, was unveiled the winner of the “Two informaticians walk into a bar…” Trademark Infringement Award:

Many thanks to @matlatzinca for capturing this moment for posterity. Yes, this was my personal favorite too! As well it was of many other #AMIA2012 attendees (see below). No, I am not bitter that another joke won the grand prize. To each their own. Humor is so ephemeral, so idiosyncratic, so, so, well, undrinkable (dratted spellchecker! Unrankable! Even spellcheckers have opinions these days!). But let me list some of the accolades for this joke, my joke, from some of the brightest lights in medical informatics today.

Here’s a few more of my other little gems. I promised @AMIAinformatics not to steal their thunder by publishing more than my own jokes. Fine with me. If you don’t get a joke, feel free to contact me.

Sorry @AMIAinformatics and @ekrub! Needed to set up my next (admittedly feeble <- BZZZZT! FALSE MODESTY ALERT!) joke.

Heh! See who I’m hanging with? “Love”!

I had my critics…

…and my defenders.

For all xs and ys, where x is an Informatician and y is an Informatician and x and y aren’t the same…oh, just forget it!

Oops! I need to move that closing outer bracket all the way to the end to scope the x and y variables past the walkIn2 predicates. This one won the Most Technically Appropriate (Super Geek) Award!

And this one won the Best Collaboration Award, with @techydoc.

Believe it or not, these stellar gems were just a tiny percentage of the extraordinary firmament that was “Two informaticians walk into a bar…” When the rest are showcased by @AMIAinformatics, I’ll add the link here.

Workflow and Usability: Pssst! Can I Interest You In A Blog Post?

“Workflow” and “usability” were big topics at #AMIA2012. (Check out the wordle, center-right) I knew they would be. Why not? I see so many headlines about EMR and EHR workflow and usability problems. Are they impeding adoption? What can be done? It’s a target-rich environment for medical informaticians interested in these subjects.

Which brings me to the question: Why bother?

Why did I spend so much time and energy following, tweeting, and writing this? I do have an agenda and I’ve found Twitter to be an excellent means to execute it. This blog has over a hundred posts, white papers, and presentations about EHR workflow and usability. I collect (”curate” in recent terminology) links on ehr workflow, usability and related subjects and publish them to a single-page, Drudge-style EHR.BZ Report on EMR / EHR Workflow, Usability, Productivity and Safety. Over 1600 links so far.

While following and tweeting and retweeting, I look for opportunities to slip a few of my links into the tweet stream. The jokes? A spoonful of sugar, so to speak, to help the medical informatics go down. I won’t belabor my views here, though I do hope you wander off into my blog to be belabored of your own accord, and therefore your own blame too. But I will include some of those “Pssst!… Can I interest you in a blog post” tweets here. By the way, lots of my tweets were retweeted (RT’d). The RTs don’t show up below unless they were old-fashioned RTs (manually created, sometimes to include a prepended comment).

So, my tweets are a bit like this blog post: subjects of general interest, to an admittedly specialist community, wrapped around serious stuff I aim get out to influence thinking about EHR workflow. (Isn’t there some metaphor involving Oreo cookies or pills in hamburger that applies here?) Anyway, back to a subject of increasing general interest: clinical natural language processing!

Clinical Natural Language Processing: Yup! … Another Blog Post.

In this case “Another Blog Post” refers to what you can do with tweets after they are live-tweeted during an presentation. They make a great outline on which to hang a subsequent blog post. This “Trip Report” blog post about attending AMIA 2012 via #AMIA2012 is *not* a good example. Wasn’t there; bounce around too much; not my purpose.

However, take a look at the preamble from blog post based on a more disciplined series of tweets from another recent conference.

“My goal was threefold:

  • Leverage social media content I went to some effort to create (the tweets).
  • Summarize current state-of-the-art clinical NLP research and directions.
  • Make it understandable to readers who are not computational linguists or NLP engineers.”

So you can imagine how pleased I was to find, amidst the 4500+ #AMIA2012 tweets and 500 or so #AMIA2012 tweeters, an absolutely exemplary series of tweets devoted to the Introduction to Clinical Natural Language Tutorial at #AMIA2012.

What I really, really like about the following sequence of tweets from@Sorena997 is that they meet all the criteria for live-tweeting a conference presentation. They have clear beginning and end. The beginning clearly establishes context. The end clearly summarizes the most important take-home point. In between, the tweets are easy to read, with correct grammar within Twitter’s space constraints. The tweets are uninterrupted by extraneous RTs and comments. They provide important keywords one would use to search for more information. While watching the tweets I had a second browser open in which I was Googling all sort of stuff: Polysemy, Negation, Uncertainty, Temporality, Implication, Wendy Chapman, Leonard D’Avolio, NLP pipeline, and so on. No, it wasn’t as good as being there. But I got a lot out of it. I look forward to attending such a tutorial, in person, sometime soon.

What I’d do next, if these were my tweets, is I’d write a blog post around them. Just like I did with my Clinical NLP at 2012 NAACL Human Language Technology Conference. That’s just me. Writing about areas you’re interested in is a great way to learn about those areas. (One of my favorite books is Writing to Learn.) In fact, I was tempted to so anyway. Then I decided it would take away from their elegant narrative arc — and my main point. (Which is? Hmm. Something about Twitter and blogging and medical informatics conferences go together like a horse and carriage and… That’s not going to work. Never mind.)

So, without further ado, I give you at a good example of how to live-tweet an informatics presentation.


OK! Phew! If you think I’m a bit obsessive, you’re half right. I’m obsessive about this stuff (whatever that is — intersection and interaction between medical informatics and social media?). But if you ever meet me, I’m very laid back. I look forward to proving it to you someday.

I’ll bet you didn’t think this conclusion was going to be as short as it is!

Peace, out!

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