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Documentation of Roles and Responsibilities for Conference Social Media Chairs

Many conferences now have a Social Media Chair, a person who agrees to the service role of managing social media activities related to the conference.  Below is brief documentation of roles and responsibilities for a conference Social Media Chair. This documentation is based on my experience being Social Media Chair for 4 different conferences 6 times in the past 5 years. Comments are welcome. This is biased towards computing and information conferences.

Before the conference

  • Account information: Request usernames and passwords from the previous year’s Chair
  • Hashtags: Determine/confirm the conference hashtag for the coming year and post online to the community. Most conferences append the year (e.g., “chi2015, cscw2015”); some use the same hashtag every year (e.g., “icwsm”). Be consistent with prior years (e.g., “chi2016″), or be ready to defend and advocate a change (e.g., “chi16″ is shorter than “chi2016″).
  • Submission deadlines: Post major submissions deadlines leading up to the conference (3-4x for paper submissions, ~3 months, ~1 month, ~1 week, ~1 day ahead; 2x for panel/workshop/alternate submissions, ~2 months, ~1 week ahead)
  • Reviewing and Notifications: Recruit reviewers to sign up in conference system
  • Notifications: Post notifications of paper acceptances, rebuttal periods, etc.
  • Registration and Housing: Post conference pre-registration opening and housing information opening (2x, once available, reminder ~1 week before close)
  • Location: Promote the conference location (e.g., sightseeing, fun facts, good weather, flight deals, etc.)
  • Monitoring: Monitor accounts actively to address questions or concerns (e.g., confusion about deadlines, issues with registration). These should be brought to the attention of the relevant conference committee member as soon as possible and then responded to online.
  • Presence: Ensure that the Chair will be at the conference. Otherwise, recruit a Co-Chair or assistant who will be present to post updates throughout the conference. Pairing a more senior (post-PhD) Chair with a more junior (PhD student) Co-Chair is an effective combination. Senior people have enough experience to balance professionalism and playfulness (and to take responsibility for issues that may arise) while junior people have focus and enthusiasm to maintain persistent engagement in the role.
  • Tools: Using applications to set pre-scheduled posts, monitor multiple accounts, etc. can be useful for some Chairs. Others will prefer to monitor activity manually.
  • Roles: If there are multiple Chairs, choose leaders for particular tasks (e.g., monitoring the Twitter hashtag for questions) otherwise issues get overlooked.
  • Identities: If there are multiple Chairs, some choose to initial posts to identify themselves with initials (e.g., “Great coffee place on 5th street one block from hotel! -SS”), others choose to present a unified account. Pick a strategy and be consistent.
  • Publicity: Some conferences have separate media or publicity roles. If not, the Chair may decide to notify national/global media outlets (e.g., TechCrunch) as well as local regional outlets about interesting topics being presented at the conference.


During the conference

  • Engagement: Post regularly, but don’t spam (~20-30 posts/day during the conference on Twitter, ~3-5 posts/day on Facebook).
  • Content: Balance content that is of interest to attendees and to people watching remotely. Quotes from keynotes and key findings from papers are generally of broad interest.
  • Sharing useful information: Post and re-post informational updates (e.g., location and hours for nearby morning coffee, running routes, transportation information). You can ask Local Chairs or monitor the conference hashtag to glean this information.
  • Sharing social information: Post and re-post social updates, such as happy hour gatherings organized by others. This helps other people find social activities and promotes the liveliness of the conference to the community.
  • Monitoring: Monitor accounts actively to address questions or concerns (e.g., venue is cold, wireless doesn’t work). These complaints tend to snowball rapidly online and can be mitigated with prompt and respectful replies via social media.
  • Social activities: Consider facilitating social activities (e.g., lunch meetups) via social media. This involves recruiting 1-2 lunch leaders, determining a meetup location such as the conference registration desk, and picking 1 or more lunch locations to walk to. Some conferences (e.g., CHI 2016) now have dedicated Lunch Chairs, most do not. Social activities are especially valuable for newcomers, graduate students, and generally those who may know few people at the conference.
  • Attendee engagement: Lightweight contests and games via social media can engage participants, but if poorly executed will flop. Location-based games, treasure hunts, networking, etc. often appear overly engineered, but can work if there are meaningful incentives and sufficient integration with the rest of the conference.
  • Displays: If available, large screen displays can effective for communication real-time information and providing a watering hole for attendees to gather around. One possibility is a screen that displays social media feeds by hashtag.
  • Photographs: If the Chair is not an active photographer, consider recruiting an enthusiastic photographer among the conference attendees to take photos and post them to social media. Be thoughtful about privacy considerations of taking photos of other people and posting them publicly.
  • Professionalism: Balance professionalism and playfulness. Humor and wit can promote engagement and liveliness. Be careful posting about sensitive topics that may be misinterpreted by a broad and public audience. Jokes about gender, race, status, power, etc. are not appropriate for a conference account.


After the conference

  • Evaluation: NodeXL is a simple tool for assessing community engagement (e.g., number of hashtag users, popular users,  number of tweets).
  • Media: Post subsequent media coverage of papers
  • Looking forward: Post location and dates of next year’s conference
  • Account management: Transfer usernames and passwords to next year’s Chair

Networked Empowerment on Facebook Groups among Parents of Children with Special Needs

In prior work, we examined how parents of children with special needs access support and experience judgment on social media sites. In this work, we describe how parents access health and education resources on Facebook to support their children’s needs. We conducted 43 interviews with parents of children with special needs to investigate whether using social media sites helps them to perform this caregiving work.

What is empowerment?
Empowerment describes a process in which people gain understanding and control over personal, social, economic, or political forces in order to take action to better their lives. When people face difficult situations, marginalized identities, or new environments where personal roles change, they can feel disempowered, no longer able to control their own outcomes. Living in a cycle of disempowerment can lead to learned helplessness, where future outcomes continue to suffer because individuals no longer believe they can control and change their future and thus, stop trying.

We find that parents experience three major stages:

    • going online after receiving a diagnosis

There’s a lot of medical terms that are thrown at us all the time… we just have to Google. Google these terms and what they mean and what things that it comes up with just to get an idea, because we don’t always know and the doctor sometimes just throw it all on us. -P15

You can search a website, you can Google things, you can glean or gather information on the web in millions of sites but to talk to someone that does it day-in-day-out, I think that probably the most informative and helpful way. And that’s what I found on Facebook… If I needed a question answered, I have a couple of friends that I know I’d be able to just type in their name, ask a question and be able to get a response in a pretty timely manner. -P16

    • learning about services from other parents

The whole art of handling kids is learning how to navigate hundreds of people in your life. So you have a social worker from the school who ends up being useless. You have a social worker from the ventilation clinic. You have a social worker from the ICU. You have a social worker from the Cardiac unit. You have the local county’s social worker. And then you have a social worker from hospice. They were all from different organizations, but they’re all trying to help give you resources. -P10

    • becoming advocates for the child’s needs

It’s mostly newly diagnosed people saying, “Hey, I just got this diagnosis and here’s a picture of my kid and I’m glad that I know that we’re not alone.” Fifty people say, “Welcome to the group. Welcome to the journey. Here’s some resources for you.” It’s a lot of that stuff. But also fundraising updates, research updates, conference updates, stuff like that. -P21

We explored a concept of networked empowerment that describes how parents whose children have received a special needs diagnosis find other parents, mobilize resources, and become advocates. Unlike with offline groups, parents are now able to do this through almost real-time access to other parents on Facebook. Through their process of adjusting to their child’s diagnosis, parents work to overcome the anxiety and uncertainty that follows a diagnosis, navigate the complex process of accessing services, and become advocates for their child’s needs as well as for the special needs cause more generally.

Future Work
While we find that parents turn to social media sites for mobilization and advocacy, there is little evidence that such efforts have resulted in change on a local or global scale. Future work should investigate the outcomes of long-term participation and advocacy on culture, policies, and rights in the U.S. today.

Participants all were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

In our first round of interviewing, we oversampled mothers. The second round of interviewing targeted fathers. The interview protocols for this study are available: Parents Interview Protocol and Fathers Interview Protocol.

Ammari, T. and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Networked Empowerment on Facebook Groups for Parents of Children with Special Needs.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-23, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00074842.

How Parents Manage Disclosing Personal Information about their Children Online

Many researchers, educators, and policy makers have investigated the risks of children sharing their personal information online. However, little work has investigated the implications of parents sharing personal information about their children online. This study addresses that gap.

This study draws from 102 interviews with parents (64 fathers and 38 mothers) about their social network site (SNS) use as it relates to parenting. The questions we investigated were:

  1. Who posts content about children to social network sites and what do they post?
  2. How do parents negotiate what is appropriate to post?
  3. In what ways do the affordances of social network sites affect how and what parents decide to post?


  • In general, mothers take on the responsibility of sharing content about their children more than fathers do
  • Fathers are more restrictive about sharing to broad and professional audiences
  • Fathers are concerned about sharing content that could be perceived as sexually suggestive, especially related to daughters
  • Both mothers and fathers use features of SNSs to limit oversharing
  • Parents have to negotiate with each other what is okay or not okay to post online about their child, sometimes leading to tensions
  • Parents have to manage extended family and friends posting online about their child, which can be especially challenging if the parents themselves don’t agree on what is okay to post

Parental Disclosure Management
Building on prior work, we introduce the concept of parental disclosure management, which describes how parents decide what to share about their children online. Parents work especially hard to manage suggestive or appropriate content and evaluate potential audiences (e.g., what other might think of what they post online).

A Third Shift
In general, both mothers and fathers in our sample said that mothers did the majority of disclosure management work, which included deciding what to share, negotiating sharing policies with partners, and posting content online. We describe an emerging third shift of work (following on Hoschchild’s “Second Shift”) that highlights the additional work parents take on to manage children’s identities online. Our results suggest that many parents manage the work of sharing information about their children online by assigning de facto roles to one parent. Participants were always able to articulate who did the sharing and what kinds of sharing they did, though the roles tended to emerge organically. In the same way that one parent often does the cooking or the dishes, one parent seems to take on the primary responsibility of sharing about children online. Women often held this responsibility, perhaps because they are more active SNS users, or perhaps because their roles as primary caregiver are extended into these online spaces.

Future Directions
As online and offline family life becomes increasingly intertwined, understanding how parents negotiate roles is critical for the wellbeing of families and for designing the next generation of social platforms to support family life. We conclude with theoretical and practical implications for designing SNSs to better support family life online, including:

  • Joint accounts SNSs could create joint sharing features that allow one or more users to create an account and share responsibility of it. Such an account would allow parents to jointly control privacy settings and manage content.
  • Silent tagging Parents could engage in “silent tagging” practices so that profiles and content are stored for later use, if a child decides she wants her identity to be attached to this content.
  • Retroactive identity management Children could be given the opportunity to more easily and powerfully alter their online presence, after it has been established by their parents.

Data Sources

  • Interviews with 102 parents drawn from a convenience sample recruited across multiple studies
  • Interviewers conducted from early 2013 through early 2014

This study’s sample contained only parents who were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

The interview protocols for this study are available: Interview Protocol 1, Interview Protocol 2, and Interview Protocol 3.

Ammari, T., Kumar, P., Lampe, C., and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Managing Children’s Online Identities: How Parents Decide what to Disclose about their Children Online.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-32, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00080547 and HUM00074842.

Supporting Fathers and Fatherhood on Social Media Sites

A lot of academic research, especially in computing fields, has focused on mothers and motherhood recently. However, little research has explored how fathers use social media related to fatherhood. This study addresses that gap. We interviewed 37 fathers about their use of social media as it relates to their roles as fathers.

Drawing on prior work on the social construction of fatherhood and determinants of involved fathers, we find that fathers use social media to:

  • document and archive fatherhood
  • learn how to be a father
  • access social support

They also go online to support diverse and sometimes stigmatized needs, including

  • single fathers’ use of Reddit where they can be anonymous instead of Facebook where going through a divorce might be stigmatized
  • fathers raised by single mothers’ search for role models online because they did not feel like they had such role models growing up
  • stay-at-home fathers’ use of father blogs to find other like-minded fathers because they felt isolated, and sometimes even unwelcome, if surrounded by mostly stay-at-home-mothers

Advocating for Fathers
We argue that we are at a critical juncture for studying and promoting fatherhood. Fathers’ roles have steadily evolved over time from moral mentor and breadwinner to caregiver and emotional supporter. Though still imbalanced with mothers, fathers take on more childcare and household responsibilities than they used to. Problematically, the focus on mothers and motherhood in academic research could inadvertently perpetuate the unequal focus on mothers as primary caregivers—undercutting some of the very premises motherhood research is looking to address.

Judgment and Stigma
Fathers were sensitive about sharing too much information online that might violate their children’s privacy. They were also hesitant to post information that might subject them to stigma and judgment from other parents, including topics like sleep training and vaccines. Fathers were especially sensitive about sharing information about their young children online. They engaged in protective behaviors like searching for their child’s name on Google to see if pictures of their child might come up.

Future Steps
We consider some ideas about how online platforms might be designed to better support fathers:

  • Provide more online sites and communities to that support fathers engaging in fatherhood discussions and activities (akin to the many sites for mothers already available)
  • Support anonymity or pseudonymity in online father communities to create a safe space for sharing about fatherhood online (as well as support small groups of trusted fathers on sites like Facebook)
  • Increase visibility of audience norms and expectations so that fathers can post parenting content to targeted audiences

Data Sources

  • Interviews with 37 fathers recruited through father mailing lists, father offline groups, father online groups, Twitter, Facebook, Craigslist
  • The sample is a convenience sample
  • Interviews were conducted from October 2013-February 2014

This study’s sample contained only fathers. Furthermore, participants all were currently or had previously been married to a person of the opposite gender. We did not ask participants their household incomes and do not know how representative the results are to all income ranges.

This research is published in CHI 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.

The interview protocol for this study is available: Interview Protocol.

Ammari, T. and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “Understanding and Supporting Fathers and Fatherhood on Social Media Sites.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). Seoul, Korea. April 18-23, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00080547.

How new mothers share baby photos on Facebook

Mothers actively share photos of their young babies on Facebook, but little research has explored why they do this and the benefits and risks of sharing. This research explored what baby pictures new mothers share on Facebook and how they decide what to share or not share. We conducted an interview study with 22 new mothers about how they share baby photos on Facebook. We introduce the concept of privacy stewardship to describe the responsibility parents take on when deciding what is appropriate to share about their children online and when ensuring that family and friends respect and maintain the integrity of those rules.

Types of photos mothers share on Facebook
Mothers share four kinds of baby photos on Facebook: photos where the baby looks “cute”, photos where the baby is doing something funny, photos where the baby is with family or friends, and photos of milestones (e.g., crawling, walking).

Types of photos mothers don’t share on Facebook
Mothers don’t share three kinds of baby photos: low quality photos, photos that convey negativity, or photos that overexpose the child (e.g., naked).

Benefits of sharing baby photos

  • Documenting and archiving childhood as a “modern day babybook”
  • Helping new mothers to identify as a good mother (e.g., displaying a happy and healthy family)
  • Validation of good mothering through likes and comments on baby photos

Risks of sharing baby photos

  • Limiting oversharing out of a concern that Facebook friends will get tired of seeing too many posts, including sensitivity to Facebook friends who might be struggling to conceive themselves
  • Managing children’s digital footprints by trying to understand how a child might feel about their digital identity being shared online before young children have the ability to decide for themselves what should be posted about them
  • Controlling information that other people such as friends and extended family share about a baby that may violate the parents’ preferences about what should be shared

Why this matters:
Benefits of “Imagined Audiences”
Imagined audiences have often been portrayed as presenting a challenge for people trying to craft a message for multiple or unknown audiences (e.g., posting a status that is appropriate for a boss as well as college friends), but these audiences offer benefits to new mothers. Mothers feel validated by the numerous likes and comments they receive on baby photos, even if they come from weak ties (e.g., high school acquaintances) who were not part of participants’ originally expected audience.

Privacy Stewardship
How will this generation of young children feel when they become old enough to find out that their digital footprint has been shaped since before their birth? From a privacy perspective, we might fear that pictures will not disappear, but from an archival perspective, we worry that they will. Parents face an almost impossible tension between the expectation that they will document and archive their children’s social lives, while simultaneously ensuring that their child’s privacy is protected and identity is carefully stewarded.

This study’s sample primarily included educated, married, heterosexual white women in the United States or who had lived in the United States at some point. Participants’ ages ranged from mid-twenties to late-thirties. This study does not address the role of fathers — an important gap to address.

This research is published in CSCW 2015. For more details, please read the full paper.
The interview protocol for this study is available: Interview Protocol.

Kumar, P. and Schoenebeck, S.Y. (2015). “The Modern Day Baby Book: Enacting Good Mothering and Stewarding Privacy on Facebook.” In Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW ’15). Vancouver, Canada. March 14-18, 2015.

This research was approved by University of Michigan’s Institutional Review Board HUM00080547.