Understanding Trends from the APA Conference

Jennifer Evans-Cowley's picture
Blogger

Like many others at the APA conference in Chicago I learned a lot. This is the third year that Brittany Kubinski @b_kubinski and I @evanscowley have analyzed the tweets from the APA National Conference (see our analysis of the 2012 conference and 2011 conference with @cubitplanning). Brittany and I decided to do the same this year and compare what trends have continued and what new trends have emerged. There were two competing hashtags, #APA2013 and #APA13. We collected all the tweets on both hashtags. We excluded all of the tweets announcing events and focused on the substantive tweets. The attendees at APA were active tweeting throughout the conference generating 5,083 tweets from 1,089 people. Most were attending the conference, but several were following along from a distance. Of the 5,200 people attending 21 percent were tweeting, up from the 15 percent tweeting last year. This is a steady climb upwards with 203 people tweeting 2011, 691 in 2012 and 1,089 at this year’s conference. The number of tweets almost doubled to 5,083 from 2,818 in 2012. And I noticed a major uptick in the number of pictures shared at the conference. The most frequently shared image was the Chicago Planning Tour mobile app, pictured here., provided by Parsons Brinckerhoff Sharing pictures of slides was popular, for example this slide linking transportation and health. A favorite was this great slide capturing the essence of how we are different from developers.

Topics of Conversation

There were several topics that were greatly discussed. Since the conference was in Chicago, the city was a common point of conversation. A number of topics that were highly discussed at the 2012 conference continued at the 2013 conference including transportation, data, and public participation.. A number of topics were new among tweets at the 2013 conference, for example “aging” and “schools” were hot topics at this year’s conference.

Topic

# of   Tweets at 2013 APA

Rank   2012

Rank   2011

City   Planning

472

33

Transportation

417

4

6

Apps

331

16

Chicago

322

41

Economic   Development

240

36

15

Technology

141

14

4

Data

134

7

Biking

123

28

Water

107

13

50

Unconference

97

Civic

74

34

14

Food

69

10

3

Public   Participation

67

5

8

Schools

61

Walking

59

Aging

57

Infrastructure

56

30

23

Development

55

32

32

Zoning

53

27

18

Complete   Streets

48

50

Sustainability

47

17

7

Downtown

46

Neighborhood

46

Smart   Growth

42

22

48

Social   Media

42

37

2

Below are the 25 most retweeted tweets of the conference (excluding retweets about announcing an event or session). For Twitter newbies, retweeting is like forwarding an email to people you know. RT @evanscowley means that you are forwarding a Tweet from a user, in this example me. Thirty percent of the total #APA13 tweets were retweets (so interesting that someone decided to forward it on).

Tweet

# of RTs

RT   @UrbanPolicy: To appeal to young & hip shoppers, "Main street"   style malls are building fake apartments on 2 floors above #apa13 #CPlan v   @_chrishamby

15

RT   @urbandata: JSK: "Making your city attractive is an economic-development   strategy." http://t.co/IlBR4M945C #APA13 #CPlan #econdev v   @Richard_Florida

13

RT   @mitchell_silver: Myth: Towns/cities/regions can compete if we lower the cost   of doing business. - Xav Briggs #APA13

12

RT   @chrisjamesdrew: The next economy and why planning matters. #apa13   #urbanplanning #onpoli CC @DrEricHoskins @Glen4ONT http://t.co/trPvI5T0M0

11

RT   @APA_Planning: Coming to Chicago for #APA13? Download ‘Planners Guide to   Chicago’ — over 2,000 people have checked it out so far: http://t.co/92UPDGn9Q3

10

RT   @emilymbadger: Interesting question: What does smart growth mean for   communities that aren't growing? #apa2013

10

RT   @NextCityOrg: This week's Forefront story, a deep dive into Chicago   Infrastructure Trust, is available early (and free) for #APA13 http://t.co/wHJdJ3Y12t

9

RT   @WalkFarce: Funny watching all the planners leave #apa13 in taxis when the   2nd largest transit system in the US is at their feet #hypocrites

9

RT   @ChicagosMayor: What's next for Chicago's #opendata? http://t.co/f3IsW4AcLv   cc @chicagocdo @ChicagoCTO #apa13

8

RT   @EvansCowley: Want a central place for all the links tweeted at #apa13 Stay   tuned I will analyze and post on @planetizen at the end of the week.

8

RT   @mitchell_silver: #APA13 in Chicago was one of the best conferences I can   remember since NYC in 2000. Excellent sessions, topics and events.   @APA_Planning

8

RT   @stevevance: Chicago Bike Guide: For everyone who is biking in Chicago or   wants to bike in Chicago, like those here for #APA13 http://t.co/C7RR3Phvca

8

RT   @chrisjamesdrew: Wonderful: 10 principles for creating age-friendly   communities at the #APA13 conference. CC @Deb_Matthews #onpoli http://t.co/55LjA6cTur

7

RT   @emaleigh: Listening to @Kaid_at_NRDC talk smart growth in poor urban   communities. Nice opening turns convo on its head #APA13 http://t.co/NnjDivUaaD

7

RT   @FakeAPA: Make no mistake: If you like reading @AtlanticCities, then you'll   LOVE going to planning school. #apa13 #apap2013

7

RT   @GeneXusUSA: #APA13 attendees download the Chicago Planning Tour App! Powered   by @genexususa Sponsored by @PBworld http://t.co/Ag2Yh5jsfk

7

RT   @mitchell_silver: Over 5,000 are arriving in Chicago for #APA13. This is   going to be an exciting few days. http://t.co/NrRYcKK2j0

7

RT   @urbandata: Ideally, data to improve #cities must be relevant, easy to   analyze, accurate, and updated in real time. #apa13 #apabigdata MT   @ethanstucke

7

RT   @lentztweet: Interesting stat, 1 in 3 babies born today will live to be 100.   That has some planning implications. #APA13

6

RT   @NextCityOrg: "Choosing where to live... forget homogeneity, diversity   is in..." David Dixon at #APA13. That means big change for poor urban   communities.

6

RT   @stevevance: In Chicago for #APA13? Read @streetsblogCHI's "Irreverent   Guide to Planning Highlights & Lowlights" http://t.co/EEEMG02nsf

6

RT   @VAplanprez: Mitchell Silver: Downtown is the new golf course--it is where   the deals that matter get done. #APA13

6

RT   @APA_Planning: Can’t join us in Chicago for #APA13 but still want to know   what’s happening? Check out live conference Twitter feed http://t.co/YXHdzEWzUo

5

RT   @APAMississippi: Incremental change requires patience, but amounts to large   scale innovation over time. #APA13

5

RT   @ChicagoDOT: RT @mphurleyaicp: Best swag of the conference? Hot off the   press: Complete Streets Chicago Design Guidelines. #APA13 @ChicagoDOT...

5

For example “next economy”, “smart growth” and “open data”. My favorite “Presidential Pardon for Euclidean Zoning” became the buzz word heard both on and offline. Other key words that captured attention in tweets such as “tactical urbanism” and “place making”.

The Meaning of Our Tweets

Sentiment analysis helps us to understand the meaning conveyed in a large group of tweets. To learn more about sentiment analysis I have a publicly available article on the topic. What are the sentiments that planners are expressing when tweeting about the conference? Are we angry, happy, or something totally different? We found that we are a positive bunch, with 86% of the last 85 tweets expressing positive sentiment. Our analysis of all tweets from the conference, using a language analysis software, expressed key sentiments. We are action oriented with a strong sense of the present, speaking about things happening in current time and space (not surprising for a conference). Our tweets use “we” and express social and positive emotions. We are expressing pride in our achievements. All of these sentiments embrace the essence of planning. This is exactly what one would hope to see at a conference where the use of Twitter is meant to support social interaction between unknown people with shared interests.

Sentiment analysis of tweets

Source: http://www.sentiment140.com/

Who Participated?

A total of 1,089 different planners tweeted during the conference which is a wonderful number of participants, but what was the level of equality in participations. How many people were heavy Tweeters like me and how many were light users? Similar to other research about the use of social media a small number of people dominate the conversations with 4.5 percent of the users sending out 45 percent of the tweets. BUT, we can also see that we had a wide array of users with many participating one or a few times. For example, 28 percent of the tweets came from the 83 percent of participants who tweeted five or fewer times.

There were clearly key influencers at the conference whose tweets were frequently retweeted. The top 15 influencers at the conference included: @chrisjamesdrew, @EvansCowley, @Peoplingplaces, @AbbyMPC, @Dcmilz, @japrovo, @Metroplanners, @Lentztweet, @SensibleStreets, @DrUrbanPolicy, @_chrishamby, @Dellarucker, @alexbaca, @cookry, and @egibsonplan. A number of these people are not just influencers at the conference, but are influencers all year round with more than 1,000 followers on Twitter. @chrisjamesdrew (tweeting on transportation), @EvansCowley (tweeting on technology), @Metroplanners (tweeting for the Chicago Metropolitan Planning Council), and @alexbaca (tweeting on transportation, technology and other topics),

Blogging at the Conference

There was as noticeable uptick in attendees who blogged from the conference. Below are links to a number of the blogs created about sessions at the conference (I may have missed a few). This allowed attendees and followers to get the inside story on what was happening in the many sessions at the conference.

Christopher Pollard (@CRVanPollard) wrote a blog post for the unconference, Participation Thoughts on Unconference on Intelligent Cities. Chi.Streets.Blog shared an Irreverent Guide to Chicago Planning Highlights and Lowlights. Sustainable Communities Collective shared a blog post called Transit Everyone on how to create better systems for people accessing on foot or bike and overcome the obstacles that can undermine a transit system. Elizabeth Felter, APA NOAA Digital Coast Fellow shared a post on the Burnham Forum on Big Ideas. And finally, Jonathan Nettler shared some closing remarks on APA 2013: Dispatches from Chicago.

Resources from the Conference

Conference attendees did a great job sharing links to all kinds of content. The volume of links was overwhelming, so we took those that were retweeted and have grouped the various links by topic below.

Aging:

Big Data:

Biking:

Chicago:

Crowdfunding:

Economy

Environment:

Neighborhoods:

Public Participation:

Resiliency

Transportation

Other Topics

So are there any urban planning trends that surprised–either by being here or by not being here? What were the trends at the APA 2013 conference not captured by Twitter? Let me know in the comments.

My takeaway from the use of Twitter at the conference is that a significant number of people were able to use this medium to share and engage in conversations around planning topics that resonate with them. It provided a platform to engage in social conversations that helped people meet each other both on and off line.What more could we ask for from social media in a conference?I look forward to even more participation at the 2014 conference in Atlanta.

Jennifer Evans-Cowley, PhD, AICP, is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Administration for the College of Engineering and a Professor of City and Regional Planning at The Ohio State University.

Comments

Comments

I would have loved to engage

I would have loved to engage with everyone on twitter and follow some of the discussions, but the lack of WIFI was a huge disappointment (particularly as a Canadian with ridiculously-priced international data). It felt like a big disconnect from what many of the sessions on engagement tried to convey: try to bring the community in, but don't provide the infrastructure to make it possible :(

Jennifer Evans-Cowley's picture
Blogger

I know. I don't think APA

I know. I don't think APA necessarily understood the basement wifi conditions. Hopefully Atlanta will be far better for connectivity. Luckily some of us had unlimited data plans and could share the info out of the sessions broadly.

There was as noticeable

There was as noticeable uptick in attendees who blogged from the conference. Below are links to a number of the blogs created about sessions at the conference (I may have missed a few). This allowed attendees and followers to get the inside story on what was happening in the many sessions at the conference.

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