A lot has already been written about the photo ban at ADA last week. For the first couple of days of the meeting, the first topic of conversation I had with everyone I met was not about what I’d seen or learnt. It was about the photo ban and the ADA’s failure to appropriate deal with the complaints. It was a debacle, an absolute shit storm that could have been addressed in many ways to make it better.

Firstly, it’s worth noting this is not new. Two years ago, I was swiftly reprimanded for tweeting a photo during one of Bill Polonsky’s talks. The ADA bot who was monitoring any flouting of the no photo rules quickly responded to anyone sharing photos on twitter or other social media platforms. The message was strong: stop doing this or your credentials will be revoked. For the record, this was the photo that got me in trouble:

Yes – that photo of Dr House straight from the Internet was the reason that removal of my press credentials was threatened.

This year, execution of the archaic policy was increased to expert level. And people were not happy.

Many were asking why the ADA was being so strident in their enforcement of the policy or, more importantly, why the policy was there in the first place. But it’s not just the ADA. Taking photos or videos during sessions or of posters is banned at the IDF’s WDC, EASD meeting and here in Australia at the ADS-ADEA meeting. (How’s that for a sentence of alphabet soup?)

However, I have never known it to be enforced the way it was last week with a multifaceted approach of vigilant soldiers in red approaching anyone daring to photograph a slide during talks or in the Poster Hall, as well as social media (mostly Twitter) responses being fired left right and centre to anyone who then tweeted a photo.

The ridiculous thing is that anyone at the conference could tweet WORD FOR WORD what the speaker was saying (provided they are a speed Tweeter), but just couldn’t take a photo of the slides. And to be honest, a lot of the speakers were pretty much reciting WORD FOR WORD what was on the slide, so it was possible to pretty much tweet out every single thing being presented. (Also, that makes for a really boring presentation. Don’t do that!)

Suddenly, the story of #2017ADA was not new diabetes research or technology or treatment. In fact, the story wasn’t diabetes at all; it was how pissed off people were at the ridiculous ban.

People trying to follow along from home felt excluded and annoyed. Attendees of the conference felt frustrated that we couldn’t share what we were seeing with those not in the room. As is often the case at these meetings, there were two or three or more concurrent sessions I wanted to attend, but as I’m yet to learn how to be in more than one place at the one time, rely on people in the sessions I’m not at to share what they are seeing and hearing.

And me? I was irritated and exasperated at how difficult it was to follow the #2017ADA Twitter feed because of all the bloody criticism of the photo ban. (And just delicately, those people who commented on EVERY SINGLE TWEET about the ban, you were not helping. You were making it harder.)

I understand that I am very fortunate to attend diabetes conferences both here and overseas and I am conscious that not many people with diabetes are sitting in the audience. I also know – from personal experience as well as anecdotally – the people in the audience are not always the best sharers. When they return from conferences, they don’t sit with people with diabetes to share what they have learnt.

So, as a person with diabetes who likes to share and communicate, I think it’s my responsibility to share as much as I possibly can about what those of us with a registration or press badge are seeing and hearing.

Trying to stop the flow of communication in digital times is ridiculous and it demonstrates an appalling lack of understanding about harnessing digital platforms’ reach to educate, inform and support not only people with diabetes, but also healthcare professionals. It was also ludicrously naïve of the organisation to think that there would not be backlash and that they would get off without condemnation.

The control of information is really not possible in this day and age. A conference about diabetes should not be shut off from people with diabetes, and if the only way ‘in’ for most people is online, then that avenue should be thrown open as broadly as possible.

In two months’ time, the ADS ADEA conference will be in Perth, bringing together diabetes healthcare professionals from across Australia. It is our largest meeting. Currently, on the meeting website, there is this warning in their social media guidelines:

I am calling on the organisers of the ADS-ADEA conference to change this policy immediately, instead, encouraging the sharing of information far and wide. Consider those who cannot afford the time or fee to be at the conference, yet would benefit significantly from learning what is going on. Embrace social media as a way to extend reach from the few thousand attendees (or few hundred in any one session) to a far larger audience. And welcome all diabetes stakeholders to be part of the discussion online.

Just think how much better #2017ADA could have been if that had been the story.

Some excellent commentary on the photo ban at ADA.

Medscape’s piece written while the meeting was happening. 

The always thoughtful Marie Ennis O’Connor’s piece for Medium

And this from Medpage Today

 

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