Do Backchannels Know No Boundaries?

ashevilleallieAllie Sullivan (@ashevilleallie) is an online marketing and advertising specialist, formerly from the non-profit industry. She is a do-gooder, connector, and trying to make a difference in the world.

The Ugly Was Brought!


On Friday I was very excited to attend New Media Atlanta. Thursday evening I was fortunate to go to the speaker dinner and meet several of the presenters, the co-founders, and those who worked behind the scenes. The one thing that each player had in common is that they were all pumped about being part of the very first New Media Atlanta! I was excited too!

At the start of New Media Atlanta, after the opening comments by conference founders Matt Fagioli and Brad Nix, Jeff Turner took the stage for his presentation on Social Media Is Here To Stay. It was 10 a.m., the conference was just kicking off, and Jeff brought attention to the conversations that were going on through BackNoise. BackNoise claims …

“BackNoise lets you create conversations on the fly, in meetings, watching TV, during class, on the train, anywhere and anytime. Talk about what you want, when you want, where you want, and how you want.”

BackNoise is a channel that allows people to express themselves, anonymously or known, in a real-time online conversation. What started out on BackNoise that day as speaker feedback and comments that people were tired or thirsty, quickly spiraled downhill to what I believe, people who brought out their “ugly.”

Photo via @BeeRealty

There are certain people in this world that have the disco balls to say pretty much about anything. Chris Brogan was the main speaker at New Media Atlanta and embraced BackNoise by presenting with the backchannel behind him. There were some interesting comments such as his fly was down and that the more he cursed, the more an anonymous BackNoise user wanted to kiss him. Funny, right? Brogan has the disco balls though. Everyone in conference attendance was waiting for the moment that he took the stage. They know him, or have heard of him, and respect his reputation.

What about a speaker that isn’t as well known and adored? Does this mean that it’s okay to send a BackNoise comment that encourages the audience to cough two times if you don’t like their presentation? What about stretch if you don’t like the next one? Believe it or not, that’s what happened!


I’m sorry, but to attend a conference and revert back to middle-school mentality is pathetic. If I knew who started these behaviors on BackNoise that day, I would call you out publicly, but alas, you were anonymous. I have no problem with people suggesting that the content presented was weak, or that you’re bored or tired but at some point, grow the heck up!

If you are bored, say why. If you were a speaker and getting bashed, wouldn’t you want to know why?

I don’t think trying to get people to cough is going to help someone learn where and how they can improve. I also don’t think that by creating fear for future speakers is going to make any speaker become better at it!

We encourage people in the online space to be real and transparent, pay-it-forward, not to be a social media douche bag, etc. Why do these understood rules of common decency fly out the window when you don’t actually have to be accountable for your words and actions? They shouldn’t.

When users on the backchannel complained about it being too dark, the lights were turned on. When comments suggested that we needed a break, a break was given.

It is very clear that New Media Atlanta was paying attention to what attendees were saying and constructive criticism was able to bring about positive change. I like that. This also means that speakers were able to see what was said about them. Comments that attacked speakers on a personal level more so than the content that they were delivering, well, I tend to like that less.

Backchannels Are Here To Stay

There is no doubt in my mind that people will continue to use backchannels. After attending New Media Atlanta, it is only my hope that people will choose to use them in a more constructive way. We all like to laugh and feel part of a group, which is what platforms such as BackNoise allows, but where do you draw the line?

I admit that I looked at the backchannel conversations that took place at the conference. I admit that some comments made me laugh. There is something extremely intriguing about watching a stream of thoughts from people that don’t have to identify themselves for speaking what a lot of us might be thinking … but crossing the line of professionalism to middle-school bully is something that can be avoided.

Think about your words. Thumper said, “If you can’t say something nice … don’t say nothing at all.” Backchannels give us the room to dismiss that message and also the accountability of our words. Would you participate on a backchannel? If so, where would you draw the line?

6 thoughts on “Do Backchannels Know No Boundaries?”

  1. Pingback: TechKive » Blog Archive » Do Backchannels Know No Boundaries?

  2. Seriously. In an anonymous forum, people will always let their devils step forward. Very sad. You would think a social media audience would do better, embracing being genuine, open, and honest. Not bullying with no accountability. Grow up people.

  3. I heard about this mess, but was not there. The rest of the audience should have stepped up and policed themselves. They are just as guilty for saying little to nothing.

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