Social networking has been in the news lately, and there have been quite a few comments in the media recently about Twitter and micro-blogging. Seems the mainstream journalists are finally getting a sense of what a lot of us are already aware of. Amongst others, last week’s article in the A2 section of The Age, Tweet and greet, highlights how popular it’s becoming. I’ve been caught up in the phenomenon and wanted to share some thoughts and write a little about my experience. I have found that I haven’t been writing (longer) blog posts as regularly as I would have liked, I think this is because I’m spending more time interacting on Twitter. Maybe I don’t write well, or provocatively enough, for people to comment on my blog posts, and I find the feedback and response from my Twitter network more numerous and immediate. In the end though, I suppose it’s about purpose, priorities and time.
Twitter continues to amaze me in how it can help you find answers to questions, provide a plethora of online resources (supplied by those you follow), facilitate the development of your network, and give you a stream of news and updates. I’ve been tweeting for a year now and Twitter’s been good for me professionally and socially. It’s nice when you can help someone see its value and watch them become a regular tweeter.
I suppose the point I wanted to make was, that when I show people Twitter, they often don’t understand it and suggest it’s a waste of time. Now, I can agree with that, but it’s like many things – the more you put in to it, the more you’ll get out of it. Understanding, and using Twitter effectively is about gaining experience and learning by doing, which generally works for most people. Britt Watwood in his blog post Am I an Outlier? reflects about the necessity to ‘practise’ doing something to become successful at it. This is true, but I believe it’s also about being able to make the experience more than the sum of it’s parts. To do this you need to be able to add value by taking risks. Putting yourself ‘out there’ can often pay dividends. Interaction is the key, so you need to respond to others and even pose your own questions, be provocative and ensure you make a contribution. Sue Waters has often written of the value of commenting (on blog posts) – this is when interaction happens and a dialogue between (often more than two) people develops an idea further than the initial writer intended.
As an example of this serendipitous adventure, it was fun to read a great story about tweeps (a couple of fans and the Shaq) catching up with each other f2f. Other blog posts regarding Twitter that I’ve read recently include Chris Betcher’s ‘Twitter is messy’, and Jenny Wood’s, ‘a Twitter reality check’, and there’s a very recent TED Talk, How Twitter’s spectacular growth is being driven by unexpected uses, given by Evan Williams (the co-founder of Twitter). The amount of data collected by Twitter is huge, and it’s all searchable, just use your imagination. There are also plenty of small applications that will return data on all sorts of Twitter usage, and they’re good fun to explore.
Please let me share just one of my own Twitter stories with you… I was attending a conference recently and tweeting about it, when I received a tweet from someone else (’Jo’) in the audience who said that they would like to meet me and asked where was I in the auditorium. I was about to answer (“Down the front left”, etc.) when I thought I’d check their bio and visited their website/blog. As the blog opened on my screen, there was some chatter from the across the aisle and I was told by the person sitting across from me that I was looking at her blog. The penny dropped, and I asked, “Are you Jo?”. “Yes”, she said. With the biggest grin, I said, “I’m Colin!”. Twitter made it possible.
I’ve also initiated the use of Yammer (microblogging within a domain) at my workplace, and after a couple of weeks we’ve got some interested people joining up, interactions beginning, and a few groups starting to form. I’m also encouraged by questions asking how we can use this technology with our students and in research…
So, what’s in it for me (or you)? You usually get a return on investment (except maybe during the current financial crisis), so if you haven’t, have a go and spend some time and energy on investigating the possibilities of micro-blogging and network building for yourself.
So, Twitter is topical and if you’re not sure what it’s about, you might want to do a quick Google blog search to find plenty more for you to read (or you might even check out my delicious bookmarks), or take the plunge and signup to Twitter and start tweeting and find some like-minded people to follow. Oh, and in case you’re not following me yet, I’m @colwar in the twitterverse…