After more than a month of computer problems, incl. malfunctioning OS, lack of permissions, ruined logic board, slow support and lots of frustration I’ve been reinstalling programmes, applications and services, incl. Twitter. I’ve actually had a Twitter profile for quite some time, but I’ve been reluctant to use it – not sure why, when and how? But yesterday, as I logged in to check my account, I noticed a lot of buzz concerning a live-streamed event – TEDxNYED – and since the list of speakers seemed interesting, I decided to hang around. As it turned out to be a very interesting learning experience, I thought I’d use this post to reflect a bit on my newbie impressions …
Why use Twitter?
Well, the jury is still out on that question. My main concern is whether I really need more information? It may seem a bit strange, but I’m already experiencing some information overload from existing mail lists, the blogsphere and my other networks. At this point in time in my PhD-project I really should be aiming at convergence, but on the other hand the constant drawback of living in a connected, digital world is the fear of missing out on important information. As always information management is key and I’ll return to that. Even though I’m a newbie, I have of course been listening in on colleagues’ discussions and research, comments in the media and especially in the blogsphere etc., but I have to admit that it wasn’t until yesterday’s experience that the use of Twitter became valuable to me, which leads to the next question.
When to use Twitter?
In yesterday’s event it was possible to use Twitter and Facebook as backchannels during the live-steamed presentations. Despite newbie problems trying to figure out exactly “how to” and also some language constraints (Twitter and general Anglo-American idioms and lingo), I did find the Twitter chat valuable. I’m familiar with the backchannel phenomenon from SL, where especially the Metanomics show makes really good use of the backchat (via the so-called chatbridge) to democratize and expand the discussions, and in my PhD I’m focusing on promoting this particular way of communicating in my in-world teaching sessions. Now, I’m not sure if yesterday’s speakers actually followed the Twitter chat real time (they seemed to focus on the local f2f audience), but after the presentations several of the speakers continued discussing and elaborating, and as I understood from experienced Tweeters this is common practice. George Siemens (one of yesterdays speakers) wrote an interesting piece on “frustrating (= non-participative, non-sustainable) conferences” and together with Tittenberger and Anderson, he wrote an article on how to improve live participation and sustainability of conferences – and yesterday was the first time I had a really good experience with this (outside SL) thanks to Twitter. There can of course also be disadvantages to this backchannel phenomenon as expressed and experienced by Danah Boyd in this much debated post, but I did see an interesting potential and I’m sure I’ll be logging in to Twitter for future events.
However, I’m not so sure that I’ll start using Twitter on a daily basis – at least not for now. I definitely need to learn more about the many possibilities, so for a while I’ll settle for being a lurking participant in the periphery until I get a better feel for the many accompanying tools one can choose to use in relation to Twitter, and that leads to the final question.
How to use Twitter?
Evidently writing a max. of 140 characters is not complicated – it’s the management/storage of information that can be a little tricky, not least because there are so many different accompanying tools to choose from. When I started out yesterday, I already had FriendFeed installed and I like that probably because I’m used to pop-ups from my Thunderbird mail.
During the event I started following more people, and when my SL/FB friend BevanWhitfield noticed me, she quickly recommended Tweetdeck, but also mentioned that I should be careful in joining too many groups. And so I installed Tweetdeck, but it’s a much more complex tool than FriendFeed. I had a look at SIGs related to e-learning and there were soo many! And which one do you choose then? Another friend of mine made a “mention” in Tweetdeck and I wasn’t sure how to reply. A nice feature was the ability to synchronize with other accounts such as FB, but here I’m wondering if that’s really what I want to do. There’s bound to be a lot of redundancy, and I need to figure out how to handle that.
In sorting the information hashtags (#) seem to be part of the solution, but this is also something I need to learn more about. My SL/FB friend, ldinstl_chimera, pointed my attention to Backupify, which may turn out to be a great service for storage and management, whereas Arielion Clawtooth, mentioned Twapperkeeper, so there are plenty of new things to figure out. Incidentally, today TOPsSocialMedia tweeted a list of top 10 Twitter tools.
So to summarize my first impressions; it was fun, engaging and somewhat confusing and overwhelming – just as one would expect a newbie experience to be :-)