On the somewhat surreal occasion of the 1,000th person to follow me on Twitter (really, how is that possible?), and since Twitter seemed to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues at EduCon this weekend, it’s probably an appropriate moment to reflect on how I’ve evolved in my thinking on this strange yet somehow important little tool.
In my session on Saturday, when I opened up the discussion on personal learning networks, the first response was simply, “Twitter”. We attempted to define it, someone mentioned “Twitter guilt” I believe, and various folks weighed in on why the did or did not “get” Twitter. At some point later that day (lunch maybe), I made the comment that it seemed a lot of profound, previously bloggable ideas were being “Twitterialized”, which, of course, I think someone Twittered. (That’s why I’m blogging about it…so there.) Case in point, when Kristin Hokanson was asking the very probing questions of the morning panel on Sunday, she started one with “In 140 characters or less…” and we all laughed.
But that idea has been sticky in my brain. I wonder if this 140 character world in which many of us spend much of our time is in some way dumbing down the conversation. And my thinking still feels pretty thin on this because for some reason Twitter just remains hard to fully get my head around, hard to peg. But here are some somewhat random thoughts, not all original btw:
*I’m thinking that in my case at least, only a much smaller percentage of those people are actually tuning into my Tweets. Even so, I know that I’m pretty much an outlier here, an outlier in all of this at this point at least, seven years into this grand network building experiment that has turned my life on its head.
*It feels like some use Twitter because 140 characters alleviates the pressure of developing and articulating ideas in a full-fledged blog post. At some point this weekend, we were talking about this from a reader standpoint and I was struck by how almost equal numbers actually liked just reading the short blurb while others missed the context. Which makes me wonder what if any affect Twitter is having on my reading.
*Twitter gets most frustrating to me when I see long lists of Tweets from people who are responding to the individuals who Tweeted them giving me absolutely no context for what the response means or is about. These usually end up being something like “@soandso That was amazing! Thanks for sharing it! This will definitely transform my classroom!” or “@soandso My mother used to say the same thing! ;0)” some of which compel me to start clicking through links to gain some understanding that usually ends up being personal or irrelevant. (Mea Culpa, I know, but I try to limit it.) There is a signal to noise ratio here that is more acute than blogs I think, and I’ve started doing some unfollowing because of it. (Not that I follow that many folks already, I know.)
*And since I only feel like I can follow a few people or risk “Twitter guilt” (and hours of my life) by not reading every Tweet, most of the people I follow are people I actually know and have met in person. (In fact this weekend I was able to add quite a few to my blogger/Twitter life list.) Btw, how do people “follow” 657 others?
*Twitter is most powerful to me when people ask questions and get quick answers and suggestions. And you see that happening all the time. It really can be “PD on Demand” in many ways.
*Twitter is also powerful in terms of networking, no question. The ability to send links or interesting ideas to people who might not currently have you on their radar makes for a pretty connective tool.
*I struggle with the marketing aspect of Twitter. And I am guilty of this as well, the “New Blog Post: The Twitterialization of Blogging, Networks, Etc” http://tinyurl…” type of Tweet that serves to bring readers in faster than a speeding RSS aggregator. I feel kind of slimy for some reason when I do that. (Not slimy enough, of course, to not do that at some points, but slimy enough to not do it every time.)
Obviously, Twitter wasn’t created to be the learning/professional development tool that it seems to have become. And I think in many ways it struggles under the weight of that. And yes, there is some network capital to be harnessed here. And yes, 1,000 “followers” (I really, really hate the way that sounds) makes it compelling. But while there may not be a direct cause and effect, since I started using Twitter last March I’ve been blogging less and reading blogs less and wondering more about where all of this takes us in the end.
Now, to post this on Twitter…
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