First Impressions of Twitter

I finally signed up for Twitter last week after resisting for quite a while. Part of my resistance/reluctance to join was that this just seemed too out there for the audience I work with and our online facilitators. I’m willing to fight the battles to include blogs and wikis and chat and a bunch of other stuff, but this seemed like too much to throw at them. Over the last 6 months or so, I’ve been seeing more examples of personal learning with Twitter though. I realized that even though this isn’t really something I need for my job or that I anticipate implementing this as an organization that I could do this just for my own benefit.

Two weeks into it, I’m still not sure I totally “get” Twitter, which is probably OK. I have been enjoying following conference tweets from #astd09 and #iel09. Hopefully next week I can join the #lrnchat discussion. I lurked a bit last week and had planned to join last night, but a night when I had a 5+ minute delay didn’t seem like a good time to jump into that kind of conversation. But I can see the value in those conversations with this tool.

I wonder–could you have the same kind of conversations of #lrnchat via Skype or some other chat tool? Wouldn’t a similar kind of conversation have been possible in (gasp) an AOL chat room 10 years ago, or via IRC or whatever? I guess I see the value in that connection and discussion, but I’m not sure that Twitter really does so much more to facilitatate those conversations than older tools. What am I missing?

If you want to follow me, I’m ChristyATucker.

19 thoughts on “First Impressions of Twitter

  1. Jane, your point about different strokes rings true, and I liked your observation (I think in last week’s #lrnchat) that Twitter “moves at the speed of Jane.” I’m feeling like I’m getting more out of Twitter now that I’m connected to more people (as Sue suggested), although I still feel like the tool has been overhyped. But, I’m getting enough out of it to justify the time I’m spending with it right now, and that’s good enough.

    As for LinkedIn, I do actually subscribe to the RSS feeds for Q&A for a couple of categories. Most of the time I skim through them very quickly. Once in a while a good question pops up, and I’ve had some good discussions. But the signal-to-noise ratio there is probably worse than on Twitter (assuming you follow good people). I can’t knock LinkedIn too much though; my husband and I saved at least $1000 due to some advice through a question I asked. It worked for me as a source of information in that instance. As a whole, I think this tool is probably better how Tony Karrer uses it though: as a way to find people.

    You’ve got me thinking a bit about Ira Socol’s Toolbelt Theory. In that post, he talks primarily about assistive technology, but I think the ideas can apply to everyone of any ability. Everyone should learn how to look at a task and choose an appropriate tool–not just learning professionals, not just people with disabilities, but everyone. Everyone needs to learn, so everyone needs to learn how to select and use these tools.

    On the flip side of that, when we develop learning, we should give enough flexibility that people can use the tools of their preference. I feel like that’s an area where I have a lot of room for growth in my own design.

  2. Different strokes, maybe. For instance, while I love Twitter, and have found lots of really smart bears there, I don’t get much from LinkedIn at all. Questions are often thinly-veiled marketing tricks, or posted by people who PLEASE tell me are not really in the training business (“How do I make someone’s behavior change? I only have 90 minutes and will be lecturing in an auditorium to 300 people. Thanks!”)

    While the dedicated learning professional will buck up and learn to leverage whatever tool best meets the needs of learners, it’s likely that we will all each continue to have our own preferences and likes.

  3. Cathy, I completely agree. This is an example of what Twitter can do in terms of news. User-generated content is better than the traditional media sources for getting content out of Iran (partly because of Iran blocking all the traditional media). The new media is too scattered to block as simply as the traditional media, unless Iran completely shuts down the internet there.

  4. Finally a use for Twitter that I can believe in: Twitter is playing an important role in getting news out of Iran. Twitterers like @persiankiwi are getting reports out of Tehran while the phones and other media are blocked. I’ve been following the Iran-related hashtags all day and will continue tomorrow.

  5. Sorry Christy I’m really not well and I should have said that my response relating to business was relating to how Cathy talked about “business-building effects”.

  6. @Cathy, thanks for sharing your experience with the traffic (or lack of it). I’m sure some people do get big bumps from twitter, but sites like Digg can drive temporary traffic too. And I do understand about it being a public conversation. Most of the time that’s OK, but I can see that even a semi-private conversation would be valuable for a lot of contexts.

    @Shelly, I’m getting similar info to what you see in hashtags via custom search feeds in Google Reader. I don’t think one or the other method is necessarily better, but it’s two approaches to the same goal. If you’re only looking on Twitter, I wonder if you’re missing OL Daily though. That’s one of my favorite sources for education news (plus some deep thoughts from Stephen Downes).

    @Sue, I think your experience with Edublogger is very different from what most of us will experience as individual bloggers. Talking about the use of Twitter for businesses and customer support is an entirely separate issue, and not a compelling reason for me to use Twitter as an individual blogger.

    It’s not that I deny that Twitter has value for anyone, because I know that it does. But the reasons you’ve given–Twitter-only readers, getting more blog comments, providing customer support–aren’t big motivators for me. And I will remain highly skeptical of your claim that a “large portion of our audience” has dropped feed readers and can only be reached by Twitter until you do that survey and back it up with some data. Those individuals exist, but I bet my guess of 0.5% of the total blog reading audience isn’t that far off.

    My immediate goal with Twitter is to re-energize myself for blogging. Sometimes I get in a rut working at home and need to go to a coffee shop for an afternoon for a change in scenery. Right now, I’m approaching it as that change in venue that will hopefully spark some new ideas that I want to write about. That’s enough of a reason to filter through some of the noise and see what I can learn.

  7. Hello Christy,
    As a new blogger, I have found Twitter very useful. However, I have found Twitter extremely useful in other ways as well, but this was not until about 2 months of using Twitter. One of the most incredible tools are hashtags. I subscribe to hashtags like edtech. Now everyday I am current on the latest technologies and various opinions. My husband is even impressed with how much information I have gained before he knows about it. Also, the information is easily read through my feeder. I scan the info and can quickly gather information, real applications, and general opinions on technology like Bling. As a blogger, I find this a better way of keeping current on information for my readers.
    Also, I can act as a reporter. Recently, I attended a webinar with an author and the participants used hashtags to provide information on the event. Afterwards, I just typed in the hashtag into Twitter search and found various opinions and recaps on the event. Moreover, twittering the event raised the participant numbers significantly. Aside from the search and hashtags is the ability to quickly connect with others in your field and share information. I have connected with educators from all over the world in such a short time. Now we are connecting our classrooms. I have learned various new apps to help my students. I have found several valuable websites from others that I easily bookmark with Delicious. I have also been able to join ning communities and learn the edtech language, such as moodle, nings, and VLE. A month ago I did not know what any of this meant and I do not know how I would have discovered the lingo and current technologies of my career field through other avenues as quickly as Twitter. I could go on and on, but I’ll quit now. Great post!

  8. Here is my take on things.

    In terms of blog readership I accept that technology now means that people who more preferred methods of communication. By providing a range of options to people to read your blog you are catering their preferences. For example, my readers can choose whether they wish to read my blogs by email, RSS, links in twitter or from Facebook.

    Facebook has been interesting as it surprised me the number that prefer to read and comment solely within Facebook. But it shouldn’t because since that is where many less tech savvy feel comfortable.

    In terms of business I think you need to take a really long approach to its effectiveness. I should also probably say if that was my sole reason for using Twitter perhaps I might go crazy. However I enjoy using twitter and I enjoy the relationships I make with people on twitter.

    From a business aspect twitter (and Facebook) are important for providing support for our users. Educators, and others, know that they can send me @replies and get near instantaneous assistance with their problems, regardless of which blogging platform they use or what technology question they are asking, or if I can’t help I will know who can help.

  9. I gave Twitter a decent chance (several months) but found that the signal-to-noise ratio wasn’t high enough for me.

    While I’ve heard of Twitter’s business-building effects, I haven’t seen them. I’ve been linked to and mentioned several times without a noticeable effect on my traffic or business. Even when someone with 12k followers favorably linked to one of my blog posts, the post got only a slight increase in traffic. That suggests that either my Twitter proponents are unpersuasive or other people are also overwhelmed by too many tweets and aren’t reading them.

    I do get value from some business tweets, so I use Tweetdeck to focus on those. This means that most of my Twitter “friends” are getting little or no attention from me, and I wonder how widespread that is in Twitterdom.

    I’ve participated in several Twitter-based chats but feel that a Skype or similar chat would be a lot better. First, I don’t like knowing that I’m contributing to the flood of mostly irrelevant tweets. Also, a Twitter chat is very public, which means everything I say is broadcast to, for example, my clients and (few) competitors. Obviously any type of chat statement could potentially be public, but at least a Skype chat isn’t broadcast immediately to bajillions of people and I could feel somewhat more comfortable asking for advice on business matters.

    More than a third of my blog readers subscribe using email. Since they apparently don’t even use RSS yet, I don’t think that they’re going to drop their subscription and expect me to tweet links to new blog posts. They’re mostly corporate types, so their approach to Twitter may be different than in the higher ed world.

  10. I could try to show you the stats by running a simple survey but would first have to design the survey to ensure that it wasn’t biased.

    In terms of readers portion that use email will depend on your audience. 21 % of my readers on The Edublogger subscribe by email compared to 6 % of readers on my personal blog. You might be surprised and perhaps some of your readers that use email are on twitter.

    Actually twitter’s downtime hasn’t been that bad lately. People have been saying for a long time that twitter was on it way out yet has out lasted and out performed all other microblogging solutions.

  11. Show me the stats that back you up on the trend and I’ll be more convinced. 20% of my subscribers are still reading via email; I think Twitter as a company will be bankrupt before those people join. They have no business model, make no money, and have absurd amounts of downtime. Microblogging as a trend will long outlast Twitter.

  12. Technology is changing fast that anything is possible. Leaving Feed readers isn’t a fad unfortunately with educators it is a reality. Many educators they prefer links in twitter as their source of blog post and news.

    I agree your subscriber numbers are excellent and I enjoy reading your blog.

    With twitter I’m just giving you my feedback based on 2 years of using twitter (for supporting my own learning and other educators).

  13. My growth in feed subscribers has been linear for some time; Twitter isn’t affecting that one bit. And to be perfectly honest, I think this is a fad that will be gone in 5 years–probably in 2. So I’m not worried about it. I think the trend of people leaving feed readers for Twitter–if it even is a trend, which I’m not convinced of–is a blip, not a long term shift. Where that’s happening at all, it’s on the absolute bleeding edge where people feel they need to have the most current tools and be trendy. It won’t be sustainable. I guess we’ll see in two years who’s right, huh?

    If I wanted exponential growth instead of linear I’d be doing a lot of things differently. But 500-600 subscribers is a nice number; I have more people reading my stuff than I could read in turn. 500-600 is enough that I get comments and have good discussions but I can manage what happens here on top of my regular day job. 500-600 puts me comfortably as a C-list blogger, which is a good place to be.

  14. Don’t get me wrong I don’t necessarily care about the numbers of readers I have. Although I do like to have my posts read and the more comments I get the greater learning I achieve. Similarly with the more response and greater diversity of responses on twitter the more learning and innovation I gain.

    It is more that there has been a shift by people from Feed readers to reading posts this way. While your audience mightn’t be doing it yet if they follow trends of others than you will see it happening.

    It is also important to point out the reason why I follow so many on twitter has absolutely nothing to do with my blogging and everything to do with my work. My role with Edublogs is to support our users and support the educational community; I will follow back any legitimate person who follows me. But you will also notice that I rarely choose to follow a person without them first following me.

  15. If I was really concerned about my blog numbers, I would have joined Twitter previously. But in the e-learning space, I’ve only heard of one person dropping their feed reader entirely for Twitter. Since most of my learners aren’t using Twitter, and that’s part of my audience too, I’m not going to lose them that way. Heck, many of them are still subscribing by email, and I’m OK with that. But my subscriber numbers have still been slowly increasing over the last six months even as I’ve been sporadic in posting, so I’m not losing ground.

    I’m not trying to break records, so I honestly don’t care if I expand my reach as far as possible or not. Let’s be honest here–if I want more subscribers and views, my time would be better spent posting more regularly than being on Twitter. In terms of value added for my readers, posting would clearly be the higher priority. Besides, how much I personally learn from blogging is not particularly affected by whether the 0.5% of people who read only via Twitter links read my posts or not.

    I also know that if I was a freelancer or looking for work that I would have joined Twitter much sooner. Because I’m happy in my job and don’t have as much pressure to connect and be visible, Twitter hasn’t been really urgent for me. I could see the value for someone in that situation, but it doesn’t apply to me.

    So basically for me it boils down to “Yes, I know I can get more subscribers and promote myself with Twitter. I just don’t care because I’m not here for the numbers.”

  16. It is always fascinating to watch new people getting into twitter. For me I got twitter reasonably quick; but I’ve seen others struggle with it.

    What I will say is as a blogger I strongly recommend that you do work hard on getting use to twitter because whether we like it or not a large portion of our audience now reads links to post from Twitter and don’t use Feed readers 🙁 .

  17. I am using Tweetdeck, which is definitely helping. And I’ve been sort of gradually adding people that I already know through my blog to follow. Maybe that’s part of it too; I haven’t really interacted with too many new people yet because I’ve stayed within that comfort zone of people I know.

    I’ve seen lots of the demos, so I know that works. I know I’m not at the stage where I’d get good answers b/c I don’t have enough people. I’ll shoot for 100-200 and see what I think then; that may be more the number I need. I feel like two weeks isn’t quite enough to “get” Twitter anyway, so I’ll keep plugging along.

  18. Well part of what you will currently be missing relates to how many people you are following on twitter.

    At present you are following 40 people. Which is excellent in terms of an intimate conversation however you will find it a long time between those conversations. So you might not actually get the true power of twitter.

    Now my twitter network is considerably larger the conversations less intimate but in terms of finding information and getting assistance I will always achieve it faster than most other people. Please feel free to ask me to do a demonstration. Give me a question that you would like answered, but it has to be something that they want to answer, and I will ask my network.

    PS I’m not saying you have to follow an extremely large number. In fact I totally advise against that with all new people. Following between 100-200 people is a nice number for new people and make sure you are using a good Twitter application like Twhirl or Tweetdeck that makes it easier to follow the conversations faster.

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