Just what is this “Twitter” thing anyway?

I created a twitter account some years ago, and got streams of one liners, bad jokes, banal sentiment, and descriptions of coffee and bowel movements. Whatever this “Microblogging” thing was, it wasn’t like, y’know, real blogging. I found little of interest, and let it slide.

Years later, I started to hear more and more about it, and the synomization* of Twitter and PLN’s didn’t jive with my earlier experience, which seemed to be mostly fart jokes. So I checked it out, and I have been much happier with what I found. After a month I have 90 tweets under my belt, I follow 57 people and organizations, and have 33 followers. As a PLN, I am now connected to educators from around the world, gaining insights and sharing thoughts.

So how would I describe Twitter? Well, to be cliché, “it’s a giant party and everyone is invited”. No, seriously. Okay, not the binging noisy dance party sort of party, but the social gatherings at conferences where you actually get to talk to people and make connections.

Imagine, if you will, being at a giant reception at conference to which everyone, and I mean everyone on the planet, has been invited. Overwhelming isn’t it? Noisy, too much going on, how do you break in to conversations? How do you make connections? Maybe you just wander around until you catch a snippet of conversation you can contribute to, and join in. Maybe that conversation leads to others, and people begin introducing you to people they know, and so your network of contacts spreads.

Like a large social gathering, there is no way you can catch every bit of every conversation. You don’t even try. You explore and enjoy the conversations you have, and maybe someone will fill you in on conversations you missed.

But Twitter adds a few extra bonuses – you can search for specific terms to home in on specific conversations, and you can filter for hashtags (specific words or topics preceded by #). No doubt it is overwhelming at first – just like a large hall crowded with people you don’t know. But wander on in and see if you can find a few kind folks to help you get started.

*If Shakespeare could make up words, so can I.

2 thoughts on “Just what is this “Twitter” thing anyway?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Just what is this “Twitter” thing anyway? | TeachScience.net -- Topsy.com

  2. Ari

    Twitter can, indeed, be noisy – but part of what makes it such an excellent resource is that every Twitter user has the ability to curate their feed. You see just what you want to see, and nothing you don’t.

    However, this is also the service’s downfall for a lot of users – those who lack the wherewithal or guidance to build & groom their feed will invariably complain about the trivial & inconsequential updates about coffee and bowel movements, or the general lack of useful information and meaningful conversations.

    The alternative? Lazy people use Facebook and put up with the noise that arises from mixing personal relationships with business / professional relationships. But Facebook has fewer affordances for professional development and learning: e.g. you’d be hard-pressed persuading another professional in your field to respond to your friend request. So, the lazy Facebook users not only put up with a noisy feed, but also professional network whose potential for growth is extremely limited.

    What’s really sad, and frustrating, is when I hear a student saying s/he doesn’t “get” Twitter, but uses Facebook all the time. What this says to me is, “I’m comfortable with my existing relationships, and don’t see the value in meeting with, connecting to, and learning from others.”

    Twitter’s affordances facilitate learning. Facebook’s affordances don’t. For students, Twitter really is where the party’s at.


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