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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Consider Twitter

I've been on Twitter since 2007 when I saw David Warlick presenting it at an educational conference. For quite a while, I was an evangelist, trying to explain it to various people, following lots of forward thinking educators, making it a demo during presentations I've given. It would go like this - I'd send out a tweet while everyone watched:

"Please reply to this group of educators from XXX and tell us where you're from and what Twitter means to you!"

And we would watch as various "tweeple" would reply e.g.:

"Sam XXX from London - Twitter keeps me connected..."
"Joan XXX from Cleveland - when Twitter runs in the background my PLN is always there..."
"Jeff XXX from NJ - Twitter is intelligent cocktail chatter for educators ..."

Above were made up but you get the idea. It was thrilling to think of all these people communicating synchronously in 140 character bytes of pithy conversation, adding to our shared knowledge and ideas, enriching us all. And that, in a nutshell, is what I like the most about Twitter.

The things I don't like about Twitter:
  • Being followed by spammers
  • Seeing yet another "making PB&J sandwich for my son" style comments - IF this is the only feed from this person - some PB&J is fine with me so long as it's mixed with intelligent ideas, contributions, links, educational ideas, etc.
The PB&J comment makes sense when you remember that the essential Twitter question is "What are you doing right now?" However, I am hoping the people I follow are often expanding that question to "what am I reading/writing/creating/pondering/linking to/reflecting on right now?"

The negatives bulleted above are not a long enough list for me to quit Twitter, however. The benefits right now are greater than the downsides especially when I have a chance to consider everyone I follow to make sure they're involved with the latter question above.

I told my daughter I was thinking about Twitter lately. She said she wasn't surprised. I'd shown her Twitter back in 2007 and sent out a tweet and we watched for a while. The tweet was not a question, just a statement. She said "awwww, they don't answer." She said she wasn't surprised now because in her words "there's no center." There's no one place to go, no extension of the 140 characters, no central community.

We live in really interesting times don't we. Community is all over the place in various forms but there's no one place at all, there's no center, for almost all of us.

I'm staying with Twitter for now but bouncing in and out as needed. It's worth it because of the good stuff and I'll take some time to mediate the other stuff.