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In Which I'm (Almost) Convinced of the Value of Twitter


I've been trying Twitter off and on for months now and just couldn't get excited about it. I hear all these great things, but somehow it just wasn't connecting for me, which is a little unusual since I tend to take pretty quickly to new technologies.  So when Jeff Nugent from the Virginia Commonwealth University Center for Teaching Excellence emailed me about what he, Britt Watwood and Bud Deihl were experiencing with Twitter, we decided a conversation on the benefits of Twitter was in order.  Thus was born our most recent podcast, during which they educate me about what I've been missing. It was recorded as our previous conversation was with the Pretty May Plug-in for Skype.

I have to say that these guys make a pretty compelling case for sticking with Twitter. Among their reasons:

  • It's another channel for sharing ideas and coming up with new ones.
  • It's a great way to get quick questions answered and to get links to articles and resources.
  • It builds community, too. You get get 140 character windows into what's happening with people you may know through other venues, which helps build trust and connection--the basic currencies of the social web.

Of course there's more in the podcast, so take a listen here or just click on the title in the player above.

A few links we referenced in our discussion:

And some recents Twitter-related posts from Jeff, Britt and Bud:

Jeff was also kind enough to send me some other resources to further persuade me:

After we recorded the call, Sue Waters, who may be the biggest Twitter addict I know, tweeted me to let me know that I'm basically a loser if I use the web-based version of Twitter. According to her, to get the full power of the tool, I needed to download Twhirl and sign up for Tweetscan.

Twhirl allows me to, among other things, receive automatic updates when new posts appear on Twitter, and Tweetscan lets me sign up for RSS feeds to searches of Twitter conversations. So I can put in my Twitter ID, for example, and find out if people are talking about me, part of that whole monitoring your online reputation thing (or perhaps simple personal paranoia). I can also look for topics and trends, something Britt, Jeff and Bud mentioned was so valuable in our podcast.

Wanting to give Twitter another chance, I took Sue's advice. I will admit that Twhirl is making monitoring Tweets a little less overwhelming, which has been one of my main gripes about Twitter. The jury's still out on Tweetscan, but I'm assuming it will be equally useful.

I can't say that I've been entirely converted, but I'm beginning to see the light. If you're on the fence, maybe the guys at VCU can convince you to give Twitter a try. And if you've already been converted, drop me something in comments about your favorite power uses. I'm open to whatever I can learn.

(Mea Culpa program note--I had some kind of brain cramp at the beginning of the interview and referred to Britt as "Britt Atwood" instead of "Britt Watwood." I'm apparently name-challenged, so Britt, I sincerely apologize. Bud, I would like to point out that at least I spelled your last name correctly this time. Jeff, the next time we talk it'll be your turn for me to screw something up, so get ready.)   

UPDATE--Be sure to check out Sue Waters' post on Using Twitter--lots of great resources!


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I also said, to Britt, that Twitter is one of the largest referrers to my blog and that if Michele doesn't get Twitter it is fine we should be both happy to grab all her blog traffic :). Unfortunate but true that twitter has been a major driver to increasing my blog traffic and for people connecting with me. People are also able to see a different side of your personality compared to reading your blog since I tend to be a bit cheekier and more ranty in twitter.

Twhirl vs Snitter. Twhirl is like the fancy sports car. Really lovely interface. The trouble is I follow a large number of people; and how Twhirl loads up the tweets means I was missing too much of the conversation. Snitter displays each tweet slowly one after another - less fancy but more functional for someone like me.

TweetScan is more about not missing replies. I've a lot of followers -- not all am I following. TweetScan means that I can check easily in GReader for replies and respond back at my convenience. All about engaging in conversations. I also use to track terms for example Edublogs which has grabbed me some really cool links to resources.

Getting twitter is a combination of following the right number of people, having applications that make it easier for you and working how to make the interactions benefit how you want to interact. There are no rules.

Apologies definitely not needed. Over the years, I have been called many things, though I think the worst was when I was introduced as "Watt Brittwood"...

: - )

Sue has great ideas and I have picked up so many ideas both through twitter and her blog

I really enjoyed our chat today! Love the work the Bamboo Project turns out!

Finally had time to come back and listen to your podcast -- it's excellent and they've done a great job at explaining the benefits. Definitely having a chuckle about being mentioned in the podcast and it was just pure luck I was still online cause I had planned to go to bed early :). I suggest you do play a bit with both Twhirl and Snitter as there is quite a bit of difference. Snitter displays notifications slowly one at a time whereas Twhirl will just tell you there are new tweets if there are more than 3 and trust me with Twhirl if you are following a large number you don't want to change to display all (computer desktop covered completely not a good look).

They are very correct -- twitter lets you connect with people deeper than you could ever do on a blog and the nature of the relationship changes. You connect with people that you don't necessarily expect to connect with; which sometimes carry across to other media e.g. blog posts, skype and google talk.

The mundaneness and absurd are an important element; consider it a bit like f2f conversations you do the small talk to build relationship which means your more likely to get help :). I frequently have followers comment back to me that they love my crazy little (big) rants although I'm now concerned by what will happen when they wake up from their night sleep to the idea of online mud fighting to solve twitter arguments.

Thanks Britt for your kind words about your interactions with me in twitter and The Edublogger.

Thanks Sue and Britt for your great comments. Sue, I'll definitely check out snitter, too, to see if it suits me better. I'm liking twhirl, but maybe snitter is a better option.

I realize that part of my thing with Twitter is that I feel weird twittering about things like taking my 16-year old for a driving lesson. I keep thinking, "Who cares?" But obviously that's part of the culture so, like I did with blogging, I have to get comfortable with doing that. Thanks for all the great support and advice you two!

To be honest I think if you're not getting a lot of twitters Twhirl will be fine - just gets back to how you like your messages display. I do have mine set to refresh the quickest as well; so constantly updating.

Perhaps the question needs to be asked do you really open up to the absurd on your blog, and show the deeper glimpse on your blog? Take for example Sarah Stewart - she is really good at this here post on the doctors and what she received from the medical companies was hilarious. Sure it probably didn't get any comments; but it does help you connect with her. Perhaps this isn't an aspect you feel comfortable and maybe for twitter you will never get to this point.

Trust me after yesterdays adventure on twitter - mud wrestling as one conversation and questionable behaviour in Second life I had people waking up in other parts of the World laughing plus wondering whether I should be allowed on twitter when they are asleep.

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