21: Twitter, Tweets and Retweets

Twitter is currently the most popular microblogging tool. Microblogging is a type of blogging with very short posts. For instance, Twitter’s posts are limited to 140 characters. Users follow other users by subscribing to each other's updates. All the updates from the users you follow will be aggregated in to one timeline that appears when you log in to the site.

Some Terms:
  • Tweet: a posting on Twitter.
  • Following: Those you follow on Twitter.
  • Followers: Those following you on Twitter.
  • Timeline: The stream of Twitter posts by those you follow.
Here’s what the folks at Common Craft have to say about Twitter in Plain English:

It's true that Twitter started as a way for people to post what they were doing. But that’s not its only use. It’s now being used for much more, including sharing articles and resources; following real-time events and conferences; connecting with colleagues and friends; and sharing pictures. Many people worldwide became aware of the value of Twitter last summer as protests over the Iran election results occurred and Twitter became one of the few ways for news to reach the rest of the world.

One of the significant aspects of Twitter for you as a professional is that you can follow influential people in your area of expertise. This way you have a chance to listen to and speak to these people via tweets. If you follow the right people, you can build a personal learning network for yourself. Instead of you searching for valuable information, it will find you on Twitter. Also, you can ask questions on Twitter and people may respond with helpful answers and solutions.

Share your information about your day, notes from a conference or important meeting you’re at, links to articles you’ve read, news events, and other information. As you follow people, you’ll get information shared with you.

More Twitter Terms:
  • Retweet: This is a reposting of someone else’s Tweet. It’s fairly common.
  • Reply: Sending a public message to another Twitter user or responding to another user’s Tweet. Example: @dinovan hello….
  • Direct Message (DM): A private message to another Twitter user. You can only send DMs to people who follow you.
  • #: The # sign followed by a word or phrase is called a hashtag on Twitter. It’s a way to categorize tweets, especially among users following the same event. Examples: #ash23things or #IranElection
Discovery Exercise:
If you already have a Twitter account and want to dig deeper into Twitter, try this. Otherwise, follow these steps:
  1. Sign up with Twitter. Go to twitter.com and click the “Sign Up Now” button and follow the steps to create an account. You will be able to include a short biography or add a profile picture. You can choose to make your account public or private as part of the sign up process. Making your account private means people have to ask to follow you before they can see your tweets. You can come back to these steps at any time using the Settings link in the top right corner of the screen.
  2. Make your first tweet. Click in  the status box at the top of the screen where you see the question "What's happening?" Write something about your participation in this 23 Things program. As you type you will see the number at the top right of the box decrease. This is counting down the number of characters you have left. When you have typed your post click Update.  You will see your tweet appear in the space below the status box. This is the start of your timeline.
  3. Find people to follow. To get you started, here are Tech Coaches at ASH: dinovan, angiesaylor, HollyMSK8 and jasmithie. Here are some organizations to follow: ASH, NAISnews, and isenet. You can also use third party services like wefollow or the tweetdeck directory to find people to follow on Twitter. Here are some other educators.  Once you find someone, click the "Follow" button which is located on every user's page. To subscribe to a users' updates simply click this button and their tweets will appear in your timeline. Your mission is to find people/organizations to follow that are going to post meaningful info for you.
  4. Read tweets and leave tweets.   For a week, post and interact with other users. Use the hashtag #ash23things on your tweets if they deal with this 23 Things project. They will then appear here. Note: Your Twitter account needs to be set to public for the tweets to appear on the page.
For Your Blog Post:
  • After about a week of using Twitter (if you have the time), blog about the experience. If you wish, post your Twitter username so others can see it and follow you.
  • Did you like microblogging? Do you love it, hate it or are you ambivalent? Explain.
  • How might you use Twitter in your personal / professional life.

Note 1
People often wonder how to avoid information overload with a network like Twitter. Answer:  Let go of being able to read everything and keep up with everything; take in what you can and leave the rest. If something is important enough, plenty people in your network will post it and you’ll see it. Once you take this plan of attack, you won’t feel quite so overwhelmed.

Note 2
Google Buzz - This is the recently released microblogging tool by Google. The jury is still out on Buzz, but you might want to explore it if you are already an avid tweeter.