Twitters or Twits?

Martin Weller has been writing a lot about twitter recently, in fact almost to the point of fanaticism! (don’t take this the wrong way Martin). I have been trying to be a good twitterer (?) but I find it difficult to manage to both do stuff and inform others about it. I even find it difficult to twitter at conferences as I get so engrossed in them that I forget to write stuff down! – I think it’s a me thing but I would put some points to Martin in respect of recent Twitter postings

1. The case of those poor students that were involved in the lockdown. I can understand them wanting to keep in touch and it’s great that twitter helped. I obviously haven’t been involved in such things before although I did grow up in Belfast during the “troubles” and we did get regularly awoken on a Saturday night by a bomb blast, sometimes the windows would rattle or the building would shake. Not perhaps as immediately scary as a gunman in the building but still bad at the time. I dealt with it by finding another human and giving them a hug. I think electronic devices only go so far in the comforting area. I also think that before twitter people could still text or indeed phone each other for support (although there may be a point here about alerting a gunman to your presence!) – What happens if the gunman is using twitter to see what they’re up to and where they are?

2. A senior OU colleague (senior in responsibility not years!) yesterday told me how he was at the “Making Connections” conference at the OU. He was at the back taking notes (twittering) and listening to the talks. He went to the talk before Martins and started taking notes, half way through the talk it became so boring that he decided to stop taking notes and ‘twittered’ to say that the speaker was so boring and the talk was so dull that he was giving up (or words to that effect). Low and behold Martin came on as the next speaker and what he did was show a mashup of OU twitter feeds from the conference and to my colleagues embarrassment his twitter post was up in two foot high lettering on the stage for all to see! (be careful what you write)

3. My team are making a site about Bio Diversity (see previous postings) and one thing that’s cropped up as an issue for people involved in similar projects is that when a new plant or animal species is found (particularly rare plants in specific locations) once the details are published people are going to that spot and digging up the plants and taking them back to their gardens. This poses a serious problem as it may be wiping out some rare species and when the plant life goes the animal life sometimes follows too. I’ve heard reports of this type of “theft” happening a lot recently.

So in summary I can see some really good reasons to twitter not least of which is that I know why people haven’t turned up for meetings or what useful tools they’re playing with. The downside is that I’m really quite rubbish at it and I haven’t found the killer reason why I should twitter. I store my tweets up to become blogs. Sometimes I store blogs up to become reports but mostly I store everything up to bore my partner over a drink at the weekend!

Finally Martin I think you need to go to TA (Twitters Anonymous) as I think it’s becoming an addiction!


About willwoods
I'm Head of Learning and Teaching Technologies in the Institute of Educational Technology at the Open University.

10 Responses to Twitters or Twits?

  1. Gill says:

    Your point 2 had be chuckling 🙂 However I think it’s best that these things are out in the open. I’ve sat fthrough too many boring presentations. Both blogs and tweets are simply honest representations of peoples thoughts.

    I wonder if I’m a twitter addict. I became a great fan of Facebook statuses originally. I RSS fed them to my google sidebar so I could see them as they were updated. I think this has transferred to twitter because I find it gives me a wider perspective that FB where only my “friends” were represented. Initially I found it rather odd to have total strangers start to follow me on Twitter. But then somebody pointed out that this was no different to strangers following my blog entries, except that I could see who they were. I’ve found that often these strangers are interesting – often from other countries, sometimes with websites or blogs that are worth following.

    I like having some of the tweets sent through to my mobile device. Gives me something to read and smile at in a waiting room or on a bus or train.

    For me twitter is two things. One is a nice way to keep up with people I know. Another is to have a small level of contact with people I don’t know.

    So am I a twitter addict 🙂 ?

  2. Laura says:

    I consider myself a social tweeter, in the same way some people are social smokers or drinkers. I can take or leave it and enjoy it while I’m there. In certain situations, my use becomes habitual (quiet days, conferences). Really enjoyed this post, thanks.

  3. Juliette says:

    Your post sums up exactly how I felt about twitter a few months ago, but now I’m a convert. I think I hadn’t realised that it’s really about talking to other people, not talking about what you’re doing. One of the things that has also surprised me is that it doesn’t feel like a time drain as I never spend longer thinking about what to say than the time it takes me to type it (though that might show in my tweets!)

  4. Martin says:

    To take your points in order Will:
    1) I think these stories of Twitter in a crisis are interesting, but not really the _point_ of Twitter. Rather what they illustrate is how important a person’s network is to them.
    2) I didn’t actually have the tweet in question displayed (I know which one you mean). However, there is a more general point – Twitter is more out in the open, it’s not the same as FB friends update where it is more closed, so one should be careful what you say about colleagues.
    3) Not sure there’s much you can do about this.

    As for being addicted to Twittercrack – maybe, but then I work at home, so it eats up less time than having a lunch and coffee with people everyday, and it makes me feel connected to the workplace. I fully accept that today it’s Twitter and tomorrow it’s something else, but what all of these do is build on the network, and I may be addicted to that.

  5. willwoods says:

    Thanks for all those comments I’ll respond to each in turn
    Gill – Good points. I’ll try the RSS feed to google desktop and see if that suits me better.

    Laura – Yes, I think my use is too sporadic yet, once I get into it more I’m sure I’ll get addicted.

    Juliette – That’s a useful distinction. For example I find this commenting system (in WordPress) only slightly useful as a way to share because the discussions quickly fizzle out (which is OK I guess as they are not meant to be a full blown debate) but using twitter these types of short exchanges can happen very easily. I find my twitter/facebook presence integration useful and I do use facebook regularly.

    1. A comfort and also a threat if abused. I see it as another method of communicating.

    2. Ahh. Well according to my colleague (who will remain nameless) it was on display,but perhaps the story has been exaggerated a little by him. You’ve got my point though and that’s it is an open book. My life isn’t always like that and you know because of the review that we’ve had to be circumspect in what we say on blogs and twitter. I would prefer it otherwise in an ideal world but we haven’t got that luxury yet. Perhaps we never will. I’d like to use blogs and twitter to, for example,brainstorm a reorganisation process and structuring. I think it could be very useful but it would be totally public and open that it would throw the fear of god into senior management and probably not be considered very interesting to the rest of the public. I do think though these new methods of communicating should be used more widely for big complex group problem solving.

    3. Nope. It a bit like road rage and phone rage an unfortunate side affect of the way technology has changed our lives.

    I feel like you’re the manifestation of the twitter society so my apologies for picking on you Martin. I see the homeworking thing, and Niki who also is at home alot uses forums to keep in touch with her network of horsey friends.

    In summary I’m just a bit rubbish at it so far and I need some time to set up twitter the way I want it and to get using it properly. I reckon I’ll become a convert within three months. One question – do any of you guys have “twitter down time?” – i.e. an enforced absence? – Matt Riddle (sp) when he was at CARET did some experimentation on the affects of forcing people away from online networks and the results were very interesting. People paced around rooms, became agitated, felt time was running slowly etc. Watch out for his paper on this (it may be out by now I haven’t checked).

  6. Alan says:

    You sound very much on the leading edge of the well documented Twitter Life Cycle

    I would be very careful of the pitfall of extending ones singular experience to all; there are more varied uses of Twitter than we can see as individuals. But I do agree with the lack of desire to conference tweet beyond sharing a few URL links/highlights. Running repeated tweets are annoying (but again, that is my singular experience).

  7. willwoods says:

    Hi Alan,
    Yes I do that all the time (extend my experience to reflect a greater viewpoint) however there must be other people like me, surely!

    – Yes I think I’m on the cusp!

  8. Kathy Rudge says:

    Wildlife clearly needs to be protected. Please don’t tell the twitchers about twitter.

  9. Martin Harvey says:

    Hi Will,
    I’ve just started working on the Bio Obs project with Jonathan’s team, no doubt you are one of many people I need to have a chat to.

    Re wildlife being dug up or ‘stolen’, you say “I’ve heard reports of this type of “theft” happening a lot recently.” Would be very interested to know more about this, I’ve often heard the fear expressed that wildlife can be damaged by letting out information about it, but so far I’ve found precious few examples where this has actually happened.

    On the other hand, letting people know where rare species are can help get support for protecting them.

    Interesting area, would be good to have more evidence on both sides of the argument.


  10. willwoods says:

    Hi Martin,
    Nice to meet you. Regarding the theft of species you should probably speak to Steve Godwin (working on the OpenLearn project), it was he that told me about this issue and I beleive he has details of what and where this has occurred.

    We do need to meet up, hopefulyl that will happen soon. I’m not anti Twitter you understand, I just think it’s not a force for good necessarily, rather it’s a tool and it’s up to us to help define it’s uses.

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