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Five Years of Using Twitter – Is It Becoming As Essential as Email?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 14 Mar 2012


After Five Years of Using Twitter, It Is Now Embedded For Me

Five years ago today, acccording to TWbirthay, I created my Twitter account. And via the MyFirstTweet service I was able to rediscover what I said on that momentous occasion. Rather disappointingly it was:

Filling in my expenses forms, after trip to JISC Conference at Birmingham.

I can’t remember what my first email was about, but I suspect I sent it on a Honeywell Multics mainframe shortly after starting work at Loughborough University of Technology in 1984. I do remember subsequently getting involved in a discussion as to whether undergraduate students should be allowed to use email: I was in favour, but some felt that the service would be used for inappropriate social purposes. A more senior colleague pointed out that we, Computer Services staff, used email to agree on the pub to go to on Friday lunchtimes and as we used email for social purposes, we could hardly block students from doing likewise.

The Computer Services Director at the time did not himself use email, with messages being printed off and delivered to his in-tray. That may sound strange today, but I sometimes wonder whether Twitter today is regarded in a similar fashion as email was almost 30 years ago, with senior managers pointing out that they have important strategic and management decisions to make, whilst others who had chosen not to embrace the new technology would argue that the trivia about going to the pub illustrated the irrelevance of the medium to those who weren’t part of such social activities and wanted to focus on doing their job.

Sounds familiar?

Usage of Twitter over 5 years

As I described in a post entitled 5,000 Tweets On Twitter provides value across a range of my professional activities, and its use is now embedded with, according to Tweetstats, an average of six tweets per day being posted. Indeed, as I mentioned a few days ago, Twitterers Do It In Bed! – and, according to the accompanying poll, find value in the flexibility it provides.

An example of the value of Twitter’s rapid response can be seen from a series of five DMs (Direct Message) which was used to commission a parallel session for the IWMW 2012 event:

[Me]: BTW Are you interested in submitting anything to IWMW 2012?

[M]: was wondering whether people might be interested in hearing from GOVUK guys about agile, open source, inhouse dev & maybe facilitating that?

[Me]: That sound great. Very relevant. Want to say something about learning from others outside HE sector.

[M]: It fits in with a lot of the anti-CMS stuff Mike Nolan talks about as well – I’ll send in a proper proposal – is it in Edinburgh?

[Me]: Edinburgh on 18-20 June. Thanks

While I was having this conversation which led to an agreement for a session at the IWMW 2012 event, I was composing a message to another speaker, which hadn’t been finished by the time the above Twitter conversation had been completed. Twitter can be so much more productive in cases like this, I have found. This is not to say that Twitter has replaced email; rather that in an environment in which digital literacy is important, an ability to make use of a range of tools to support one’s tasks is important for those who are looking for productivity gains.

I’ve haven’t got time for Twitter

People do say “I haven’t got the time for Twitter” or “I don’t get Twitter“. I think the former view seems to demonstrate a lack of understanding of the importance of filtering and the value of Twitter clients beyond the web site. The latter view does, however, provide the suggestion that there is something to ‘get’ beyond the sending of 140 characters in a fashion similar to sending SMS messages.

Back in 2009 in a post on Twitter for idiots Andy Powell was critical of the view that a half-day Twitter course was actually needed, especially for information professions. Perhaps a half-day course is no longer needed. I’d like to summarise my Twitter for Sceptics advice in five bullet points:

  • A Twitter ID can be valuable in itself (you don’t actually have to tweet using it). This is particularly true if you speak at conferences in which a back-channel provides event amplification of the talks, since it can provide an identifier for the speakers.
  • Although having a Twitter community (the people who have chosen to follow you) is valuable in achieving the critical mass which can help support effective discussion and debate on Twitter, if you have no followers you can still contribute by making use of a Twitter hashtag, such as an event hashtag, which will enable your contributions to be seen by others following the hashtag.
  • If you feel passionate about arguments being made on TV programmes such as BBC’s Question Time, you can contribute to the debate by tweeting with the programmes hashtag (#bbcqt).
  • You should not read every tweet from people you follow – Twitter, unlike email, is meant to be a stream of ideas which you can dip into and contribute to.
  • You get a much better appreciation of the subtleties of Twitter if you use a dedicated client such as TweetDeck, rather than the Twitter web site.

Anything I’ve missed?

Twitter conversation from Topsy: [View]

3 Responses to “Five Years of Using Twitter – Is It Becoming As Essential as Email?”

  1. […] background-position: 50% 0px; background-color:#222222; background-repeat : no-repeat; } – Today, 7:14 […]

  2. […] I created my Twitter account. And via the MyFirstTweet service I was able to rediscover w…Via Like this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

  3. Ahh, yes, and I was the person who sent the IT Director his first email with an attachment… Mr Popular that day as the line printer spewed out page after page of gibberish :-)

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