Archive for the 'Networks' Category

Lessons learned from my Twitter activity in the past few months

I’m sure some sage individual in the past has noticed that humans are most excellent at making order out of chaos as well as vice versa.  For most people who first encounter Twitter, when they hear that it’s just about people barking statements in less than 140 characters about the goings on in their lives, they immediately decide that the tool amounts to nothing but horsefeathers and mindless chatter.  A little over two years ago I too was skeptical about using Twitter. Now I have a great appreciation of what a powerful tool it is for connecting with people who are interested in the same things you are. More than that it’s a great way to learn from others and find people in your field to learn from.

While others may lament the 140 character limit, I believe that the limit forces you to ‘prune your words’ or carefully think out what you will share.  The medium itself is, after all, only designed for short bursts of conversation. If you want a longer discussion that’s  less constricted go find a forum on the same subject.  The great thing about Twitter is it’s a large body of information sharing, but you can still make relative sense of it by using the search or accessing what YOU want to hear or learn about by using the hashtags (examples: #baseball, #knitting, #instructionaldesign). You don’t have to dig through individual communities and forums to find what people are saying about a topic.

Again it’s difficult to engage in a deeper conversation from just following the hashtags, but groups can hold guided discussion by centering the Twitter exchange around a set of guiding questions which people in the group respond to individually. In the next few posts I’ll be sharing more about my own attempt to learn how to use Twitter as a tool have an ‘actual conversation’ with like minds. I’ll review the preparation &  steps needed to hold a Twitter chat, and I’ll also take some time to analyze the benefits & drawbacks of this format of conversation. Finally, I would like to take a deeper look at some of the Twitter tools out there that help both faciliators and participants.

Using twitter as a conversation tool can still pose challenges and seem restrictive, but if you leverage it’s strengths and adopt a Zen approach to absorbing with wave of content and thoughts from others, it’s actually a great window into how others feel about the topics you care about.

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What Does the Ideal Virtual Workforce Look Like?

I was talking to my manager the other day about writing some sort of article that highlights the skills and talent needed to manage a virtual team. Last year I was able to briefly describe the ideal virtual employee. I decided to come up with characteristics for both virtual managers and virtual employees.  This is what I came up with so far… I’m still working on it.

Ideal Virtual Workforce

Click on the image to view the full sized mind map

I based the qualities and behaviors of managers on several of the managers I’ve had in the past whom I felt to be highly effective. In a nutshell, I really liked/like working for these people and I’d pick up another job with them in a heartbeat if it was available.

Honestly, I feel that the first thing an effective manager of a virtual team does is hire ‘the right people.’  In a sense, half the chore of managing a team is done once they’ve hired the correct type of person. This isn’t easy, because good employees are often hard to come by, and I speak from my own experience on hiring panels in a corporate workplace. Often interviewees have been coached to “talk the talk,” and a hiring manager needs to be able to see through this. A good virtual manager will probe employees to see if they can truly demonstrate the qualities and behaviors of the “ideal virtual employee.”  Moreover, a virtual manager will request and thoroughly review a portfolio of the prospective hiree’s past work before the actual interview. They will aslo ask pointed questions about how the interviewee accomplished or made these portfolio items.

To be honest, when I enter an interview, I actually look for the behaviors I described above in the hiring manager.  I want to know that the person who’s leading me is capable of managing me and the whole team effectively. There’s nothing worse that being hired into an extremely dysfunctional team. I’ve often thought of scripting scenarios that take the best moments from interviews I’ve had with managers.  I’ve even thought of taking the best coaching moments I’ve experienced and sharing them.  So many of us have in the past worked for or currently work with poor managers, sometimes It’s good to know that there are good ones out there. While the economy is bad right now and many people might be willing to put up with working in a dysfunctional workplace, it’s still important to hire good managers (virtual or not) who encourage productive innovation. Innovation and the ability to change and adapt readily is what helps companies survive in succeed in trying times.

Addendum… thanks to Twitter, I’ve found a number of interesting articles on virtual workers:

Okay… so now I understand what Twitter is all about

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

Image originally from the Morguefile. Click to view the original

I’ll admit the idea of telling people what you were doing at any given moment did not appeal to the side of me that adores my privacy. Also, being involved in conversations with others that absobed so much chatter didn’t spark the curiosity of that extremely methodical part of me.

Yet the side of me that has come to appreciate “Stream of Consciousness” really gets it.

But after first joining Twitter I can see what people like about it.

A few tricks I learned quickly to reduce the noise factor on twitter:

  • The more followers/followees you have the faster the pace of the conversation. It’s good to search for conversations using “key words.” You can also save the chat
  • You can easily save tweets you like by clicking the “Star” or favorites option.
  • Just accept that you’re not going to get every piece of information being shared. Twitter is pretty ephemeral and it embodies that life of ephemerality characteristic of some aspects of “Internet life.”
  • Make comments even ones that appear to have no point every now and then.
  • If you’re sharing something cool include the link (be forewarned… if the link is too long you may not be able to share it. Hopefully, web developers out there whose pages require long urls are noting this. Or the twitter people might be able to develop a feature that allows you to associate links to text so you don’t go over the 140 character limit).
  • Addressing someone directly requires including their Twitter ID (ie. @nlkilkenny) in your tweet or post.
  • If you must, you can search through the archive of a saved search. Depending on the volume of a conversation you may be searching for sometime till you get to the beginning.

I’ve actually learned a lot this weekend on Twitter. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but I get this way when I learn a good deal of new and fascinating stuff.  I saved a search for Arduino technologies because I’ve very interested in learning how to make clothing and knitwear use electronic features using the Arduino Lilypad.

Arduino Lilypad
Arduino Lilypad

Can you imagine having a purse that’s hooked up to your cellphone so that it blinks a certain way when different people call? I’d also like to make some kind of garment (even just wristbands) for my brother that plays different sounds. He’s a musician that tries to bring traditional and non-traditional sounds and instruments together: OO-Ray.  I was searching through Make.com’s site and found some very fascinating applications with Arduino tech including this Fabric Synthesizer. What a wonderful way to showcase ingeniuity and creativity.

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Art and textiles meet electronics and music

Amazing: “In My Language”

This made me think a great deal.  This is probably one of the best explanations or accounts of autism I’ve seen, and it’s told from an autistic individual’s point of view. Can you imagine… would this persons story and view of the world be communicated as easily without video-sharing (YouTube) and Web tech? Also, the video comments and feedback is just as though-provoking.
[Youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnylM1hI2jc]

2007 Statistics on Technology Users in the US

I’ve been looking for a better snapshot of what technology consumership look like. The Pew Institute released an interesting study which identified 10 different types of consumers of internet and technology. These types were determined by the possession, use and activity of technology assets (mobile devices, computers, cell phones, internet connection, etc.). At the top of the list “Omnivores” (8% of the surveyed) could be characterized by having a lot of gadgets and subscribing to many services. These individuals frequently participate on online social networking and expressing themselves via blogs, website authorship, etc. In contrast, the “Off the Network” people did not have cell phones or internet connectivity (15%)

These types were labeled as follows:

Elite Tech Users ( 31%)

  • Omnivores
  • Connectors
  • Lackluster Veterans
  • Productivity Enhancers

Middle of the Road Tech Users (20%)

  • Mobile Centrics
  • Connected But Hassled

Few Tech Assets (49%)

  • Inexperienced Experimenters
  • Light But Satisfied
  • Indifferents
  • Off the Network

More on technology and internet usage:


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