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.