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Monthly Archives: May 2012

Where I Think Twitter Falls Short

(Apologies… I realize this is a ridiculously long blog post!)

Of all the digital Communities of Practice (CoP) in which I participate, I rank Twitter last in terms of the ability to start a conversation.

This past January, even before I was assigned Twitter as homework, I decided to give Twitter another chance.  I felt like I sucked at tweeting because nobody ever commented on what I posted.  So, in a last ditch effort to force a conversation, I tweeted the following:

I waited… and waited… and waited.  Crickets.   Nobody replied.  Granted, I wasn’t following that many people, but it was still very disheartening that nobody offered any suggestions.  So much for “social coparticiatpion” (Adkins & Carter, 1996) in this community of practice.

I kept with it, though, and decided there must be another way I could learn to be literate on Twitter.  I felt fairly proficient with Facebook and LinkedIn, so maybe I could build off what I already knew about how to communicate in those situations which, for my fellow adult learning compadres, is an idea known as schema theory.

My first tactic was to reply to posts from people I’m following, something I do often on Facebook.  I started with my sister, figuring family ties would increase my chances for success.  She tweeted about a Twitter webinar she attended:

Unfortunately, that was the end of the “conversation” on Twitter.  I did eventually find out what was so great about the webinar the next time I spoke with my sister on the phone, but it seemed that replying directly to a tweet, did not facilitate an exchange online.

I also tried sharing links to interesting news items about people I have worked with – as I do LinkedIn – with short endorsements to entice people to view the links.  This, too, failed to spark any conversation.

Still not wanting to admit defeat, I kept hoping that I might learn by keeping myself in the game and watching how others played.  Put another way for those of you who prefer academic terms, I continued on in hopes of learning by socially constructing my knowledge.

When we started tweeting for homework this semester, I was excited about the possibility of having actual conversations on Twitter.  Even though our class would constitute a relatively small CoP, we would, in theory, be able to “create knowledge and shared ways of knowing through [our] actions” (Adkins & Carter, 1996).  While I have to admit I’ve had more “conversations” on Twitter in the past few months, I still feel that Twitter is an ineffective tool for true dialogue for the following reasons:

  1. The artificial 140 character limit on your tweets,
  2. The disjointed nature of the Twitter feed, and
  3. The comparatively short length of the average Twitter session.

Character Limit
Call me old-fashioned, but my idea of a conversation is not “Yo! Wazzup?”  “Not much… how you?”  “Good… whatcha doing?”  “Nothing… you?”  “Nothing.. I’m bored.”  “Me too.”  While this exchange may fill some social connection for the younger generation, it fails to have any “communicative efficacy.”  On several occasions I have been confounded by Twitter for not allowing me to post something I felt would surely have great communicative efficacy – or at least get people thinking – only to find that the length of my message exceeded 140 characters.

The first time was when I tried to tweet a quote from Severn Duvall, my favorite undergraduate professor, that seemed to capture the epitome of what we’d been talking about this semester in terms of education as a tool for reflection and what Edmund Husserl called “making the familiar strange.”

We will encourage the student to reconsider the old familiar patterns . . . Indeed, we will encourage them to scrutinize unexamined presuppositions of their selves and their world. . . . Education is, after all, a radical act in the rudimentary sense of the word. As student and teacher alike, we go back and try to re-examine.

Since I felt that cutting anything out of the quote would take away from the message, and adding anything to put the quote in context was impossible, I ended up not sharing this with the #adlt650 community online.

A similar situation happened when I read a post on Facebook from Dialogue Education – Training & Consulting by Global Learning Partners:

Who is Twitter to decide that these words of wisdom are too long!  Instead, I shared this on my Facebook page where I could not only share Freire words in their entirety, but I could also add the comment “THIS [original emphasis] is why I am working toward my M.Ed. in Adult Education.”   Within hours, I had several “likes” and a comment from a former colleague.

Disjointed Tweet Feed
I have never been able to install TweetDeck successfully.  Every time I get to the Add Account step, I get a blank screen.  I don’t know if my experience with the disjointed tweet feed would have been different had I been using TweetDeck, but I believe my arguments are still valid, given that Twitter is the digital community and should be able to facilitate good communication on its own.

When someone who is following me comments on one of my tweets or tags me in a tweet, I see that in my tweet feed, but it is not easily connected to the entire conversation.  For example, when @blaziak tweeted:

I had to click View conversation to see that she was replying to a tweet @HGradclass had posted earlier that day:

But this entire exchange was completely disconnected from the tweet that started it three days earlier which was:

In contrast, when a conversation on Facebook spans multiple days, all the related comments show up together in a cohesive unit:

Length of Average Twitter Session
The third factor that I believe causes Twitter to stifle conversation, in conjunction with the previously discussed issues, is the comparatively short period of time people dedicate to Twitter versus other social media outlets.  According to this chart sourced from eMarketer.com, time spent on Twitter pales in comparison to time spent on other social networking sites such as Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook.

In addition to this short attention span of users on Twitter, the staying power of any one tweet is relatively short.  According to a study by bit.ly, “The half-life of a link posted to Twitter is about 2.8 hours.”  For someone like me who (*gasp*) does not check Twitter in real-time, that means I probably miss out on a lot of good stuff.

Being literate on Twitter – in terms of being able to participate in the conversation – seems to involve more than making meaning of the text and images presented in a social-contextual manner.  Going back to Twitter’s original concept of being a mobile status update service, accessibility in the moment is an advantage for users who have immediate access via a smart phone or other mobile device.

Still Not Giving Up
Twitter continues to be a part of my online presence, but more so as a resource to access information than as a place for conversation.  I lurk on the sidelines in what Lave and Wenger call legitimate peripheral participation as I strive to be a more active and literate member of this digital online community.

Image adapted from “13 Ways to Create a Cringeworthy Social Media Presence,” by C. Eridon.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in ADLT 650

 

Who I Am on Twitter

My Twitter name is @AdoptAGldn, which should not surprise anyone who knows me as my passion is working with a Golden Retriever rescue group.  My profile reads:

(Until recently, that first sentence read “…two rescued Goldens and one tiny cat.”  RIP, Squeak… I miss you very much.)  The order in which I list these descriptors is reflective of their importance to me – dogs (pets), school, work.  However, if you read my tweets, the dogs do not make as many appearances as you might expect.  I have yet to incorporate my dog-friends into my Twitter followers, choosing instead to interact with them on Facebook .  (For more on my preference for Facebook over Twitter, see Where I Think Twitter Falls Short.)  My tweets are more reflective of my academic self and my professional self.  This semester, especially, my tweets have focused on different aspects of literacy and education since tweeting was part of my homework.

In their article “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately”, Marwick and boyd say that “identity on Twitter is constructed through conversations with others” (p. 11), but I disagree.  In my experience, Twitter has not been very adept at fostering conversation.  Rather, I find that my identity on Twitter is constructed by what I choose to tweet.  I am a student.  I am a marketing professional.  I am an animal lover.  Because that’s what I tweet about.  Marwick and boyd go on to say that “the fact that we constantly vary self-presentation based on audience reveals authenticity as a construct: are we more or less authentic with our book club or gym partner?” (p. 11).  I would argue that I am just as authentic as a student with my Twitter audience as I am a crazy dog lover on Facebook.  It is just that I have chosen to use different media for different purposes.  I believe this is what boyd was talking about when she said, “knowing one’s audience matters when trying to determine what is socially appropriate to say or what will be understood by those listening.  In other words, audience is critical to context.”  It’s not that what I tweet about wouldn’t be of interest to my Facebook or LinkedIn audience – I have been known to cross-post on more than one social media outlet – it’s more that the people I’m connected with in these different spaces are, for the most part, distinct audiences.

My LinkedIn connections number 161 and are predominantly people I know in a professional capacity.  On Facebook, I have 167 friends from all areas of my life.  There is some overlap between my Facebook friends and my LinkedIn connections.  I am following 30 people on Pinterest, with almost 100% overlap with my Facebook friends.  On Twitter, I am currently only following 25 people or organizations with minimal overlap to either Facebook or LinkedIn.  The main reason I have chosen those 25 to follow on Twitter is because I hope to get information from them more than I want to share information with them, with the exception of my followings for #adlt650.

I plan to continue to be known on Twitter as @AdoptAGldn and tweet about things that strike me as interesting.  I hope you’ll (continue to) follow me.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in ADLT 650

 

When & Why I Started Tweeting

I created a Twitter account a couple years ago when I was out of work and looking to stay current on marketing trends.  While I was very open to joining LinkedIn, and I had finally seen the light about Facebook, I continued to resist joining Twitter.  According to the Twitter blog, “Twitter was originally conceived as a mobile status update service—an easy way to keep in touch with people in your life by sending and receiving short, frequent answers to one question, ‘What are you doing?’”  I felt certain that I was not that interesting that people would want to read about my every move.

Three years after their launch, Twitter realized that the status update service they’d created was being used in a broader way.  “People, organizations, and businesses quickly began leveraging the open nature of the network to share anything they wanted, completely ignoring the original question, seemingly on a quest to both ask and answer a different, more immediate question, ‘What’s happening?’”  While this seemed to me a more reasonable and meaningful question to answer, what finally spurred me to join this online community was not semantics but a promotion run by CarMax in which followers were instructed to retweet (Twitter speak for share) CarMax’s tweets for a chance to win a car.  WIIFM.  Smart move, CarMax.

My first tweet was in January 2010, and it said:

Sadly, I did not win the contest, and my two Golden Retrievers still squish in the back of my car.

But I had finally joined the ranks of Twitter.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2012 in ADLT 650