Social Networks Can Be Too Heavyweight
I think many of the 750 participants at the recent JISC 10 conference regarded the event as a valuable networking opportunity, as well as an opportunity to hear the two plenary talks and listen to presentations and watch demonstrations that were given throughout the day.
Much of the networking will have been carried out using networked technologies. I have previously pointed out that the Ning network wasn’t really used to support communications and user interactions – and as it has recently been announced that Ning is laying off 40% of its staff and will no longer be providing a free service I suspect that Ning won’t have a role to play at next year’s JISC event. Instead, as can be seen from the statistics on WHashtag and the Summarizr service, much of the networking was carried out using Twitter.
Twitter as a Lightweight Social Network
But how do you make an impression on Twitter? Or, if you feel that ‘making an impression’ isn’t what Twitter is about, how do you establish effective business relationships using Twitter, if that is something you would like Twitter to achieve?
In a post I wrote in March 2010 I described how “It Started With A Tweet” – ‘it’ in this case being a joint paper which Sarah Lewthwaite (@slewth) on “Developing Countries; Developing Experiences: Approaches to Accessibility for the Real World” contributed to which was presented recently at the W4A 2010 conference.
The post didn’t, however, describe how Sarah’s Twitter biography provided me with the opportunity to contact her and discuss her interested in disability issues.
The first thing you should notice from her Twitter biography (which is illustrated) is that it provides a brief summary of her interests and, most importantly as far as I am concerned, a link to her blog. It was that link that I followed from which I learnt that, in addition to her interests in Web 2.0 which she mentioned in her response to my initial tweet, she also had research interests in disability issues. It was her blog post which introduced me to the concept of ‘aversive disablism’ which formed a valuable new contribution to the model myself, David Sloan and other Web accessibility researchers have been developing over the years and which was included in our recent paper.
In has recently occurred to me that if Sarah had not provided a link to her blog in her Twitter profile, leaving it blank or simply linked to the University of Nottingham Web site (her host institution) we would not have had the Twitter discussion, I would have been unaware of the concept of ‘aversive disablism’ and David and myself would probably have been unable to provide significant new ideas for a paper for the W4A conference – which, thanks to Sarah’s valuable contribution, won the John M Slatin award at the conference :-).
Writing Skills for Twitter Profiles
I recently worked with Netskills to deliver a training course. During the workshop I heard that one of the new trainers will be delivering a workshop on Writing For The Web. I wonder if the course will cover writing biographical details for use on social networking services and the importance of hyperlinks to make it easy for others to identify possible business opportunities. I probably spent about 5 seconds looking at Sarah’s profile before deciding to follow the link to her blog. And those 5 seconds provided tangible benefits. I wonder why Twitter users who use the service to support their professional activities would fail to include a link back to further information in their profile?