Helping New Twitter Users ‘Get It’
I’ve recently acquired some new Twitter followers and have become aware that in some cases newcomers to Twitter feel that they should be using the service but don’t quite ‘get it’. An example of the benefits Twitter can provide for those involved in IT development activities might help not only to demonstrate Twitter’s potential but also to highlight one of the subtler aspects of Twitter use – how messages sent using the @ command may not be seen by those with a small Twitter community.
Monitoring Twitter Usage Over Time
Last week I noticed Twitter chat between Martin Weller (@mweller) and Tony Hirst (@psychemedia) about, if I remember correctly, ways of measuring trends in numbers of Twitter followers. Tony suggested (correctly) that the TwapperKeeper Twitter archiving service couldn’t be used as that archives tweets and not information about Twitter users.
At this point I joined in the discussion. I have an interest in how Twitter discussions centred around an event hashtag might evolve over time. I had captured a screen image of the Summarizr word cloud for the @iwmw10 hashtag, with the intention of repeating this the week before the event, during the event and the week after in order to see how the discussions had evolved over time.
I was aware that my approach was not a scalable solution. However the Twitter discussion led to some thoughts of ways in which this process could be automated. I wondered whether use of an archiving solution layered on top of Summarizr might be feasible. Myself and Andy Powell (who wrote Summarizr) did briefly suggest meeting up for a drink and a chat about possible Summarizr developments. However with the World Cup being on the TV most nights we didn’t get round to finding a suitable free evening.
Meanwhile Martin Hawksey observed our discussions and, as he has described in a post on Using Google Spreadsheet to automatically monitor Twitter event hashtags and more on the MASHe blog he has developed “a Google Spreadsheet which could capture and report the daily/weekly twitter activity from an event hashtag“.
The Benefits of Growing Your Twitter Community
I’ll not describe Martin’s development work as this is described in his post (and he’s even recorded a video which gives an overview of how to use the service and what it does. Rather I’ll reflect on the process.
Martin (Weller) and Tony were (openly) discussing an area of interest to them. I had similar interests and described what I had been doing (and was aware of the limitations of my approach). Meanwhile Martin (Hawksey) observed the discussion and (while Andy and I were thinking of having a meeting) developed a solution.
Without the open discussion on Twitter this would not have happened!
But I have also realised that this happened because we all follow each other and so @ messages aimed at either of us were visible to each other. This is a subtlety of Twitter which is probably not appreciated by new Twitter users (and, I suspect by many established Twitter users). It was, after all, only in May 2009 that Twitter changed how the @ command worked in Twitter – as described on the Twitter blog “you only see replies by people you follow” (although if you prefix an @ reply with another character – a . is often used – the reply will be visible in the Twitter stream).
If you’re a new Twitter user and have decided to start off slowly by following only a small number of Twitter users you may therefore miss out on the wider set of discussions which are taking place.
I’d therefore suggest that if you are new to Twitter and are willing to give it a fair trial you should seek to grow your Twitter community. One suggestion I have for growing the numbers of people you follow is to watch hashtags of interest to you and follow people who seem to be making interesting comments. If you are a librarian, for example, follow the @lisrc10 event hashtag, especially on 28 June (the date of the Evidence, Value and Impact: the LIS Research Landscape in 2010 Conference).