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Twitiquette is not enough

Three days of student information system training (as a participant) has given me the opportunity to use Twitter for an extended amount of time. I really, really, really was hoping to get hooked and discover what all the educational excitement is about this tool.

But all I am left with are questions about being "Minnesota nice" in a micro-blogging environment and why anyone would use Twitter.

I freely admit that I am not the most social of creatures. I am uncomfortable in environments where I don't know the social norms, the accepted rules. So after feeling edgy for a couple days, I started doing a little digging about Twitiquette. (I thought I was clever in inventing the term, but others beat me to it.) Here's a very short list of sources:

Here are questions I am left with:

1. What is the proper content for a Twitter post? (Tweet, yes?) I find I really don't care much if people are eating breakfast or preparing for a presentation or scratching their butts. But then I don't expect others to care about whether I am doing those things either. Am I just insensitive? Should I care more about my fellow human beings? I did get very anxious when it sounded from entries that one person was posting and driving at the same time. I hope that was not true. Or that we are never on the road at the same time.

2. How much material from the "Shameless Self Promotion Department" is a part of this? I read an awful lot of pointing to "Hey looky what I just wrote" or "Hey looky, I am speaking at a conference" etc. What is very icky is feeling oneself slipping into this mode a well.

3. How do you keep from being perceived as rude and uncaring? OK, I was "following" about 60 people - names of people I have actually met or for whom I have some context. I had about 300 people following me. So here is the thing: if a person who is following me posts a message I won't see it since I am not following them. My non-response may well be interpreted as me being a snot.  By not following people who are following me, I may be perceived as looking like I feel superior to them.  Hey, and what about those jerks who I follow, but who don't follow me, and that never respond to my messages? Just who died and left them Twit king/queen? Somehow this seems like a medium designed to hurt feelings.

4. When do people actually log on to Twitter and what kinds of day jobs do people have who can do this during working hours? I would feel very guilty Twittering during my working hours (unless I am in a boring, time-wasting meeting anyway or marginally important training.) Maybe real Twits are a) all self-employed/unemployed, b) outstanding multi-taskers, c) have non traditional work hours, d) attend lots of meetings, or e) don't really care that they may not be giving their employer their all. (Did I just get in a lot of trouble?)

5. What is the ratio of information to time spent? Yes, I got a few really interesting links during my Twittering time, but compared to a lot of other things I could have been doing, there as an awful poor "signal to noise ratio" - even compared to the rest of the Web 2.0 world. Hmmm, this might be an analysis that would be interesting to compare time spent vs. amount discovered in different media.

6. Is there a lack of depth and conversational development? Suggestion such as:"Conversations that require more more than two @ replies should be moved over to a direct message." The limitation of 140 characters per message. The missed pieces of conversations. The non-linear, multiple conversations. Normal interruptions that leave one far behind in this synchronous form of communication. All these characteristics do little to help me increase the depth of my understanding on any topic.

My sense is that we are taking what is meant to be a recreation tool and attempting to shoe-horn it into educational purpose. We trying to pass a cocktail party off as a educational seminar. As Jakes writes in the blog posting mentioned:

"At its best, Twitter is a place to share a resource, a link to a new blog post, or an insight, and even a place to have a little fun. It’s a place that could be about learning. At its very worst, Twitter is a self-indulgent exercise in self-promotion and pettiness."

The funny thing is that I really like the people with whom I've interacted - in other situations and media.

And to be fair, I don't really suffer from a lack of socialization in my off-line world. I work in an office setting with a dozen other people. At home, the LWW is a great "socializer." She socializes when I am trying to read, trying to watch a movie, trying to brush my teeth, trying to get to sleep... ;-) But for those who may work or live in a more isolated environment or have less need for solitude, Twitter may be the best thing since sliced bread. 

But I simply can't warm up to Twitter. I would have a difficult time recommending it as tool for improving one's Personal Learning Network.

The big understanding needs to be that it is OK to personally reject even a popular application if it doesn't fit. 

Not everyone's a Twit.

twit1.jpg twit2.jpg twit3.jpg

Monty Python images from:

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Reader Comments (18)

For me, Twitter and how it's used is a bit like the debates recently about the nature of the edublog world generally. It's so
big, it's up to you to shape it into a tool for you (and there's nothing wrong with accepting that a tool isn't right for you and putting it right back!)
For what it's worth, my thoughts would be
1. Whatever YOU find appropriate. If people don't want to read it, they won't follow you!

2. Depends on who you follow. Quite a few people have moved away from automatically tweeting every new blog post, but I actually find this one of the more useful aspects of Twitter

3. It's your network - you shape it! I genuinely don't think people are too worried about have equal numbers of followers and followeds. And if you want to make sure a message is seen by someone not following you, just start it with @therename and it will appear in their replied tab.

4. At work (I'm a teacher) I have it on in the background. I tend to check it at break and lunchtimes and again after school. I can also access twitter from my phone if I'm waiting for a bus or taking a stroll. I've recently cut back on the number of people I follow to avoid feeling swamped.

5. In the same way I skim through my feed reader, I simply don't read every tweet in detail.

6. For me it's more of a conversation starter than a conversation medium, although I know others treat if differently.

For me, what Twitter has done has 'humanised' my network and brought me into contact with new people whose blogs I now read or whose ideas I listen to. I did, for a while, find it becoming intrusive, so I cut back the number of people I was following and it now fits nicely into my pattern of working.

It's not an educational conference, or a cocktail party, it's something completely new, and needs to be thought of in those terms. It might not be for everyone, but if you can find a way to use it how you want (rather than how anyone else is using it) you may still find it useful :0)

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDave Stacey

Good evaluation, Doug, and I'd even give you extra credit for your blatant honesty. Three things:

First, I've always been a fan of Monty Python.

Second, Dave's comments seem to summarize many of my feelings as well. I particularly like what he has said about the humanizing effect of Twitter. In Twitter, one can come to know the people they follow in a much more relaxed, personal nature than could ever be realized through blogging alone. That may or may not be a good thing.

Third, if you really don't like Twitter then that's fine by me. We can still be friends and I'll still read your blog. I feel sorry for you, though, because you've had to endure (and will yet endure) a great deal of conversation about the medium. I'm sure that alone becomes tremendously tedious.

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDarren Draper

Merlin Mann had a great quote and some links about Twitter on his

"The Fishbowl: Twitterpated - I get a surprising amount of flack for not following more people on Twitter. Which dumbfounds me. It’s like being angry at someone because they aren’t watching enough TV. Anyhow, some of these hyper-following people strike me as either nutjobs or cynics, e.g. “in one case, 34,000. If you were truly following all these people, and they updated only once per day on average, you would be reading a Twitter message every two seconds.” Yeah. That sounds really fun and enriching. [via anarchaia]"

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterteacherninja

Twitter is what it is. It isn't what it isn't. Not sure why so many bloggers find a need to overly define, analyze, and regulate twitter (rules, etiquette, purpose, use, right way, wrong way, etc.). Sounds all very left brain to me. According to the twitter makers, the point is to answer the question, "What are you doing?" That's it. But, in that simplicity, people have found great community,connectivity, resources, event happenings, friendships, and more. That is a good thing right?

As most say, the people that don't "get" twitter are the ones that don't stick around long enough to build a "following" network, or those that try to force twitter into something that it isn't. Most everyone doesn't get it at first.

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterFrank's Blog

I understand your frustrations with Twitter, Doug. Sometimes I'm frustrated myself, but I do find value in being part of a Twitter network. I usually have Twitter open all day, but very rarely read every tweet that comes through. I just glance down as they pop up, if there's something interesting I'll follow the link or read closer. I would say I "miss" 90% of the tweets that pop up on my screen on any given workday. But, I also know that if something useful was missed, it will pop up again, and eventually I will "notice" it.

The thing that has been most powerful for me with Twitter is being able to instantaneously connect with a large number of people with similar jobs/interests so we can learn together. The number of times that I've had a "stupid question" that I was able to tweet out and get an answer back within seconds has been worth it, even without any of the other benefits (the humanizing of my network being a huge one as Darren and Dave mention above).

There are lots of other reasons I like Twitter as well, but that may have been the first reason that really got me hooked...

And, btw, now I see how coComment doesn't work on your blog. Boy, that's frustrating! I think I can still track this conversation by bringing in the URL to the actual coComment page, but I might just have to settle with the co.mments RSS tracking feature (there's only so far even I am willing to go to track my conversations)...

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKim Cofino

I use twitter frequently as a way to stay connected with my immediate family; my four siblings and their families are currently flung around the US. My sister-in-law tweets cute updates in the voice of our family's first child from the next generation. It totally reminds me of the babble that would happen around our kitchen table back when we were teens, always performing and talking over each other. Lots and lots of insider-family type of stuff.

But I've been only vaguely curious about it's use as a professional educational learning tool? huh??? really??

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmy S.

I'm so glad I'm not alone. I still don't get twitter,and wonder how I could find enough time to build the right network and wade through all the tweets about nothing. Not to mention following all the links suggested. For now, I will rely on those in my networks who do see the value and regularly share the wisdom they glean from it.

May 2, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChristine Martell


I love Twitter because of the connectivity. It is both a social and a professional tool for me, as I exchange resources, information, encouragement, and sympathy with a network of virtual colleagues and new friends.

If it doesn't work for you, that's fine.

Just remember, not all twits are on twitter :P

May 3, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterdiane

I tried several times to try and become addicted to twitter. Everytime I found it useless. Then someone recommended that I install the "thingy" that goes on the side of my browser. I became instantly hooked.

May 3, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Bogush

I think my "love affair" w/ Twitter began in June from BLC. All the blogs I was reading were raving about Twitter, and then Jakes himself blogged that he would announce the sessions he was in from Twitter, and invite any lurkers who wanted to skype into the backchannel from there. So I refamiliarized myself with Twitter then just to get those magical breadcrumbs from what I knew was a fantastic confernece. That is when I dove in, and realized that great things were being introduced in Twitter, from backchannels at conferences, to impromptu and orchaestrated Ustreams, to team effort to try out the newest tools (like WizIQ, Operation 11, Diigo, and more.)

I too could only find the time for Twitter after work hours. Sometimes I used it on the weekends, but not as much as in the after hours of schooldays.

I have somewhat shunned it since getting rebuked by Jakes and then Jakes close friends. But honestly I haven't missed it. I suppose that is the closest I've ever come to cyberbullying ( though that is my interprtation alone.)

I think I will continue to use it for the purposes that I outlined that made me fall in love with it, but I am also going to remember this lesson I learned in such a hard way--the text on a page cannot replace voice inflection, feeling, emotion, and assurance of what is meant.

Yep--the love affair with twitter is over, as is the love of some former favorite blogs (note I DID NOT say bloggers.)

And I hate to say it, but your "distance" from twitter (along with Joyce, Kathy Schrock,more) also has made me see that it must not be all it's cracked up to be. Yes, these people are there, but thay are not raving over the tool, just using it as a means to an end when it suits them (i.e. you using it as a boredome buster at a dry meeting.)

Thanks for this post. It makes me feel better, though in all honesty, time and distance from the rants of late have also helped to make them nothing but a distant memory.

May 4, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCathy Nelson

Hi Doug --

I am just going to address #4 -- If I might. Because I have been wondering the same thing.

I, myself, had to go to my network guy (he works next to me in the same office) and asked him to block twitter from my system -- after I realized that I was being distracted from my "real" job.

So I do wonder when some people seem to be able to post during times that I am suspicious that they are at work......grins, and now I am probably in trouble too. (grins)

I still enjoy twitter -- but am trying not to be as engrossed as I was in the past. I have made some exceptional LIFE LONG friends via twitter that have carried over from the casual 140 character conversations to Face to Face indepth long conversations due to travel opportunities.....but I am one of the lucky ones.

I do have a question for you though -- can you explain LWW? I am thinking Lawfully Wedded Wife -- but LOL, not sure on this one.

Thanks so much!

May 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer Wagner

Hey Doug,
Your article perfectly expressed what I have thought about Twitter. It IS used often for self-promotion -- "look at me" kind of stuff. And that is particularly annoying. I do see some benefits; sometimes there are very good resources that people point out. And you can make connections for project collaborations (which I have done). I do get a little wary of those who "Good Morning" and "Good Night" Tweets and who just seem to be addicted to it! I go on once a day, check out any interesting posts, but most often feel like I have nothing to say (who cares what I am doing??!!). Sometimes I will dm someone to ask a question. I am going to point to your article in my blog.

May 9, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Kliegman

Doug, these are all great questions and many that I have thought about as well. I like Twitter. I like the connections I've made, I like how it can instantly connect me to a network who can help me answer a question and teach me. Sure, I still have questions, I still wonder what I'm missing, but it has added something to my professional learning - and that's important to me.

May 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterChad L.

Twitter is a thing. Just another thing.

Twitter use may represent a less-than-dedicated employee, but at home isn't it less of a time-suck than, oh, say, SL?

What I find most confusing is how people can dedicate so much time AFTER work hours,AT HOME! to SL, UStream, WeStream?

Am I the only one with kids? Am I the only one trying to have a F2F with my spouse (I mean, a lot of people sure do love the F2Fs, you'd think they practice them in their homes)? Am I the only one watching Lost? Hell's Kitchen? The Office? Please don't answer those last three...I'm well aware I live, at times, a less than esoteric existence...but I'm watching them with my wife, and we're even talking about them.

And what about reading? When's anyone getting that done?

All I know is that this soporific soul of mine needs / craves / begs for sleep. Begs for balance. Begs for an all-inclusive life, but every time I add one thing, I've jettisoned another.

Take the origin of this comment:
1. Log on to Twitter
2. Click on Darren Draper
3. Click on the link to his blog
4. Click on his 'hey, read this' little blue widget
5. Read your post
6. Think about your point
7. Read the comments (okay, only two...wanna guess?)
8. Type my comment

Total time so far (Verizon Fios Internet...just thought you should know): 12 minutes.

So, what did I lose over these past 12 minutes:

1. The washer to dryer exchange that my load of darks so desperately craves.
2. Making lunch for work tomorrow.
3. Cleaning something in this house...anything in this house (myself included).
4. A chance to talk with my wife as all 4 of my children sleep.
5. A peregrination
6. The top of the 9th inning of the Red Sox - Twins game.
7. The beauty of disconnectedness

And it's #7 here that irks me most of all because it's the constant addition of things that makes me realize how much I had in the first place.

When I think about Twitter I'm ashamed of myself. When I check Feedburner I'm mortified at who I've become. When I think about what I should blog about I near tears.

All of the aforementioned make me realize I've neglected my children, my wife, and in its purest form, my life.

Maybe I'll blog about it.
Advertise it on Twitter.
And see if my Technorati rank goes up.

Really now, just as Twitter asks: what are we doing?

May 11, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterken

Twitter won’t fail, for the past several years social networking has always been thought of as one website that bundles a whole bunch of services together on to one network that helps us to communicate with our friends, none of those bundled services have ever really been executed very well.A number of large enterprises and media companies are using Twitter in their communications, as well as advising several of their clients in their use of Twitter as an effective social media marketing tool.

November 10, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersaraherric

Hi Sarah,

Oh, I am sure that Twitter will be around for awhile. (Although I think I saw it listed as a dot com that might be in financial trouble.) While I don’t care for the tool myself, it seems to be popular with a lot of other folks!

All the best,


November 11, 2008 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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March 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersteven7

Hi! I think your blog is very interesting.
I’ve also a website dedicated to promote education and culture.
I wish that you will visit my site and see how we can work together to create a global education network.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter1er directorio Escolar

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