David Bradley (@sciencebase) introduced me to twitter. He supported @pulseproject all the way through our first steps. We have found twitter to be a great tool to communicate information about this project to a wide audience. We are delighted that David agreed to be our first of many guest bloggers on Pulse Project. In this blog David talks us through his experience on twitter.
David Bradley Scientwist
I joined Twitter in June 2007, registering my website name, "sciencebase" as my ID, I made a few tentative tweets until I discovered TwitterFeeder. This tool lets you automate posting your blog headlines to Twitter. I had but 50 followers within a few weeks and wasn't finding Twitter at all useful. It wasn't driving traffic, I wasn't making new friends, I wasn't sharing and engaging. There's definitely an etiquette.
In the autumn of 2008, I was hearing so much buzz about my abandoned social media haunt that I took another look and realized I'd been doing it all wrong.
Twitter is not about pumping out blog posts. It's about engaging with other people. Full stop.
Once I'd made that connection, I stopped tweeting for my personal benefit and started to share useful information, blog posts, and links to other sites. I also started to follow more people who seemed interesting, retweeted and commented on their tweets. At that point, Twitter started to take off for me. I went from very few friends to several hundred by the end of 2008 and that number is still growing, my follower account is fast approaching 5000 now.
You might have noticed that I follow fewer people than that number in return. Well, I have an internal Twitter flowchart for deciding who to follow, and it primarily filters out the spammers and people advertising affiliate marketing schemes. I also tend not to follow anyone who refers to themselves, without irony, as any kind of guru (unless they're running a yogic sect of course).
As a result of all this engagement, I've made quite a few genuine, new friends with whom I chat regularly and exchange information in places other than email. Of course, many of the people I know on Twitter were already business or personal contacts. I now use WordTwit to tweet my blog headlines but they are almost secondary to the conversational tweets.
You might imagine that it is limiting for a writer to have to share an idea in just 140 characters. However, with a little tweaking of one's thought processes, you can get quite a lot of information across in a tweet as well as a link to a more substantial blog post, say. As a journalist, I see it as being akin to writing a beefed up headline. It's definitely an art, especially as you are even more limited if you're including a shortened link and want to leave space for fellow twitter users to retweet (RT) your tweet. I'm no expert, but I do try hard.
Whether or not Twitter will have any long-term impact on news itself is a different matter. At the moment, all the hype is about the instant crowd reporting from Mumbai, the Hudson River plane crash-landing, and currently the Iranian elections.
Twitter does get the word out on the street faster than other news sources, assuming it is accessible from a particular news site, although information accuracy is not guaranteed initially. Scientists, students, and journalist are live tweeting from conferences (and their labs!) and because of the immediacy and reach of twitter the word on the latest discoveries are reaching an audience often long before even the blogosphere gets hold of a story and certainly long before the mainstream media, in many cases.
However, Twitter is still very much in its infancy, and I suspect that the vast majority of web users are still at the bottom of the learning curve if they're on it at all. News websites and RSS aggregators are displacing newspapers and TV, but whether or not Twitter is displacing those too is a different matter.
To find more science-minded people on Twitter you might like to check out the scientwist list - http://bit.ly/scientwists - now has more than 500 members and the scientists "twibe" at http://www.twibes.com/group/scientists (well over 400 members).
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