Using Twitter

I wrote this email to my MW5202 class in the NUS Science Communication course, before I dashed out of the house. Although they have all dutifully registered twitter accounts as requested but I have yet to  get down to discussing it’s use. 

Last night I learnt of this e-Fiesta 2012 conference and with active twitterers present, I thought it’d be an excellent way to have them experience conference coverage.

This quick email can provide the basis for a class discussion after they have experimented with twitter.

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Quick word – you can follow e-Fiesta 2012 @ NIE from 1030hrs today, as an example of conference tweets:!/search/%23edsg

Kenneth is there (@acroamatic)

Hi everyone,

I’d like to share a word with you about twitter (I am at @sivasothi) and I’ll blog this later, but first a word to you all. 

Using Twitter

Many bloggers abandoned writing posts and resorted to Twitter because with its 140 character limit, it is an easy way to express oneself, link followers to content and exchange quick messages (much like IM) and discover and follow people generating relevant content. 

You can learn the basics here: wikiHow: How to Use Twitter. Also this: “A 20-step starter’s guide to using Twitter efficiently,” by Chris Lake. Ecoconsultancy, 06 May 2009.

As with any other tool, the strength of Twitter depends on the user.  

How I use Twitter

I follow friends and my research students – these are people I have face to face conversations with and I find it enhances our interactions as well as theirs. My students tweet each other from the field too and I see that provides then with motivational support in an open conversation which others join in from time to time. 

Others I follow are mainly those who tweet about life in Singapore, technology, nature and heritage. 

I don’t want one frequent individual to swamp others, so while I experiment with following interesting, amusing or educational users, I unfollow the high frequency twitterers else they will drown others out. I do likewise for my Facebook news feed and this way, both tools provide an enjoyable, informative and relaxing stream.

Mostly I find that I read and tweet when I am on the go, using my iPhone. Its excellent on long journeys!

In one dramatic instance, I saw a photo a rare leaf monkey dead on the road in my news feed and alerted the graduate student researcher to go down to get blood samples. See:

This led to the realisation that leaf monkeys are using additional areas which no one had realised this until this photo was seen.

With a trusted and readable feed, during these commemorative days of the Battle of Singapore, I have been reading and contributing to learning and reflecting about World War II in Singapore.

Amplify your reach – cross-post and conversations

I amplify my reach by having my tweets posted to Facebook – so I need not be in the app to initiate a conversation. You can do this by installing the twitter application within Facebook. 

This is important if you are trying to communicate to others as most “news readers” are on Facebook, whereas Twitter has a larger proportion of “news providers”. I find more tech-savvy support on Twitter but more social support group on Facebook.

This linkage came in useful just yesterday, when I twittered from the Cenotaph in the morning about an impending installation of a permanent war site marker. A student who follows me on Facebook, went down to take photos and provided me with photos and updates about the installation of the “Rimba 10 Execution Site” in U Town, NUS:

There are an increasing number of readers on both Twitter and Facebook and when I blog, my RSS feed tweets, alerting followers about a new post as I do not blog regularly. 

I also help them find old content of mine, e.g. I just twittered about the opening of Memories of Old Ford Factory for a friend who has just been awakened to the significance behind the heritage trails:

Conference tweets

Conference tweeting is phenomenal – I have followed a few users who have written great summaries at science communication conferences overseas, or followed many who were use a special tag, such as #edsg – this is a tag suggested by two educators in Singapore who are very enthusiastic about education technology.

They two of them, and I am sure others, will be live-tweeting from a conference in NIE today. You can follow @shamsensei and @tucksoon or follow the term #edsg in twitter (with a twitter client like TweetDeck) or on the web directly as it unfolds:!/search/%23edsg

Kenneth Pinto who has been assisting our sessions will be at the conference and he is @acroamatic 

Archiving tweets

Unlike blogs, Facebook and Twitter are ephemeral and a google search may/will not uncover content directed there. Fortunately there are third-party archival tools which provide a means or archive content and making it available to web searches. 

I have found archived useful for finding links I shared but forgotten, cycling statistics of bicycle rides to advise new riders about route difficulties (e.g. NTU Bike Rally 2008, 2011), sightings of wildlife and conversations I have had at special events such as the general election. 

Learning attitudes

As with any tool, new users need to keep an open mind, explore and experiment. Adjust settings to customise your experience, then talk to other users about improving the experience. Users who adopt these sort of practises function in a different realm and are able to be critical members of a  communications team. 

For it is not about being IT-savvy, but rather, about tool use and communication. It’s also why I use the term ‘digital literacy’ to encompass a basic understanding of web2.0 and social media. It is the literacy of our time and requires repeated use, observation and reflection to achieve competency and understanding.

Mind you, if the tool can’t add benefit, like a dead language, abandon it like a hot potato and live to try something else, another day!



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One thought on “Using Twitter

  1. Pingback: “Search, citation and plagiarism: skills for a digital age have to be taught!” « Otterman speaks…

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