Why I tweet and other stories

June 5, 2011

A recent post from Daniel Teller rang a bell as I’d been thinking about how, and why I use various social media networks over the last months. I had noticed the fact that some people use it simply to amass followers and so appear more popular and ‘cooler’ that their friends. I have kids and the glee with which they boast about number of ‘likes’ on a post and how many friends they have is hilarious at times. I had rather hoped that it was a kid thing rather than an activity for grown ups

Beyond being depressed by people’s childlike motivation though I was also struck by how much Daniel’s twitter habits, and apparently Facebook habits, differ from my own. The premise of his post is that the essential difference between the platforms is time; Twitter is now and a message from an hour ago is stale and worthless. At one point I started feeling a little hectored, “Twitter is a messaging protocol – not a content store”, “A tweet from yesterday is practically worthless”. Yes it’s not a content store, that’s absolutely true and it’s based on messaging BUT a message sent an hour ago is not stale to me. Actually I occasionally spot things from days ago in my twitter feed that are extremely relevant, useful and topical to me. Is this because I’m just not working the same time scale as Daniel? Maybe, fact is that for me a smart idea someone has had, a beautiful or funny picture, a new use for some tool, a notification of a forthcoming event or any other personally potentially serendipidous piece of data is probably going to be relevant tomorrow too. Sometimes it may be a few days before I have the time to go back and follow up whatever thought popped into my head as I scanned the tweet originally so then days may have elapsed. 

Having recently signed up to TwitShift I’ve found that old tweets are interesting in other ways too.

pic by Jonas Seaman

Twitshift is essentially your delayed twitter feed from either one year, or two years ago. Useless for Daniel as yesterday’s tweets are already worthless but for me it gives an interesting perspective on two things. Firstly my use of Twitter has changed somewhat in a year, things I throw into the feed now I probably wouldn’t have a year ago, also I’m tweeting more now as it has become more useful to me. Also the rate of change in the areas in which I work and play is made very clear – Google TV no longer looks like it will blow Project Canvas (now very delayed YouView) away for example.

Personally I split my use of the platforms differently to Daniel – not better, just better for me – and I’m sure there are many more ways to use them equally as valid. For me Facebook is much more friends and family. It’s interface, just-about-adequate quality photo sharing etc fits my needs for keeping in touch with people I may not see as often as I like but would cheerfully go out for a drink with.

My Twitter account I was pushed into by my students.

In a genuine effort to drag my teaching into the 21st century I set about designing a new module in audio post production on our new MSc in Audio Production. So I set up a nice VLE presence for the module, hunted down and posted some great resources, links and recommendations, uploaded all of the programme docs into appropriate folders and set up a wiki to get students working together. “It’s about shared learning”, I preached, “not a competitive process”, “you can all achieve more by sharing links, resources, recommendations for films with great audio post production”. I thought it went rather well but after three weeks no-one was engaging with the wiki leading me to rant at some length to @heloukee. “Ah no, they’re all tweeting it” says she, “have a look”. Hence the Twitter account. And a big lesson for me too:

Let The Users Choose The Medium

Twitter was new to me, I hadn’t seen the point in it till then, but our students were doing a fantastic job of facilitating their learning using it; setting up groups, organising studio time, swapping links to interviews with great sound designers, it was something of a revelation and I needed to engage with it. So Twitter became, by default, a work place, albeit one where I retained some separation from my employer with an appropriate disclaimer. It has also become a great touchpoint to meet people with similar or parallel roles in other organisations and companies that I may well end up working with as we move to MediaCityUK. It’s also becoming one of the mechanisms that I hope to utilise to create a ‘programme agnostic’, community of interest based culture in our new building at MediaCityUK so that creatives become less separated from technologists across school boundaries. And fun too. It ain’t ALL work.

Much of this is not time critical, a recorded interview from Ben Burtt is just as relevant whenever I get the link and sometimes it happens to arrive in a tweet.

Tim Berners Lee recently attacked Twitter as being ” the habitat of extremists” and stated that on a recent visit all of the tweets were extreme. I tweeted at the time that surely this was dependent on who you follow and on who follows you; Twitter is about as bespoke and customisable as you want to make it. My stream has geeks, artists, sound designers, researchers, academics and others. Even the few entertaining nuts on there are rarely extreme. You KNOW who you are 🙂

If you don’t believe me look at what is trending worldwide: as I write this the top 10 trending has two football transfers, Pink having a baby, TinkyWinky and Tom & Jerry and I really can’t see anything one could describe as extreme. So extremism is certainly not mainstream Twitter behaviour. Maybe Twitter is acting more like a mirror, you get out what you put in?

The same is probably true of the ways in which people use Twitter: for Daniel it’s a very current timeline with time-critical messages, for me it’s a social hang-out for my work related people and interests, for Tim Berners Lee it’s a place of extremists and radicalism.

I’d be interested in knowing how others see it, not least because Im sure there are ways I could make more effective use of all of these various networks myself.


  1. Great post, sorry we forced Twitter upon you rather than using the wiki but it sounds like it was for the best! Great point about Twitter being as bespoke a social network as you can get, I think THAT’S why it’s so big.

  2. Thanks Alex. Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks also for an important lesson learned by me! I think you are right, the simple nature of it means it becomes what you make of it. I think it was Einstein that said you should make things as simple as possible. But no simpler.

  3. Excellent post Ben. Twitter just worked perfectly for sharing links, ideas and arranging meetings and studio times for the module. It’s the ubiquitous instant messenger!

    With Helen’s class, her blog really helped for keeping up with assignments and useful information. It basically worked in the way you wanted the Wiki to work. http://mscsm.wordpress.com/

  4. […] Shirley's Blog Organising Thoughts « Why I tweet and other stories Google+ First Thoughts July 5, […]

  5. […] the end I was forced onto the platform by my students who were using it really effectively to facilitate their own learning without me even being aware of […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: