Friday, July 11, 2008

Another Tweet From NECC2008

The picture on the left was taken at NECC2008 during a facilitated discussion at the Bloggers' Cafe, "Blogging and Twitter Etiquette: Are there rules that govern the way we should interact in this wild west of the web?" (Watch the stream here.) While the conversation provided me with valuable insight, I still came away with a few unanswered questions, particularly about how people manage their use of Twitter.

Here are some questions I have with my answers as well. I'd like to hear from others about how they use Twitter.

1. How do you choose who to follow? When someone wants to follow you, you get an email letting you know. Do you click through to see who they are? Or do you ignore it? For me, depending on what my inbox looks like at the time, I may or may not tend to my Twitter mail. My intention is to click through to check out who the person is. Then, I look at their tweets. I also look at the # of people this person is following. If this person is following over 1000 people, typically that prompts a click to close that tab.

2. Jeff Utecht asked for a show of hands for everyone who ONLY followed other educators. Only a few people raised their hands. Raise YOUR hand if you only follow other educators. I follow people in all sorts of professions. Learning and FUN happens at the most unexpected times. For me, Twitter is not just about teaching and learning. Hey, I have a life too!

3. Do you feel obligated to follow someone if they @ you? This came up during this discussion and I said, "yes if I respond to the person and have a discussion back." I also offered that I have had times where people will carry on discussions with me when I @ them (over multiple instances), but they still do not follow me, which is ok. I understand that some people who follow their Twitter streams closely might find it distracting with too many people's tweets scrolling through, however... sometimes (often, actually) these people might DM (Direct Message) me. Since they do not follow me, I can't DM them back. So, although I don't really care who follows me or not, I do find that a bit frustrating.

4. Have you ever blocked someone? I have blocked a few people but not many. The only people I block are people who have crossed the line on being creepy. Truthfully, blocking people is silly anyway because it's so easy to create accounts. If someone wants to follow you, they can just create another account. But, it makes me feel powerful. So, there you go.

5. Have you ever received an email from someone asking why you are not following them or why you unfollowed them? How did you respond? How should you respond? I received an email from someone and I responded very nicely, but I should have just ignored it. I have an issue with trying to be nice to everyone. I'm working on it. :)

6. Do you think there has been a natural evolution of etiquette on Twitter? Clearly Twitter was not intended for the "conversation" tool it has become, yet people are actively enjoying the networking benefits of using it that way. What etiquette has emerged and what do you think is still needed? I think people have realized that others get annoyed with too much personal chat in Twitter so they move the conversation over to Skype or other IM clients. I also think people are using more DMs for personal conversations. My suggestion for etiquette "rules" are these: Heed the two mentioned above and do not DM someone who you do not follow. They can't DM you back and it calls attention to the fact that they follow you and you don't follow them. If you aren't sure, it would be a nice gesture to check before you reply. -just my opinion and since it's my blog, I get to give it. :)

6. Have you changed as an educator since using Twitter? I have. I've become much more aware of the many professional networking opportunities. I've also had much easier access to many people who have helped me grow professionally and personally. The way I view education has changed and the way I structure staff development has changed. For me, Twitter was the gateway drug.

7. If you are not a Twitter user, after reading this, are you inspired to give it a try?

I'm looking forward to reading your comments. Thanks for visiting my blog.



Michelle said...

Hey! I'm in the very right corner of the pic! :-)

My answers (I'll try to be brief):
1. I usually follow educators, a few personal friends, and then other people who are in professions of interest to me. If someone follows me, I click through to see who they are and then make my decision to follow them or not.
2. Not raising hand... see above.
3. I don't feel obligated to follow someone if they @me. I might check out their tweets for a day to see if there's something valuable I'm missing, but otherwise no.
4. I block people if they are bots, or if their tweets are a nuisance to me. It's one thing to see tweets about what they're eating or their golf score for the day; it's another to read about their personal life that should remain private... if you catch my drift.
5. I've only received one email about why I wasn't following someone, and I believe I was tactful and polite in my response. It didn't get ugly, so I think I'm okay so far.
6. I think "etiquette" is a difficult thing to define in Twitter, past the Terms of Use. I think we discussed this quite a bit in the NECC Unplugged session, and I still believe that each of my separate 'networked groups' in Twitter have different norms from each other... and that they aren't necessarily explicitly defined.
7. I've definitely seen benefits from using Twitter that I didn't see before, and I really enjoy the discussion it generates... even if that discussion moves over to a blog, Skype, or other areas.

Thanks for this post... great follow-up to our discussion!

Lee Ann Spillane said...

I have definitely changed as an educator by twittering and plurking. One piece that I'm still wrapping my head around in incidental learning--how quickly I can pick up a link, click through, read and synthesize it into something meaning for my classroom. Your post has certainly gotten me thinking about my own twitter/plurk posts. Wondering if maybe I don't get many @ replies because I'm not quite following the rules. Hmmm... here are my answers:
1. When choosing people to follow, I click through, read tweets, visit blogs and do a quick google search of/for them online.
2. I follow mostly educators -- a few artists
3. No I don't feel like I have to follow someone who @'s me, but funny that the few @'s I get are from folks I follow.
4. I've only blocked a couple folks that appeared to be spam-heads. Though you're right, nothing to stop them from creating another profile.
5. I've never received email about following or not following--not that popular : )
6. As a relative newbie, I'm still learning the etiquette so it is difficult for me to define too. lizbdavis plurked to potential friends about completing profile--makes absolute sense in terms of etiquette to me.
7. I am a twitter user but this post inspires me to really think about the "club rules" so that when I go back to school I can share them with teachers or incorporate that kind of talk/dialogue into any tech thursday events I may host at my new school

sue said...

I haven't caught on to the twitter craze. I'm still time-warped in the mailring era for my PLN. I've been mailringing for many, many, years. Can't seem to get a grasp on this twitter there's me Lee.

It really creeps me out when someone I don't know wants to follow me since I have nothing to follow on my twitter account. So I delete them with no response.

I will confess to being a lurker and I do gather info from Lee's twittering (hope you don't mind, Lee)...does that make me a twitterspy......or a twiturker.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't at NECC but I saw the stream of this conversation. I found it very interesting.
1. I choose to follow people who are in education. If I get an email, I check their profile. I get frustrated when their profile doesn't tell who they are or what they do. Then I check their tweets and who else follows them. If they have followers whom I respect, I follow them too.
2. I only follow educators. The whole purpose of using twitter for me is to expand my knowledge for my job - seems a little one dimensional, I know.
3. and 4. I don't feel obligated, but I will follow them if they are in education. I block those who follow over several hundred people (except for teach42).
5. No, I'm a small fish. Nobody cares if I follow them or not.
6. I think that the people I follow are all good people who model integrity and good manners. I have unfollowed a pretty prominent edublogger who used the F-bomb in his tweet.
7. Since my purpose for getting involved in twitter was to get and offer support with edtech, I have changed as an educator. I greatly appreciate the support I've received and I love when I get an "@nnorris, thanks for all your help!"

"I've also had much easier access to many people who have helped me grow professionally and personally. The way I view education has changed and the way I structure staff development has changed. For me, Twitter was the gateway drug."
I could not agree more! This is exactly why I use(d) twitter.

I've noticed a shift in twitter lately (which is why I've really gone to Plurk). There seems to be a lot less help available. When a tweet asks for help, no one tweets back anymore. The tweets seem to be a little more "self-serving" and full of private jokes between people lately. Interestingly, there was one person in the conversation you wrote about in your post who focused greatly on the kind of posts that are most meaningful in twitter. He really only posts about sports or @'s his friends. (You know who I mean.) I prefer not to see too many mundane personal tweets, but sometimes they can be fun. I use an feed aggregator to keep up with the blogs I like but I appreciate tweets about a new blog post. I love when I can jump into a UstreamTV workshop from a tweet. The real conversations however, the ones that make me more knowledgeable, happen in Plurk.

(Sorry this is so long!) Thanks for your post, I've been dying to write about this.

Lee Kolbert said...

Your response to #3 is pretty consistent with everyone else in the discussion that day. Perhaps my view about feeling obligated to follow back has to do with my issue outlined in #5. I guess I need to work on it some more. :) Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

@Lee Ann
I agree that adding details to your profile is a good idea. It sure will help build your network. I think that's something we figure out along the way as we learn from those of us with more experience. As a new user, I had just my name and city. Then I saw many users listed "educator" rather than teacher. Since teacher doesn't really apply to me anymore, now that I'm out of the classroom and struggle with what concise word I should use to describe what I do, I added "educator." Then I started to see profile tags relevant to me as well, like "STAR DEN member" "Blogger" etc. I've also since removed my city. Not that you wouldn't be able to drill deep to figure out where I live, but why make it so easy to the average passerby? Lessons learned.

Thanks for allowing me to learn from you. :)

Most, ok everyone, would find the fact that you follow one person and you have no followers very creepy. People who do that without a real-life connection to the person get blocked immediately. Since we know each other in real life, I'm honored to be subject of your lurking. :)

In all seriousness though, since you've been following my tweets and this blog, you must see the value in my PLN. What's interesting about these PLNs is that each one, though intertwined, is very different. @Michelle and @Lee Ann and you and I are all part of a single PLN today.

Let me know when you are ready to take that next step.

Thanks, as always, for visiting my blog. ~Lee

Lee Kolbert said...

re: #5 "Nobody cares if I follow them or not" I disagree here for a few reasons. Humor me here, if you will.

I follow you and you've provided me with much food for thought and helpful resources. I also feel we've built a sort of relationship. If you suddenly stopped following me, I would not send you an email or ask, but I would wonder what I did wrong. I find it hard to believe that I'd be the only one.

There has definitely been a shift in Twitter, I agree. Some people take it WAY too seriously... maybe I'm one of them. Not sure.

You said that when someone sends out a tweet for help, noone responds anymore. Are you referring to your own tweets? Because, unless you are following the same people the person who tweeted originally is, how would you know if anyone responded?

I agree that Plurk is a good solution for what it offers. If I could move my whole network over, I would be perfectly happy with Plurk. What are the chances?

Thanks for making me think! ~Lee

TJ Shay said...

Hello, Lee!
I plurked some of this, but decided to take your advice and comment.

I usually follow educators and sometimes people who have interesting things to say. I got in a 'mood' one night and stopped following people who didn't follow me (with two exceptions) because conversation has to be two way for me. The reason for the 'mood' was that I noticed many of the people who didn't follow me or many others were the same people who talk about how EduVerse is not a place of A-listers or cliques. Hmmmmmmm....

I have blocked many people who were twitspam (following 10,000+). I also blocked some people who were rude to me in one way or another. Just do not need that in my life. I go to Twitter to learn and relax a bit, don't need judgment and crazy.

I went to 'the lock' on new followers when I started getting creepy (and young) girls following me with words like 'sexy' in their screen name.

I have noticed that people sometimes don't understand my humor in this venue (always joking in real life) and sometimes I have to be super careful to make people understand.

I have learned a LOT from Twitter and Plurk. I have made some new virtual friends and have had a lot of fun conversations. I have also stopped reading some blogs of people I used to follow because they didn't fill my need for new ideas. Just like in real life, some people just want to hear themselves talk and are not about the conversation... I am there for the conversation!

TechNorth said...

I've chosen to follow others on Twitter and the other microblogging sites based on [1] similar interests, both professional and personal, [2] geographic location and [3] interesting comments.

Because Twitter history is limited, it's sometimes hard to follow threads unless you get replies to your posts. And Twitter has flaky performance, making access less that reliable at times.

I've definitely picked up some good links and ideas from others tweets and plurks.

The stats don't interest me much. The karma score on Plurk is curious and I wonder how some people have enough time to make 100s (1000s?) of posts per day. There may be days when I can pay attention to the microblogs off and on, and there are many days when I don't have an opportunity to get involved (darn work always gets in the way).

For me, I'm a relative newby to the Twitter/Plurk scene but I know *many* colleagues that aren't involved at all. The whole communications/sharing/collaboration scene is changing faster that ever so I get why others feel like they have already been left behind. I encourage my colleagues to at least get an account and give it a try; some do, many don't.

Like everything else we do, we have to make some choices about how to spend our time. Both synchronous and asynchronous communications have a place in my life; as long as it's not voicemail (uggh), I'm up for trying it out.

Nice blog Lee!

Anonymous said...

This was a very thoughtful post. I hope that my reply can do it justice as I've never really thought that deeply about it. I started by following educators but then branched out to non-educators just by visiting some folks who others were following. When I'm bored, I get relief by taking a look at the public timeline. There's so much interesting happening there as well. I also find it fascinating to follow people that are professional speakers and the folks that they follow.

I only feel obligated to follow folks that I know personally. What I like to do is check out the latest to see if someone appears to be "interesting" and then add them. I've never blocked anyone and periodically there are some unique followers! I always figured that someone who was determined could just create another account.

Some of who I follow are not people. My workplace has no windows so I'll follow the local weather, some news sources, and some of my favourite technology shows. That spreads the "interest" around.

In my job, I try to stay on top of the latest and, as we all know, that is increasingly difficult. Traditional means are great, but I think by having a cadre of diverse researchers posting links and opinions regularly increases knowledge and thought exponentially.

Thanks for such an interesting post, Lee. I hope that you get some interesting feedback from it.

Lee Kolbert said...

@TJ Shay
I get what you are saying about the humor thing. Humor is such a hard thing to convey in text. Like you, I am rarely serious in RL and I tend to carry my sarcastic, very dry humor into my online life. Some people get it (probably the people who still like me). Some people get offended. I'm not sure I can change who I am though, nor sure that I should. How about you?

I don't get the Karma thing on Plurk either. The emoticons are cute, but enough already, eh? Thanks for your comment.

Hello my Canadian friend! Go Tim Horton donuts, eh?

re: "I hope that my reply can do it justice as I've never really thought that deeply about it." I'm so glad I made you think. If my blog serves no other purpose, it thrills me that I can get others to think.

Thanks for visiting my blog!


Anonymous said...

1. I usually follow people in return if they are associated with education and Second Life. I remember how it was getting started on Twitter. If you tweet and you don't have any followers it's like talking to no one.

2. I follow all sorts of people. Some of my favorite tweets actually come from outside education.

3. I never feel any obligation to follow anyone. I have experienced the same frustration you mention about DMs.

4. I'm sure I have blocked someone but can't recall why or who. I'm thinking about blocking some of those people who follow thousands. I can't figure out if the links they create in the network are somehow benefitting them. If that's case then a block would be called for. Just don't know how following thousands is helping them.

5. I've never received an email like you described. People really do send things like that?

6. As I said on Twitter I hate this question. Twitter is about the self first and foremost. Each individual uses it to their own personal benefit. It might be a need for social, professional, or other reasons but a person joins twitter for them self. People that want to set rules for educators on Twitter seem to want it to be something it's not. If they don't like something someone says, they need to just stop following the person or find a different tool for what they need.

7. This is actually a 2nd 6. I have changed loads and loads. For a few years there I was in isolation. Twitter has opened new doors for me in terms of what I can bring to my teachers.

Bethany Smith said...

Thanks for the great post - i didn't get a chance to attend the Twitter session and I think this gives a great way to get people past the wow factor of twitter and actually get them to use it!

Anonymous said...

1. I started about 18 months ago and quickly followed everyone who followed me. After about 6 months, I didn't think I could keep up. Now I only follow those I know, those who are local and the odd person who seems interesting.
2. I'm trying to add more non-educators. Currently I'd say 10% are non-educators.
6. I really don't like telling others how to use a tool. There's an organic nature of these tools. They evolve as people use them and get re purposed in many ways. That's interesting to me. I use it in ways that works for me. I likely impose my own guidelines but have no illusions to try and impose them to others.
7.Not sure if it's changed me. But it has filled a gap in becoming more personal with my network. Again, others might not see it that way but since I see it mostly as a virtual staffroom/water cooler, it allows for more casual, fun moments. Not conversation for me, that's what blogs are for in my eyes. Fun, and silliness are good and even necessary for learning.

Flint said...

I just barely started using Twitter - and to be honest, I'm still not sold on it.

My initial feeling when I heard about Twitter was "so"? But so many people were talking about it - I figured I'd check it out, try it out, and see what I thought.

To be honest, I'm still not getting it.

I mean, I understand what it is, how it can be used - and I definitely see it's potential - but right now, it appears to me to be a phenomenal time waster.

My main gripe is that (it appears to me at least) you have to follow it all day long to get the benefit of it.

I like blogs because you can choose when you access them - you can use an aggregator and access them all from one place, or you can visit each blog and read them there - you can bookmark them and comeback to them at a later time.

Same thing with podcasts - you can access them when you choose to. Save them, go back to them later, etc.

From that I've been able to see with Twitter is each tweet comes in as it is posted - so If you're not actively following Twitter - then you have to access your account and start scrolling through the tweets to see if there's something interesting - and you might have missed the opportunity to participate in a conversation - or missed something that was happening.

Also, from what I've seen so far, there's a lot of (for lack of a better word) garbage coming through on Twitter. I suppose part of this depends upon who you choose to follow, but to me, it's not very interesting to follow somebody replying to somebody else's tweet. Or telling somebody their new pics are nice - or what you think about a call from the All Star Game.

Personally, I think that part of the problem is that when you follow somebody in Twitter, you get everything they tweet.

It kind of reminds me of those people who HAVE TO forward every stupid email they get (you know that type of people I'm talking about) about every "cute story" or "inspirational story" or a "new use for Listerine". I've had many times where I've asked people to stop emailing me because I get tired of all of that garbage.

And for me - that's the bottom line right now. I don't want to have to sort through all of the "garbage" to get the good stuff.

Maybe I'll change - but right now, like I said, I think it's a time waster.

But, I'll still log in from time to time to see if anything interesting comes across.

IMC Guy said...

First of all, thanks for making me think so much and write a rather thoughtful comment. ;)

1. How do you choose who to follow? When someone wants to follow you, you get an email letting you know. Do you click through to see who they are? Or do you ignore it?

I click to see you who they are, what they do, check out a blog or website if one is listed, and also see who else they follow. This helps me determine whether or not I should follow them. I’ll also take a peek at what they have been saying and who they have had conversations with.

2. Jeff Utecht asked for a show of hands for everyone who ONLY followed other educators. Only a few people raised their hands. Raise YOUR hand if you only follow other educators.

I follow a couple of news stations/websites for updates. As far as people, almost all are educators.

3. Do you feel obligated to follow someone if they @ you?

I’ve never really come across this situation. I probably would follow them, but I’d still consider what I said it question 1.

4. Have you ever blocked someone?

Yep, just spammers.

5. Have you ever received an email from someone asking why you are not following them or why you unfollowed them? How did you respond? How should you respond?

I used Twitter Karma to see the status of my friends and followers. I’ve unfollowed a few people who haven’t posted in several weeks. One person did contact me, I think during a back channel chat at NECC and mentioned I wasn’t following him anymore. I did start to follow him again.

6. Do you think there has been a natural evolution of etiquette on Twitter?
It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that we (those in Education) use Twitter in ways other groups or professions. I think we have expectations of ourselves and our colleagues and don’t accept people using Twitter in ways we do not approve. Sure, there are people using it for different purposes, but I think we all have a sense of what’s appropriate and what’s not. I agree that people are using DM for more personal conversations, which I think is great. Also, why do you feel Twitter was not intended to be the conversation tool it has become?

7. Have you changed as an educator since using Twitter?

Abosultely, I feel I’ve made friends, some I got to meet at NECC, and most importantly, like minded educators willing to learn and share with me. I didn’t have a wide network to bounce ideas off and now I have that. I really enjoy Twitter.

Lee Kolbert said...

Your point on #1 is well taken. I do the same with teachers associated with the DEN and others who appear to be just starting with Twitter. I remember starting out and it was a lonely time.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I agree that Twitter is not good tool for lengthy conversation and yet it can be helpful in lighting a spark. Thanks for your comment.

Interesting that you feel you have to follow all day or scroll back in order to get value out of tweets. I don't do that and don't know too many people who use monitor their tweets that closely. I might be missing some good conversations but then again, when I'm not in the room with others, they still talk (I think). Twitter is definitely not for everyone, but if you really want to give it a try, you might want to just check your replies and DMs and follow your timeline as it appears when you log on. Maybe others have differing ideas...

I said that Twitter was never intended to be the conversational tool because the structure of the interface is not conducive to "chat" (not to mention their servers choking with too many hits - I believe if people were only updating their status, their servers would not have been slammed as they were).

Glad I could make you think. I think you made me think. I think.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Harv said...


thanks for your insight. This was a good discussion to follow as I have remained hesitant about jumping into the microblogosphere of Twitter. Good to see what rules/etiquette people are using.

Brett H.