Of Chimeras, Tweets and Twittering

Twitter logo on a chimera statue

Jim Groom is now working with me at the University of Richmond. It’s his second day and we’ve already dreamed up enough projects to keep us in work for several years. It is great fun, incredibly geeky fun, but fun nevertheless.

Anyway . . . we were talking about the differences between various web publishing options and I mentioned that Twitter was a chimera in that it did several different types of web publishing very well. I’m clarifying that here in part because Jim encouraged a post and in part because I got to use an interesting picture of a chimera.

So, I’m still not solidly on the twitter bandwagon but we were comparing it to different things in terms of what it does and twitter did appear to have various body parts from other web options (not the whole of other options but recognizable chunks).

Two Heads

  1. Synchronous like IM – works pretty well, I wouldn’t want to hold hour long conversations this way but for short bursts it’s nice
  2. Asynchronous like, well, 900 other options – simple and to the point (like I wish I was more often)

The thing is twitter is, in many ways, both synchronous and asynchronous at the same time. That’s a neat trick.

Blogging Limbs

  1. Micro Blogging – obvious
  2. Link Blogging – similar to micro yet different
  3. Live Blogging – you could do the Apple Keynote this way nicely and it’s perfect for conferences

The Long Community Tail

  1. Keeping in touch – really nice for busy folk, if you’re both on great, if you’re not great. It still works.
  2. Questions/Requests – Need a buddy for a Skype trial? a Mac based screen capture tool? Twitter does the job nicely for these quick questions.

There are probably more but it’s getting late and I figure you’ll fill me in using the comments or twitter (twoodwar).

photo credit Claudecf

6 thoughts on “Of Chimeras, Tweets and Twittering

  1. Tom,

    I dug your description of Twitter, and I also like your ongoing questions about it. Recently it has taken on new dimensions for me, but as I start thinking about as a teaching and learning tool, with all its chimerical qualities, it starts to become less and less the free-flowing conversation that hooked me on it. In many ways it marks the increasing “professionalization” of these tools, something I have a really strange relationship with in that I understand it pragmatically, yet I also begin to wonder how our ideas of one another and why we liked chatting with someone might change as they are increasingly thinking about these spaces as official outlets, not experimental, freeform. Is the frontier closing quicker and quicker these days as we promote the settling pioneers?

  2. I’m an avid twitterer…is that even a word? But I’m not sure how I could make use of this in class or as a learning tool. Are you using it? One major drawback is that everyone you are following or is following you gets your twitters…this could be problematic with students.

  3. I’ll be presenting to our faculty on Friday about using Social Media in the classroom (specifically, Facebook, Flickr, twitter & YouTube). Using the services out there in the cloud, twitter being one of them, to extend our classroom. There are a couple of uses that I see twitter filling nicely;
    a) simply as an easy to use SMS system.
    Having a test on Tuesday? Send your students an update Sunday to remind them.
    b) a real time conversation tool.
    Presently what comes to mind are the primaries. What better way for a Political Science instructor to communicate in real time during a political debate.
    c) an interactive group conversation tool.
    Run an online class? Why not use twitter to hold group discussions?

    Rachel, by default twitter does broadcast to everyone, but you can set twitter to only broadcast to your circle of friends.

  4. @beebo – I semi-agree with A if your students are already using twitter (which I doubt is true for the majority or possibly any at all). I do see the value of it going to their phone. I wouldn’t want to do any sort of communication that might end up costing people money.

    Personally, I’d rather have them subscribed to an RSS feed if I was going to add to their tech know how and that I can more easily tie in on a page with lots of other educational content for those who don’t subscribe.

    With B I’ll have to fully disagree. I think IM or a chatroom would both be superior to twitter for that activity, despite being older.

    I’ll disagree again with C. Twitter is by default limiting your conversation to 140 characters. That’s fun for certain things- not what I’d look for in an interactive group discussion tool. Certainly not for an online class where I’d be hoping for lots of writing to help make up for the lack of face to face communication.

    @Rachel – I think you’d have to have a separate class twitter account for yourself. That’d be a minor hassle. I’m having a hard time seeing any really solid classroom uses. I’ve seen a few novelty use that are neat but twitter is at it’s heart a social app built around a community of your choosing. If your class is such that the community wants to communicate and talk about what you’re studying then you’ve got something but if it’s mandated etc. I don’t see this working very well.


  5. Tom,
    On point A I do see lack of adoption as a problem, but not cost. If we’re talking at a max of 10 SMS a month I don’t see cost as an issue, but I am expecting to feel some pushing back because of this issue.
    With B I was thinking more to the fact that a portion of the class population might not be tied to a PC to be able to shoot off a small SMS or two that they would be able to do with a cell phone. My thinking here is just more engaging the student in an activity outside of the classroom. With IM all parties need be on IM/Chat in order for this to work. With twitter, the student can send in their update and it picked up hours later.

    thanks for your ideas …

  6. Beebo-

    I do always forget about the phone option. I always use twitter from my computer or ipod. I appreciate you reminding me about phones. I know I’ve got IM on my phone (which is old and sucks). I wonder how many kids do?

    With the SMS cost I guess I figured if they had to follow the class account and it worked well. You’d have a lot of messages going back and forth. So the better things worked the more you’d have to worry about cost. Although most teens probably have unlimited SMS. This concern is more the paranoid lawyer’s son in me than anything entirely reasonable.

    With B- I was responding directly to the idea of “real time” conversation. That’d seem to go well with a group viewing of primaries and a more synchronous activity. I agree Twitter is much better for asynchronous stuff. That’s where I think it shows some value.

    I think the option to do things outside of class is good. What we’re (as in the Univ. of Richmond) dealing with is the fact that students don’t want school and their private lives to mix. They see that as two separate spheres. They don’t want school stuff on their phones as they feel school takes up too much time already. I wonder how k12 students feel about that.

    If you end up with a class or two taking this up I’d love to hear how it goes.

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