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Joe’s Guide to Free eLearning Tools: Twitter June 24, 2009

Posted by jmullock in e-Learning Tools.

Item: Twitter

Category: Microblogger /Short Messaging Service (SMS)

For those (one or two) of you who may never have heard of Twitter, take a moment and go to www.twitter.com to have a quick look.  It shouldn’t take you very long to look around the site, so I’ll wait here until you get back.  For the brief overview, click on the [What], [Why], and [How] links on the home page.

Done?  I have to admit, when I first saw Twitter my reaction was, “so what exactly would someone do with that?”  After trying it out for a few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate that Twitter’s intentionally narrow focus is actually part of its charm.

What it Does:

Twitter allows you to post brief messages and see messages from almost any other user with very little additional clutter.  That. Is. It.  (in a good way!).

First, you can Post Tweets (hey, I didn’t come up with the lingo, I just use it):  Twitter is all about brevity—posts are limited to a total of 140 characters.  By default tweets are shown in the public timeline.  That is to say, unless you specifically designate your account as private, your tweets are available for all of twitterdom to see.

Follow and be Followed:  See someone post something interesting?  Click to follow them and you will see all of their tweets in your personal data stream.  Think of it as a subscription service to pithy comment, bon mots, and perhaps the occasional pearls of wisdom.  If someone’s posts no longer meet your needs, you can just as easily unfollow them.

Reply to Others: Using the “@username” format will cause your tweet to appear in that user’s reply tab (but it will still be viewable to the general public in the data stream).

Direct Message: Send a message directly (and privately) to any other user with a public account.

Tag Your Message: Including the “#topic” format will allow others to more easily find your tweets, if they happen to be interested in the same “#topic”

When to Use:

The stream analogy is especially applicable to Twitter.  Posts entered into the stream float by all who choose to look at them.  There is no expectation that you reply, save, or even read all of the tweets that come your way—which makes for a refreshing change from email.

From my experience, Twitter seems useful in three distinct ways:

General Knowledge: You never know where you will pick up the most interesting information.  A true confession: I follow Alyssa Milano (the actress) on Twitter.  I figured I would quickly unfollow if her posts just didn’t seem relevant to me.  As it turns out, her tweets have provided me with more info and referrals to full news articles on the Iran Election situation than any other single source.

Group Tweets:  By making your account private—or using third party applications (see below), you can take advantage of Twitter’s brevity and spontaneity within a defined group.  Examples might include creating a private Twitter stream for your company or project.  More interestingly, I recently read an article in which the writer described using Twitter during their presentation to get an up-to-the-second gauge of audience understanding and response.

Introduction/Referrals: If you have a product, blog, or service Twitter can be a useful tool for referrals. Here is a great example that I just stumbled upon:

At a recent ASTD Greater Philadelphia Chapter meeting, Jack Appleman presented from his book, “10 Steps to Successful Business Writing”.  I signed up for his email newsletter—with the best of intentions for reading it.  In reality, I found it was getting relegated to the “when I have time file”.  No offense meant to Mr. Appleman!  It’s just that there are so many things competing for time that it’s hard to keep up.  I was considered unsubscribing when I received an invitation to follow him on Twitter.  Here is what he posted (“tweeted”) most recently:

Today’s tip: Use e.g. (not i.e.) to abbreviate “for example.” He likes slides with loud colors (e.g. red, pink and orange).

This was not only a useful writing tip.  It was also a (welcome) ad for his service as well as a reminder to reread his book.  All in less than 140 characters. (by the way, if you are interested in following him, he posts under the nom-de-tweet of “writecoachJack”).

How to get it:

Just go to www.twitter.com to sign up for a free account.  If you would like to access it via a mobile device, use http://m.twitter.com/.  There are 3rd party add-ons and applications being added every day, but here are a few for starters:

Twitteriffic – application for accessing Twitter via iPhone

Free for the ad-supported version: http://iconfactory.com/software/twitterrific

Tweetdeck –application for hardcore, multi-account, or multithread users

Free, but requires you to install the Adobe Air platform if you are using it on a desktop.  Also has a version for the iPhone: http://tweetdeck.com/beta/

Grouptweet—Group message broadcasting for Twitter

I haven’t used this one yet, but it looks promising.  Also free at, http://www.grouptweet.com/

Next Up: I am just back from a lovely “staycation”, so I do not have a topic selected for next week yet.  Let’s call it another Bloggers Choice…  Cheers!



1. Nathan - June 24, 2009

I prefer twhirl as my platform of choice – I can see multiple accounts that way.

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