I’m approaching sixty, and I frequently find myself in the presence of other ‘oldish’ people. Well, they don’t seem old to me, but they’re old as far as my kids and the net generation are concerned. Very few of these people (apart from friends who are information professionals) seem to use Twitter, and sometimes the conversation goes like this:
“So Roddy, are you still twittering, or whatever it’s called?”
“I can’t see the point in telling millions of other people what I’ve had for lunch, myself.”
You might think ‘Philistines, all of them’, or worse, but I usually leave it before that, because they’ve probably been reading the Sunday newspapers, which tend to mock Twitter a lot. And, the older you get, the more you believe what you read in the Sunday newspapers. This is a fact. I don’t. I only believe what Jeremy Clarkson writes in The Sunday Times. Or at least I used to, until someone told me he has a tendency to slightly over-exaggerate. Also, in this month’s SAGA Magazine, Stephen Tompkinson (Wild at Heart) writes “[Twitter] is a form or arrogance, isn’t it? Twitter would be better named Drivel”. Really?
Also, every single person can get something different out of Twitter – I can’t try to explain how my friends might use Twitter if they were to do so, because if they tweeted, they would probably use it in a completely different way to myself, and therefore I don’t really know what they might get out of it.
However, here are some examples of ways that I use Twitter myself, to find, use and broadcast information. As you scroll down, you’ll find increasingly less serious uses. I’m probably missing a lot of possibilities – and it has to be said that I do sometimes find Twitter a time-waster, but it can also be very useful in several ways.
If you’re an information professional who uses Twitter in ways I haven’t described below, please let me know the details in a Comment to this post, or an email to macleod.roddy [at] gmail.com
1. Firstly, I have various RSS feeds set up from Twitter Search for some of the things that concern me, and I read these regularly in Google Reader. For example, I want to know if anyone has tweeted about JournalTOCs, the current awareness service I contribute to, so I use this feed: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=journaltocs to monitor tweets. By doing so, I can:
Gauge how much current interest there is in JournalTOCs;
See who is tweeting about JournalTOCs, and why. This can be useful in a number of ways, including finding interesting people to follow, and finding out things I didn’t know – in the example below, the tweet by @aarontay led to a very interesting scholarly paper on discovery services;
I have other search feeds set up for topics such as open access journals: http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=open+access+journals because I not only like to monitor what is being tweeted on this subject, but sometimes it helps to identify OA journals that can be added to JournalTOCs. If I was still working as a subject librarian, I’d probably have one for Heriot Watt Library http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=heriot-watt+library and another for information literacy http://search.twitter.com/search.atom?q=information+literacy and another one for any project I was working on, and suchlike.
2. I occasionally make one-off searches of Twitter, at the Twitter site, to see what’s being tweeted on whatever it is. This is potentially good for finding extremely up-to-the-minute information, though it can throw up a lot of dross as well.
3. In a similar way, and for general interest, I sometimes look at, and click on, what’s trending in the UK.
You can find out who has just died, or what is currently the most tweeted subject or person. Sometimes things, or people, trend for no obvious reason, so it’s not an exact science.
4. A growing number of scholarly journals are using Twitter. Random examples include: Journal of Catalysis @J_Catalysis (The premier journal in catalysis publishing original, rigorous, and scholarly contributions in the fields of heterogeneous and homogeneous catalysis) and JMaterChem @JMaterChem Cambridge, UK (Journal reporting high impact applications, properties and synthesis of exciting new materials). I’m not interested in those two, but I do follow Library Journal @LibraryJournal New York, NY (Library views, news, and book reviews from LJ staffers).
5. I follow various information professionals. This can be useful, informative, a complete waste of time, entertaining, educational, unbelievable, humorous, and more. Just like Twitter as a whole, in fact. I don’t read every tweet, but occasionally dip in to see what’s happening, and I also use FriendFeed to aggregate tweets from some people.
I follow a couple of head librarians, and it’s good to know that some of them are participating in social media in this way. I’d far rather work for someone who tweeted, than someone who didn’t. Imagine going to your boss and saying “I have this idea for incorporating Twitter in such-and-such a way in what we do” and knowing that they didn’t fully understand what you were going on about, because the nearest they’d got to Twitter was some JISC briefing paper.
I follow some very informed information professional types, who always seem to be right on the ball, whatever the topic. For example: @daveyp UK (Shambrarian, real ale drinker, code monkey, Hitchcock fan. Coffee supping, cake eating, Library Systems Manager (Huddersfield Uni)), and @paige_roberts Portsmouth, NH, USA (I’m a public historian, archivist, and urban planner when I’m not swimming or hiking) and @pstainthorp Lincolnshire, UK (#librarian @unilincoln #library #horncastle #lincolnshire : #mashlib #jerome #savelibraries http://www.paulstainthorp.com/), and @ostephens Leamington Spa (Librarian – what else is there to say? http://www.meanboyfriend.com/overdue_ideas). There are a few others, as well.
And I follow some cricket people, some people with Scottish interests, a couple of libraries, some services (e.g. @SSRN new york, Social Science Research Network – Tomorrow’s Research Today), announcing services (e.g. @resourceshelf National Capital Area. Resources of interest to information professionals, educators and journalists), some organisations (e.g. @CILIPinfo Ridgmount Street, London. CILIP Information & Advice Team: member enquiry service plus news, events, blogs and advocacy for the library and information profession), and @on_lothianbuses , blah, blah, blah, etc. In essence, whatever your interest may be, there are fascinating people or helpful organisations on Twitter to follow.
I don’t use hashtags that much myself, but they can be useful sometimes. Firstly, to categorise a tweet, e.g. #savelibraries or to click on a hashtag someone else has used in a tweet, perhaps to see what is being discussed at a conference.
7. I tweet about various things – what’s happening, interesting websites, etc. Just the usual.
8. I sometimes use the Tweet option at the bottom of posts in this blog to tweet those posts, if I think they may be of interest to information professionals, and sometimes others do the same.
9. I sometimes use the Tweet/Share option at other websites to tweet articles/papers/viewpoints of others.
10. I sometimes retweet what others have tweeted, e.g.
11. And others sometimes retweet my own tweets, e.g.
14. When new people decide to follow me, I receive an email notification (xxxx xxxx (@xxxx xxxx) is now following your tweets (@libram) on Twitter. The information in the emails let’s me decide whether I want to follow them, in return.
15. I use paper.li to create The Roddy MacLeod Daily.
paper.li organizes links shared on Twitter and Facebook into an easy to read newspaper-style format. It actually worls quite well, and seems to automatically find and classify stuff in a way that helps to highlight items of interest that I may have otherwise missed.
16. Sometimes I ask other Twitterers for advice or information. I don’t do this too often, because I’m supposed to be an (ex)information professional who can find the answer to any question! But the other day I couldn’t easily find information on how to prepare some frozen squid I’d bought, so I tweeted:
libram Roddy MacLeod
The small frozen calamari I bought have heads and eyes. Do I discard them when cooking?
Then I received the following mention:
Eventually, someone who’d seen the tweet from this blog emailed me with a helpful website on squid, so, of course, I tweeted that one as well:
libram Roddy MacLeod
How to Clean Squid Recipe – Whole Squid http://homecooking.about.com/od/seafood/ss/cleansquidsbs.htm
17. My tweets are displayed in this blog, in the Twitter Updates section in the top right-hand corner. I can see whether anyone clicks on them from the WordPress stats.
18. My tweets are embedded in my Facebook page.
21. I occasionally use Blip.fm to tweet songs, though I’m not entirely sure why. Here’s a sample:
22. Sometimes, I try to be clever or humorous when tweeting. As I’m not a very clever or humorous person, this doesn’t happen very often. The following is a series of tweets I posted during a One-Day cricket match some time ago. They were designed to be an accurate commentary on the game in question, but to be completely and utterly incomprehensible to those who don’t follow cricket. I thought it was very clever. You may not – suit yourself 🙂
# St Lucia. They should give Freddy Flintoff a fine leg, and Harmy a short leg. Then hope for some late or reverse swing.
# St Lucia. Bring mid off up, send mid on back, put in a slip, have a sweeper, hit the deck hard and send down a couple of short ones.
# St Lucia. Four balls, four singles, fifth ball six, sixth ball four. Ninety six for four. Ten to go. Seventy seven needed, or six wickets.
# St Lucia. Appeal! Looked close. Maybe slipping down leg. Would have clipped bail.
# St Lucia. Required rate 9.0 off 7. Final power play. Time for some full deliveries and yorkers from Anderson.
# St Lucia. Ball finally swinging. Freddy looking for reverse. Bravo cleared the field, which was set deep. It went all the way. Vital over.
# St Lucia. Five saving one. Six from the first three. Sweeper is up. Last ball 89 miles an hour. Slower ball went in the air and he’s gone.
# St Lucia. Bravo gone – 33 from 46. Ramdin in. Wristy player. Harmy back on. Pollard caught. Two in two!
# St Lucia. Last two WI danger men gone. Can Sammy see them across the line? England need four more.
# St Lucia. The rate is rocketing. Now 10.44 and only 25 balls to go. Looks like it will go down to the wire.
# St Lucia. Crowd silenced. Swing and a miss. England were 134 for five at this stage. Broad got a hand on that one. Back of length.
# St Lucia. Put away, but man in the deep. Only a single. Straight drive for one. Keeper up. Rate now 13.6 and boundaries are needed.
# St Lucia. These two are new to the crease. No time for sighters. Freddy rarely goes round the park at this stage.
# St Lucia. Got him! Round his legs. Ramdin tried to get it down to fine leg, but missed it.
# St Lucia. Third man finer. Full and round about leg and middle. He’s got him! Given LB. 140 for 8. Freddy on a hat trick. Got it!
# St Lucia. They tried to pinch a single, but it was a dead ball. 28 needed from 7. Singles not good enough. He’s gone! That’s it! England celebrate.
So, there we are – and nothing whatsoever about tweeting what I had for lunch, and hopefully not drivel!