Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How Chats Ruined Twitter!

Twitter is not what it once was.  At least, not for me.  On June 16th, 2008, when Henry Thiele (@henrythiele) shared the power of this "up-and-coming" social network with me, I was apparently working on "Researching Gmail, Groupwise and LDAP".

He was insistent that everyone on the team sign up for an account.  I was hesitant at first.  I came from a world of MySpace and YouTube.  Facebook was still in it's infancy.  It was a time when social networking had not yet been fully realized as a communication resource and was really not much more than a bastion of nonsense (to some extent it still is).  Quite frankly, I didn't get it.  But, I dutifully followed "bosses orders". 

As I started to connect with like minded educators and not just pop culture superstars, it started to click and within a year, I was connected to thousands of educators and was presenting at conferences across the country on the power of Twitter as a learning resource and communication tool.  I was even listed as one of the 100 Illinois Educators to Follow on Twitter on Day 8 of the #eduFollowChallenge put together by Keith O'Neal (@iMinisterYouth)

Then Twitter started changing things.  The API became more restrictive and the third party tools I loved so much started disappearing.  As these resources vanished, it became more difficult to keep up with the stream of consciousness occurring on the public feed.  Around this same time, educators discovered the idea of a Twitter Chat.  For those unfamiliar with the concept, a Twitter chat is typically a regular scheduled discussion around a specific hashtag that is generally moderated by someone who posts 5 to 10 questions.  Participants then respond too and have "conversation" on the issues.

In my humble opinion, Twitter wasn't built for long tailed discussions.  I tried a few times to follow some of these chats; but, simply got lost in the milieu.  My Twitter feed suddenly filled with #Q1s and #A5s in a seemingly random hodgepodge of communication.  If you didn't follow everyone in the chat it became increasingly difficult to follow the conversation.  Especially, if some of the participants had marked their account private and you did not follow them! It was maddening to watch one sided conversations.  Additionally, moderation is nearly impossible because of the open nature of Twitter.  If someone was "late to the party" and started answering Question 2 when everyone else was already on Question 5, it added a new level of incertitude.  Twitter then compounded the problem by doubling the amount of characters one could Tweet.  Suddenly, there were paragraphs one had to quickly read and digest to keep up with the conversation.  And once side conversations began to occur there were just too many rabbit holes to dive into.

Perhaps most frustrating was that people now solely focused their communication on the platform to these chats.  Unless one was happening, it seemed like there was radio silence from much of my Professional Learning Community.  So, once again, silos began to form around these chat topics.  I admittedly became detached from the network I had worked so hard to cultivate.

So now, I find I have backed far away from Twitter.  I find myself only sharing when I am at a conference.  Sure, there is my daily Tweet announcing the latest EdTech Early Edition; but, I feel like I lost a great resource.  When Shannon Schroeder (@sschroederteach), approached me in the vendor hall at the Illinois Education and Technology Conference last week and thanked me for the kind tweets I had sent during her keynote, I realized, I need to learn to re-connect with my Professional Learning Network on Twitter in some new way.  I miss these connections that fueled my passion for so long!

Please drop a comment below and let me know your thoughts on Twitter chats.  Maybe I'm missing something?  What strategies are you using to keep up with Education and Technology in the Twittersphere?

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