“What’s so good about twitter?!”

First things first – I almost wanted to use an interrobang in the title. Such a fetching name for a punctuation mark.

Back to the title. I have – and I believe I am not alone – been questioned about why I use twitter, and what I think about it.

An acquaintance is responsible for the particular wording in the title, though expressed with genuine, albeit slightly mocking, interest, as opposed to dismissive disbelief. As this occurred at a party, but away from inebriation, I decided that I would enter the debate. So, here is why I use twitter, and what I think about it: (and do let me know your thoughts too!)

  • I was urged to join by a university guest lecturer in science communication. They suggested that we, as students and science-communicator “wannabees”, try out as many of these (then) newfangled social media platforms as possible. So I signed up, and proceeded to not use it for at least a year-and-a-half afterwards. Though already at that point, by association, I decided that I would use twitter to keep up to date with science communication news and events.
  • It became evident that there was a large science communication community on twitter. No surprise. This is highlighted at conferences (such as #SCC2011 – Science Communication Conference), where hashtags are used to join together tweets – and therefore thoughts and opinions – from both individual sessions, as well as the conference as a whole. Hashtags also enable the real-time following of a conference one is unable to attend, but without the distraction of, say, live web-cam and audio reports.
  • Personally, I find twitter awfully less distracting than facebook. This could perhaps be because I have designated it a science communication network, or because facebook is too personal in its function.
  • You can find all kinds of interesting projects that people undertake. I have recently joined an effort to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust by contributing a small part to a year-long story project entitled 3hundredand65. My contribution may be relatively inconsequential at large, but it is always a pleasure to find examples of new media being put to good use.
  • There are little useful and/or fun nuggets, too. For instance, writing (sp?) after any word will bring you to the attention of an account dedicated to sort out spelling. Not to mention some very good spoof accounts, masses of newspapers from all over the world, specialised accounts for certain occupations… oh, and updates from transport authorities on what is closed/broken/dysfunctional at any one time.

Now, I admit that I do follow “celebrities” as well, and I consider it part of the experience – a bit of fun, put simply. I am aware that twitter has been reported as not being up to scratch on child protection, and that being able to read ‘personal’ messages from a person of whom somebody is a fan has lead to (what the kids call) flaming, trolling and “haterz” of other relations of the subject of fandom. I am not sure if there is any way around this, other than continued development of new-media technology and “growing up”, respectively. I shall not even discuss certain twitter-events that have lead to court cases, as I truly believe we have heard, and sniggered at, them enough.

Another argument against, is the issue of archiving and storing information, and I believe that concrete solutions to this will lead to twitter being a better tool for collecting information (but not in a creepy, DNA-registration way). In my experience, Storify (here with another example from SCC2011) is a good way of storing tweets per category, by hashtag.

So, this is my very limited (and long overdue) insight into twitter, and what’s “so good about it”. Who’s next?


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