Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back chat

Twitter has definitely become this year's Facebook. Just about everyone is on Twitter including a cat called Sockington who has amassed around half a million followers, thereby putting many top celebrity tweeters to shame. What started as a simple way of telling your friends what you are doing has found many other uses such as providing front line news coverage, non-stop celebrity updates and customer feedback. I registered for Twitter ages ago but I'm afraid I have so far not found any good reason to start tweeting yet. I've thought about being a follower but who do I follow out of the millions already out there?

Twitter is certainly thriving in the education sector and there are already many excellent guides on using it on courses, among colleagues or at conferences. See, for example;
One feature often used today is that Twitter provides a back channel for discussion at conferences. The conference Twitter feed can be shown on a screen on stage though this can be a major distraction since the chat can be more interesting than the speaker. Some chat is highly relevant to the topic being presented but can also be highly irrelevant. It's really a digital version of the age-old custom of passing notes under the desk during class. Should it remain under the surface or shown up front? Are we really multi-tasking or are we bored with the one way nature of the lecture format and long for a discussion?

A new phenomenon is discussed on Tony Karrer's blog, Twitter and webinars. E-meeting tools like Adobe Connect or Elluminate are used for seminars and lectures and even though such tools offer simultaneous text chat between participants it seems many are choosing to chat via Twitter instead. This means that the discussion is only visible to those participants with Twitter accounts and the main chat window is therefore relatively empty. The answer suggested in the post is to encourage participants to chat in the e-meeting chat session as a service to the group. The long-term solution is for the e-meeting tools to integrate Twitter and other social media and make it easier to interact with other participants. More integration and fewer proprietary solutions.

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