Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tweeting the night away

I've been twittering (@alacre) for a few weeks now and despite my initial scepticism it has certainly provided me with many new sources of information and inspiration. Many tweeters have some great links and ideas to share if you just follow them even if discussions via Twitter are a bit like casting your ideas to the wind and hoping someone's out there.

There's a conference in Vancouver (Open Education 2009) just now that I'm watching from afar. Sessions are of course streamed and available afterwards as usual but it's the first conference that I have tried to follow on Twitter (#opened09). The comments and link suggestions came thick and fast from both delegates and on-line participants. It's really a variation on the chat room theme but combining the live video feed with the torrent of tweets as well as being able to click on all the links certainly keeps you busy and must require serious multi-tasking in the conference hall. The back channel for delegate communication is now out in the open and is rapidly becoming a required conference feature. If you don't provide that channel the delegates will fix it themselves, just as many students do in class.

There's no doubt that Twitter is the tech flavour of the year but it seems to be the 30+ sector of the population who are driving development. Contrary to popular belief, it hasn't really taken off with teenagers. A recent article on the site Mashable, Stats confirm it, teens don't tweet, created a long and fascinating discussion (read also a blogpost questioning the validity of such media-friendly surveys). Teenagers, according to the article, are mostly concerned with communicating with friends and not broadcasting to unknown readers. Twitter, just like blogs and wikis, is too blunt an instrument compared with MSN, Skype or Facebook where you communicate with known and accepted friends. The Twitter discussion at Open Ed 2009 is, like most of Twitter, wide open for anyone to view.

I suppose we can divide these tools into more or less open and closed social networks. Open tools let you communicate with anyone (blogs, wikis, Twitter) whereas closed tools allow you to communicate with strictly restricted groups (IM, texting, Facebook). Adults tend to be more attracted to communicating with a wide and largely unknown audience wheres as teenagers concentrate more on cultivating relationships. Such generalisations are always rather sweeping and hardly original but I think I see a trend!

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