Intro to the Twitter Assignments
“#Hashtag” with Jimmy Fallon & Justin Timberlake via a tweet by Lora Lee Griffin
Blogging is when people publish their ideas for a (mostly) unknown audience in posts of any length. Twittering (or micro-blogging) is when people publish their ideas in a much shorter format to a (mostly) known audience. The Twitter tweet (the name of each post) is 140 characters long. Just as with blogging, one cannot fully grasp the mode of communication without engaging with it. So, we are going to engage it over the course of the semester by using it in several ways:
- as a way to engage our course-related work outside of class and conversations during class,
- as a way of furthering our awareness of public discussions of topics related to our readings and assignments, and
- as a way of spreading work about our blog posts and semester studies to try to increase traffic to the blog.
As with all of Twitter (in one way or another), the goal is learning and sharing what we learn. But, Twitter is hard, at first. There is no set community (other than the one we have in class), as there is with Facebook. You have to go out and find it. Will discuss ways to do that. But, as with all things ultimately amazingly beneficial, the onus for success is on the individual user. The more time you put into seeking out people and engaging with them, the more amazing your experience will be.
So, to get this project under way, we are going to complete the following:
- create a Twitter account that is not anonymous and has as short a username as possible (short usernames save precious characters; Twitter values authenticity; you will not gain followers and people will not let you follow them without authenticity; if you already have a Twitter account with an pseudonym for your username be sure your real name is associated with the account)
- create a professional bio that locates you as a (grad) student and lists some interests
- make your account open for anyone to follow; having a locked account is essentially giving potential followers the finger. That might seem harsh, but that’s what it feels like when confronted with the little padlock icon. (If you are concerned about spam–and you should be–and/or who is following, in the Settings enable the option to get an email whenever you have a new follower; this will allow you to see when someone follows and to Block them if necessary. I use this quite often.)
- add a link to the course blog
- add a photo of yourself or something that you feel represents you or your project in some way
- follow @billwolff, Writing Arts professor @jcourtzy, everyone in the class, and current MAWR grad student and prolific tweeter, @jasoncantrell
- Any tweet that is about class in any way should include the #wecf13 hashtag.
- begin following people in your professional field (and, later, within the community of your research study). To help fine people, use: Twitter Search, Listorious, Twellow, Google, and by seeing who people follow. You can also check out these two posts: Top 100 Edu Tweeters and 100 Professors You Should Follow and Learn from on Twitter. There is no required number of people to follow, but if you are using Twitter effectively, by the end of the semester I suspect you will be following upwards of 300 people (or a 300 more than you currently follow).
Part 1: Live-Tweeting Class Readings, Work, and Discussions
Course work is often perceived as a solitary experience but in our networked society it need not be. In order to help us all engage with the texts and our work outside of class, and create a collective experience of the work we’re doing, I would like you to “live tweet” as you complete course-related work outside of class, posting to Twitter whatever comes to your mind as you complete the work. By “whatever comes to your mind” I mean things that are about the text itself. Try to limit tweets like, “This article is boring. #yawn,” as such tweets will make to look foolish and show little thought about the text itself. You should @reply to other class members frequently so that we can begin discussions about the work outside of the classroom and then continue those discussions when we meet in the classroom. Add the #wecf13 hashtag to all “live tweets.”
There is no required number of tweets to tweet as your readings, work, or in-class discussions, but it is expected that each should garner many tweets. The more you tweet your the more engaged the class can and will become in a dialogue outside the class. Do, however, be sure to make it clear what you’re reading, working on, or discussing. This can be done in the content of the tweet or by using a hashtag for an author’s name (such as #jenkins), and so on. This is important because we want to be sure we know which text you’re tweeting about.
You should consider referencing the authors in your tweets. For example, Henry Jenkins is on Twitter @henryjenkins. Mentioning him in tweets about his book could result in a response. Search for our authors to see if they are on Twitter and if so, mention them if you want.
Begin live-tweeting readings and work starting with readings for week 2 and continuing throughout the semester.
A note on tweeting in class: I am a big proponent of students tweeting during class, but only if the class size is large enough to support some students tweeting class discussions and others engaging in the discussion. Because there are (at the time of writing) only 8 students in this section of #wecf13, I’d like you to keep tweeting during class active but not excessive so the in-class discussion has everyone’s full attention.
Part 2: Writing for Electronic Communities Mondays (#wecmondays)
Starting the Monday of the second week of class (September 9) I’d like each student to tweet links to 5 different articles, blog posts, or other writings, that in some way discuss, cover, illustrate, or further the ideas we are talking about in class. The whole article does not have to be on the subject of information architecture; rather, the article can have a visual that enhances the article and illustrates, say, mapping. These tweets should contain the hashtags #wecf13 and #wecmondays.
There are several goals for this part of the Twitter assignment:
- to show the immediacy of the topics were are discussing in class
- to engage with the class ideas outside of class
- to provide material for that week’s blog posts (see the blogging assignment)
To find your articles, do not merely search “writing for electronic communities.” Think about the topics that are discussed in the readings and search for them. Or, you may do some research on the author and link to something else they have written. Don’t shy away from scholarly articles, as well, which you can find on Google Scholar. The more nuanced and engaging the text you link to the most useful and effective it will be for class.
You might also consider setting of a Google Email Alert for one of several topics that interest you and/or set up an account at IFTTT and have alerts emailed to you when certain topics appear so you can be alerted when something is published.
Part 3: Finding Readers and Disseminating Blog Posts
It is all well and good to blog. Many do and find it useful for them individually. Our goal as outlined in the blogging assignment, however, is to try to gain readers from outside of class so others who are interested in what we are discussing can be drawn in to the discussion. We are going to attempt to get their attention through the use of Twitter @reply/@mention, retweet, and hashtag functions. It is important to understand how each work (see below).
Finding, Following, and Engaging (Weeks 2 – 5 and then on-going as needed)
The most important thing for our study and the dissemination of your blog posts is to start following and engaging with the community you are going to study. This includes, but is not limited to the following activities on Twitter:
- following accounts that represent the community (blogs, forums, etc.)
- following members of the community (the fans and the main players)
- following scholars who write about things related that community
- engaging with members of the community and accounts through direct conversation (@replies/@mentions) and retweets
- using the hashtag, especially when big community news is happening
- put something in your Twitter bio something that identifies you with the group you’ll be studying
Think of the next three weeks as your time to introduce yourself as a member of that community (if you are not already one on Twitter)—not one who is studying them, but who is genuinely interested in that community (which you should be). The more you engage the more visible you will become. The more visible you become, the more people will follow you. Once they start to follow you, they will be more likely to retweet blog posts you send out that are related to that community.
- Weeks 2 – 3: locate 5 communities/keywords you might study and know their hashtags
- Week 3 (by Saturday, Sept 21): know the community you want to study
- Weeks 3 – 5: start doing the above: finding, following, engaging
- Weeks 5 – 15: continue as the study continues on, you learn more, and share more via your blog
The @reply is the oldest of the user-created functions of Twitter (when Twitter was released it didn’t have the @reply). Twitter has made the functionality of the @reply quite complex but here are some samples to help us along the way:
When you @reply to a follower (or click the “reply” arrow under a tweet) the tweet will only be seen by those who follow both you and the person you are replying to:
@thisistomwink This tweet will be seen by Tom & people who follow both Tom & me. People who follow only me and not Tom will not see it.
— Bill Wolff (@billwolff) September 10, 2013
If, however, you have something you want to say that you think that Tom and all your followers would like to see, there are several options:
— Bill Wolff (@billwolff) September 10, 2013
These tweets, however, will not be seen by all of Tom’s or any of the @mention’s followers. If you’d like those people to see the tweets, you can either cc all of them by going through the follower list (a pain in the neck) or politely ask the person to retweet (RT) the tweet to their followers:
Retweet/RT/MT/Retweet to Followers
You will see retweets in your feed in a variety of formats as different Twitter apps employ different means of retweeting. The web site asks if you want to “retweet to your followers,” which just forwards on the tweet and adds a little icon letting your followers know it has been retweeted. To retweet a tweet to your followers, all you do is click the little retweet link under the tweet in your timeline. A pop-up window will appear asking you, “Retweet this to your followers?” Then click Retweet. This functions allows users to filter the kind of information they send forward. Some tweets will have an RT in front of it. The RT was created by the users; though it’s functionality has been abandoned by Twitter many of the Twitter apps still use it because the users like it. It allows you to comment before the tweet so you’re not just forwarding something on:
Some tweets will have an MT where an RT might go. MT stands for “modified tweet.” This happens when you want to RT a tweet but doing so exceeds the 140 character limit. By writing MT, you are indicating that you changed some of the words in the original but are keeping the original meaning intact:
In other instances you might see a tweet hat has quotation marks around it. This is a retweet that says, basically, that you are quoting a tweet:
All of these options succeed in doing the same thing: taking a tweet from a person you follow and sharing it with all your followers. Use each as needed depending on the goal of your tweet.
Our goal for the dissemination of tweets is to get a person’s attention enough so they will retweet it on. It is difficult to do, but when it is successful, you’ll see the blog hits skyrocket. The key is mentioning that person in a tweet in such a way that piques their interest enough to click on the link. The more you start following and engaging during weeks 2 – 5, the more successful you will be when you start trying to get readers.
An example of using cc @mention in a post, via a Storify I created