Twitter – longer & longer & lon….!

Some musings on recent Twitter changes!

These are my personal views about how Twitter works for me and some of the changes that don’t sit easily with me. I would love some discussion to develop around this!

I see some changes in Twitter lately that don’t “gel” with me. I’m not that happy with the “newTwitter” web but as I usually use the Tweetdeck client and Snaptu if on my phone this has not really impinged much on me. However I am aware that it is possible to do updates longer than 140 characters. Until recently then these have been shown through my Tweetdeck screen they have either said “read more” so I could ignore them, or have link which when clicked shows a few more words (intensly annoying). However the most recent update shows the whole tweet and (irritatingly) if it is only a couple of characters over 140 leaves a large “real estate” blank in the column!

I have always felt very strongly that “Twitter is what you want it to be for YOU!” However this as been very much my personal feeling on the etiquette etcetera of Twitter use. I have no issue with two or more successive tweets to communicate a thought or idea within a conversation I do this myself regularly, although I realise that some people find it annoying. However I am finding it a bit hard to deal with tweets that are just “long” perhaps because the author has not troubled to think before sending or because what they are saying deserves a blog post!

My concern with the capacity to send longer tweets is threefold:

a) The impact this may have on the essential character of twitter and very much on the many, many well crafted tweets that I see every day. These being the result of tweeps considering and planning their tweets to say what they want to say in an elegant 140 characters.

b) The extra reading time, download and screen space involved – I read very fast and scan and skim for content and context but I know (as a literacy specialist) that not everyone is able to take in meaning rapidly and holistically. This creates the risk that Twitter may become “boring” to some users.

c) Longer tweets provide more opportunities for spammers and marketers to monopolise our streams at the expense of those who tweet meaningful content.

I just have this feeling/concern that Twitter is moving from microblogging to macroblogging and that every tweet now risks becoming an extended post. If this happens then Twitter may lose its excitement and immediacy – imho that would be a shame. 🙂

Yammering Away!


I have recently (in the last two weeks) initiated a Yammer network in my workplace. A few weeks ago in one of our Serendipity unconference webinars Yammer came up as one of the Web2.0 tools that someone was using in their organisation. As a committed Twitter user who has gained a huge amount both professionally and personally from my Twitter stream and how it fits into my PLN I thought that Yammer might be a good tool for my organisation. We are distributed over several campuses, people are often off campus for a variety of reasons and “corporate knowledge” is widely distributed and fragmented. A network such as Yammer provides opportunities to seek immediate answers to those quick questions we ask colleagues many times a day and to share ideas, information, knowledge and links about all aspects of our work.

What I did

To start with I initiated the network by signing up and then inviting four colleagues to join. Since then I have invited another three, and am about to invite a further three. My hope is that this will grow organically – I am totally convinced that trying to force adoption of this type of innovative (for many organisations including mine) approach to networking and sharing is counter-productive. Already several of my colleagues have invited others and at the moment we have 14 members and a further 13 who have been invited but not yet joined.

Only two of my colleagues are (to my knowledge) at the moment on Twitter, they are both new to it – and I am sure they won’t mind me saying that they are a bit apprehensive about networking in this way. When I started using Twitter I felt much the same way and it took me a while to “get into it”. However as none of my colleagues have used this type of networking strategy before I find myself “yammering” various suggestions and thoughts that might help people experiment, learn and ultimately enjoy this form of networking. So it seemd to me that it might be useful to post about these and then I can just use the link rather than filling the Yammer stream with all those suggestions on a frequent basis, so here are some of my ideas. These come largely out of my own experience with Twitter but with some modifications because in some ways an organisational Yammer network is very different from Twitter.

Tips for getting the most out of Yammer

StartingGetDesktop1. Get the desktop app – this is a narrow window with tabs that you can leave on your screen all day and it updates pretty much in real time. It doesn’t matter if you minimise it or bury it under other windows you can take the occasional look to see if anything of interest to you has appeared or if anyone has asked a question that you might be able to help with. YOU DON’T HAVE TO LOOK AT IT! Ignore it, hide it, close it – the choice is yours. At least it’s there if YOU want to ask a question!

Follow2. Follow people – otherwise you will miss their yams unless you watch the “Company Feed” instead of your own “My Feed”. If someone follows you you don’t have to follow them back but hey why wouldn’t you? We all need each other’s knowledge and support.

YammerDesktop13. Participate – join the convo (conversation); start a convo yourself; share a link; share an idea; answer a question; ask a question. Participators usually seem to get more out of these kinds of networks than lurkers (those who just observe and take useful things from the network without contributing).

4. KEEP IT SHORT! no more than 150-200 characters is best, OK we will all go over that occasionally but don’t let it become a habitl The global network Twitter limits to 140 characters – teaches us to be concise J.

5. Remember the social dimension – it oils the wheels of the professional interactions! It’s not a hanging offence to say social things – we all say social things in face-to-face situations, online networks are no different.

Reply16. If you like something then click “like” and then “reply” to tell the person who posted – we all appreciate being appreciated.

7. You can aim a message at a particular person use @ in front of user name (message is public) or use the user name without @ and the message is private

8. Fill in some of your profile info – not necessarily all of it but preferably include an avatar (pic or image to represent you) it doesn’t have to be a photo, any image that feels right to you is fine as long as it doesn’t offend others.

9. If you share a special interest with some colleagues make/join a group. Your messages can be public or private

10. If you want to give Yammer your best shot – remember anything new is hard at first. Give yourself a goal eg skim the stream at least a couple of times a day and post something at least once each day.

Invite11. Invite someone else – send an invite to a colleague & learn about Yammer together.



For any Manager or Administrator out there who thinks that this is a time wasting toy and not appropriate for work – just a reminder that it can:

  • help to collect and disseminate the sort of corporate knowledge that organisations have spent much time and money trying to preserve and share for many years not least through Communities of Practice
  • save time spent trying to find the person with the answer to a particular question
  • make useful links more easily accessible to more people
  • increase collegiality

Yammer is what you want it to be and what you make it for YOU!

Webinar Overview – Your PLN, what’s in it for ALL of us?


This recent recorded session was a “Fine Focus” follow up to the preceding Serendipity session where we had looked at two topics. The second of these – a fleeting glimpse of PLNs was a bit “short-changed” in terms of time, so it seemed like a good idea to have a session on the significance of PLNs and some of the tools we each use. It must be emphasised that this was not a session on developing a PLN but very much a sharing of how our own PLN works for us and an opportunity to take away different ideas and tools.

The Session

As always with Fine focus sessions that I facilitate I gave the session a clear structure to differentiate it from Serendipity which are deliberately unstructured unconference sessions. Firstly we spent a few minutes sharing our understanding of the term PLN, and then highlighting its most important aspect for each of us.

MostImprtntNext we shared our own particular key tool – the one we felt played a pivotal role in our own PLN. Then we moved on to a look at how our PLNs look in our own minds. For this I tried out an experiment in using Elluminate slightly differently as I am always looking for alternative ways of doing things. Instead of using individual breakout rooms the group used their individual Elluminate work areas to draw a diagram/picture of how they perceived their PLN.  We then transferred these to the whiteboard with limited success. As an alternative to breakout rooms (when there are bandwidth issues  or time constraints) I think this has the potential to be a useful Elluminate strategy. I just need more practise and to be much clearer in how I explain the “how to”. We finished up with sharing the one tool or idea we felt we might take away from the session.


This was (for me) a really interesting session as I always enjoy finding out about how people use their PLNs. I also very much value that these sessions give me the opportunity to maintain and extend my Elluminate skills as well as to learn about other tools and strategies . I also had a great “take away” from the session in Yammer.  I have now explored this and begun a network for my workplace with several people already joining.

Next Week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Serendipity” session, one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic of the day. If you want to propose a topic in advance then visit the Serendipity Wallwisher and add your topic. Then join us on Thursday Sept 2nd at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday Sept 3rd at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Webinar Overview – Twitter Rules/GroundRules?


This was an Edublogs “Talk Time” around whether Twitter should, or should not, have rules and/or ground rules. You can find the session recording here.

The Session

We started out by checking that we had a common understanding of the terms “rules” and “ground rules”. This was followed by quick poll to see how many people thought that Twitter should have one or the other or both.

The main part of the session was occupied with why there should or should not be “rules” or “ground rules” for using Twitter and with ideas on the rules and ground rules that people thought were particularly important or essential.


The session finished with some encapsulations of Twitter in nine words and a revisiting of the initial poll question on whether Twitter should have rules and/or ground rules.


As always with discussions about Twitter this was a lively session. I find that “Talk Time” sessions are great for giving the opportunity for a more structured look at a topic than Serendipity. However I always have an underlying fear that I am being too “bossy” in structuring and keeping the session moving along. I suspect that this may be a result of consciously trying to ensure that these sessions are different from “Serendipity” and that they have a clear focus and direction in contrast to the unconference, go where you will, format of “Serendipity”.

Next Week

SerendipitybsmallOur next Webinar is an Edublogs “Serendipity” session, one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic of the day. If you want to propose a topic in advance then visit the Serendipity Wallwisher and add your topic. Then join us on Thursday Aug 19th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (7pm USA EST, Midnight BST) or Friday July 20th at 1am CEST,7am West Aus, 9am NSW, depending on your timezone – in the usual Elluminate room

In the Future

If you are a regular visitor to our webinars you will know that we alternate “Fine Focus” sessions on specific topics with “Serendipity” the unconference sessions where we choose a topic by poll at the start of the session. Sometimes the very fact of being asked for “hot topics” or other ideas for discussion or learning tends to make our minds blank. This has prompted me to start a Serendipity Wallwisher for topic suggestions. Please visit the wall and add your ideas for Serendipity topics so that we have more choices to consider. Some of these ideas might also form the basis for future “Fine Focus” sessions.

Twitter – a Clean Nest?

Twitter – a Clean Nest?

The Edublogs Online PD session last week (5/11/09) was about Twitter. I have over the last few months  noticed waves of spam, phishing and account hacking suffered by members of my PLN on Twitter. I also became aware (when @lasic tweeted and I think also blogged – although I can’t find it – about this a few months ago) that many people were unsure of what they could do to limit the impact when they or someone in their Twitter stream was attacked.


So looking at this seemed to be something that would be useful to quite a lot of people, including both those who have been Tweeting for some time and those fairly new to Twitter. It was a great session with a huge and very productive parallel channel in the text chat as well as the presentation and related interactions.

Managing Followers

The session started with a look at how we handle followers and a poll indicated that around 2/3 of the people present at the beginning checked for new followers frequently. They also had some criteria for deciding whether to: follow back, wait and see, or block/report spam. The remaining third did some checking but had less clear criteria and only occasionally blocked anyone.  Personally I am quite active in how I deal with new followers. I check very frequently and block quite often – I apply this to anyone I am unsure of or who starts the alarm bells ringing in my head. I make a conscious effort to keep my following list relatively small, so I don’t necessarily follow back everyone who follows me. For example I rarely follow anyone who does almost all retweets or who just tweets their blog posts or who does nothing but links. This is a very personal preference and I do it because I feel that the social interaction oils the wheels of the professional relationship and this is important to me personally.

We shared strategies for determining how we decide whether to follow someone. Some of those that several of us had in common were: checking out profile, avatar, follower/following ratio, recent tweets (number, topics, style, type), and their follower list. Other suggestions from chat and the whiteboard included: membership of other groups in common, “meeting” in another context (face to face or electonically, using Topify, using Twitter-gardening, using Tweetdeck’s new followers column and when they joined vs how many they follow.

There were a range of characteristics that started new follower alarm bells for some or all of us including: any provocative content, following excessive number vs followers, zero/minimal tweets, heavy marketing, self-styled experts/gurus, anything free/secret or guaranteed to …. Additional suggestions included automated tweets, social media specialists and real estate.

We also talked about reducing the number of irrelevant followers generated when we use a keyword in a Tweet. Many of these are automated searches that autofollow anyone who puts their search word in a Tweet. Some of the main ones include words like spam, sex, love, names of celebrities, major sports, cities, countries. While the last few may only attract one or two followers for example a tourist centre, the earlier ones can attract a flood of very inappropriate followers. A strategy that seems to work for me is replacing one or more letters in the word with a character such as “*” very much in the style that was used in print in an attempt to reduce the impact of possibly offensive words.

I find managing followers much easier than when I first joined Twitter a year ago. I use mainly my Twitter home page on the web and Tweetdeck for all my Twitter interaction and management, and in my opinion each new version has made dealing with new followers easier.


To illustrate this I shared my Twitter page and quickly blocked a new follower (not the one above) that I was doubtful about. There was some discussion about reporting spam, again I have a very personal opinion that reporting is useful because the more people that report a dubious Tweeter the more likely that Twitter will take some action.

My own feeling is that managing my Twitter stream actively helps to reduce both the risk to me and the risk that people who follow me will be attacked through me.

How to recognise an attack and what to do.

The discussion then moved on to recognising and dealing with an attack. Being aware of the style and type of messages sent by your followers is one way to recognise a probable attack. One of the most common attack types is to hijack someone’s account and then send DMs in their name that perpetuate the hijacking. I am immediately suspicious if I get an unexpected DM from someone in my stream that falls into one of these categories: doesn’t relate to a recent topic; points me to a link with just a general comment eg “Look at this” “Is this you?”

In my opinion it is important that we tell anyone from whom we get odd DMs. Once your account has been hacked it is quite possible for a DM to be sent in your name without your knowledge. If we simply block anyone who sends us an odd DM then the attackers win because they are curtailing our use of Twitter. It’s also helpful to others if you warn the rest of your followers when you get a suspicious Tweet. This is particularly helpful for people who are relatively new to Twitter.

If someone tells you that you have sent odd DMs then it is likely that your account has been compromised and that someone has access to it. This may have happened as a result of your participation in one of the games, toys or gadgets you have accessed from Twitter, many of these ask you for access to your account, not all of them are legitimate and even those that are may themselves be hacked. If you have this problem just changing your password is not enough as you have already given these third parties access to your account.

To check out who has access to your account you can go to your Twitter homepage and look at the Connections Tab in Settings. When I put this slide up during the session it gave rise to a sudden silence in the text chat causing me to worry that my sound had dropped out. Of course what had happened was that everyone had immediately gone to their Twitter page to check out access, and several were busy revoking access for suspicious applications.


If you don’t have a connections tab then you have not given anyone access to your account. Personally if I get a suspicious Tweet from someone I follow I tell them and also usually suggest they try the above.

A great source of information on what is currently happening in the way of problems on Twitter and of fixes for problems is to use the Help on your Twitter homepage as this takes you to Support. There you will find a range of information including FAQ and links to the Twitter blog. I have found this really useful when strange things have been happening on Twitter and it tends to be my first port of call when seeking solutions.

We had a great session and I think we all all learned a lot from one another – and that is the purpose of our sessions! Learning together, learning from one another is just the best professional development there is.

Twitter – what makes me follow someone?

Just recently I have been thinking about how many people I follow and how I manage them. This was triggered by reaching the stage where Tweetdeck doesn’t load all my overnight tweets when I log on in the mornings so I have to look elsewhere. I have been in Twitter for about 6 months and have let my stream grow slowly (at this moment I follow 138 and am followed by 172). I like to be able to skim all tweets (from when I am offline) otherwise I risk missing interesting/useful/social “nuggets”. As my stream gets much bigger that becomes increasingly hard – particularly as a large proportion of my stream are on the other side of the world or the other side of the country (I am in Westen Australia). So I have just reached the point where there is about an hour of tweets that don’t fit in when I start Tweetdeck in the mornings – going to Web to pick them up is irritating as I then have to do about 10 “mores” to get back that far. However I have now tried using Twhirl for this and so far this is OK to catch those missing Tweets. One of the “nuggets” from my Twitter stream that made me think even more was Brad Stokes’ post ” You don’t need more Twitter followers” I found that I tweeted for very much the 6 reasons given.

I have no desire to develop mammoth follower or following lists. I gain a huge amount from Twitter but already am only able to interact professionally &/or socially (rather than just check the tweets) on a regular basis with about 25% of my stream. For me Twitter is very much a “Personal” professional network and I very much enjoy the opportunities for interaction on the social as well as the professional level. In my opinion following a huge list of people would be counter-productive to getting what I want from Twitter.

Almost all of those that I follow also follow me. I am quite “choosy” about following back when people follow me. I mainly follow educators but also some others with whom I have shared interests (often growing, cooking and eating food) or who just seem interesting when I check out their stream. Mostly I find new people to follow through @replies to existing members of my stream, following some of those who follow me, and through interactions at online forums etc. However I always look at the profile, avatar and Tweet stream before deciding whether to follow. I rarely choose to follow people with protected updates unless I have had contact with them through another context. Similarly I am also less willing to follow those who have no profile information and/or only a stock image for their avatar. Other negatives include: those who follow thousands and have few followers especially if they only have a minimal number of updates; those whose profile or Tweets tell me how to get something for free or how I can get a million Twitter followers;

I try to check out new followers as soon as possible after the email tellling me they are following but this doesn’t always happen. I am ruthless about those following me – corporates, marketers and self-styled social media gurus are almost always blocked. I don’t like being used as a conduit into members of my stream. I also block minors where I can pick them out. This is a personal preference – I am an adult educator who also works with many adolescents who have dropped out of school and I just feel that it is not appropriate for me to have this age group in my professional and social network. If I am unsure about a follower they get benefit of doubt and I don’t block, but my key strategy is to follow only those that have interests in common with me although of course there are occasional exceptions. I also block and report by DM to @spam any new followers that appear to me to be spam, scams, phishing etc.