Sunday, August 5, 2012

Evaluating my Twitter experience

Whilst attending the PLNSW conference, I tweeted regularly, in order to both increase my familiarity with the medium, and to provide myself with a good amount of data to evaluate my experience against.  I have decided to evaluate my Twitter use against several criteria:

  • ease of use of the service - could I easily and effectively Tweet from my ipad
  • did tweeting enhance or detract from my conference experience and knowledge acquisition
  • did tweeting create an increased sense of community with other conference participants
  • did my tweets create value for non-attendees to the conference
  • were there any unintended consequences 
Ease of use
Whilst not a complete newcomer to Twitter, my previous use has been limited, and restricted to participation in a Twitter reading group online, and contributing a few tweets to the #Inf2506 stream.  Since the beginning of semester I have been following the #Inf2506 stream, and tweeting and re-tweeting content for it.  I had initially used my ipad with the official Twitter app, and found it easy to use, and felt I had mastered the basic concepts.  However, it soon became evident that I could not see all the tweets in the #Inf2506 stream on the official app, only those rated "top" which equated to only those of a few users.  I also found that if I re-tweeted, the tweets did not show in the stream.  I downloaded both Hootsuite and Tweetdeck apps to try to overcome the problem.  I found the Hootsuite app to be easy to use, and was able to set up different columns for the conference feed and the INF2506 feed, but still had trouble with re-tweeting - some appeared, some didn't.  In the end, I decided to limit re-tweeting, and just stick to what I created myself.  I tried the tweetdeck app, but didn't find the interface as appealing, as the various streams were not visible at the same time.

Enhancing experience

I was certainly a little dubious about tweeting "live" from the conference, as I was concerned that I would  "miss" some of the content while I was busy composing and sending tweets, and reading others tweets.  I normally take pen and paper notes, and this time had also abandoned that in favour of my ipad, so I was really occupied with the technology this conference.  I certainly found that some sessions and some presenters lent themselves more to being tweeted about than others - but I really didn't take many notes from the sessions I didn't tweet about either.  At first I struggled to split my concentration, but found as I progressed, that it became easier.  I certainly found that I have remembered bits that I tweeted about, and others tweets stand out as well.  Reading other people tweets at the time also enabled me to see what others found noteworthy from the presentations.  To my surprise, upon reflection, I feel that my experience was enhanced by tweeting from the conference.  I feel that writing the tweets helped me focus on "key points" as I needed to distil the information into short chunks that would make sense to others (hopefully make sense anyway)

Building community

I have always found conference as important way of connecting with my fellow librarians, but it is always hectic and the ability to talk with others is limited, due to the amount of stuff happening at the same time.  I was already following a couple of librarians on twitter before the conference, but over the course of the event, ended up identifying and following several others, after reading their remarks.  It was interesting to try to match up the tweeter to the real person - some I could, some I couldn't, but that did not become an issue for me, as I thought it might - I previously had a bit of an aversion to the idea of following someone who I couldn't identify as a real person.  Over the course of the conference, several of my tweets were re-tweeted, and I experienced some satisfaction and excitement when that occurred - I felt that it was a validation of my contribution.  Since my return I found an article by Chen that explores the idea that the more time Twitter users spend with the service the greater their gratification of the need to feel connected with others.  The article suggests that those who become regular long term users of twitter are satisfying a need to be connected with others, but does not explore the characteristics of those users.

Adding value

Did my tweeting add value for others - a difficult question to answer - certainly some found my comments interesting enough to retweet and therefore share with others.  Undoubtedly some some of the students in the INF2560 subject groups would have been annoyed by my tweets, others may have found them interesting.  I found an article from Harvard Business Review that studies what make a good tweet.  The article suggests that most people find only about 36% of tweets worth reading (interesting given that people are choosing whom  they follow).  The most worthwhile categories of tweet are "random thoughts - either exciting or funny", "self-promotion", "questions to followers - crowdsourcing" and "information sharing".  The least useful were "complaints /whining", "what I'm doing /eating/etc", "personal conversations" and "presence maintenance".  When I think about the tweets I did from conference, most fell into the "information sharing" category.

Unintended consequences

One very unexpected outcome was the amount of spam tweets that occurred over the course of the conference and since then.  On day once of the conference, enough traffic was generated to cause the hashtag to trend.  As a result, overnight a large number of spam tweets appeared in the conference stream.  Then, random re-tweets started to appear, from people who appeared to have no connection to libraries or information work.  As I had used both the conference hashtag, and the Inf2506 tag, the INF2506 stream ended up with quite a few spam tweets appearing - I found this particularly annoying considering how much I and other students have struggles to get valid tweets to appear!!

Overall I found my tweeting at conference to be a satisfying and worthwhile experience, I have expanded my twitter network, and improved my skills.  I even found myself tweeting my response to a football commentator who described a player as "as quiet as a library today".  Expressing my opinion was rather satisfying, even if only a few people get to read it!

Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 755-762. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.10.023

What Makes a Great Tweet. (2012). Harvard Business Review90(5), 36-37.


  1. This is a great post. I have not read such an in-depth review about Twitter before. I think how easy a tool is to use in the 'real world' is an important point that can be overlooked.


  2. Thanks Dale - it has been a really interesting experience for me. I really thought that the hardest part about twitter would be coming up with something intelligent to say! Instead, the real challenge is actually getting the technology to play nice so your voice can be heard.