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My approach to Twitter September 1, 2015

Posted by IaninSheffield in Twitter.
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Recently Ben King asked (in the second of these two tweets) :

for which I initially had no answer, but then concurred with Ben’s suggestion. My thought was that I don’t manage to follow so many people; it’s just the way I do things. I guess Ben was asking as a follow up to an earlier tweet in which he mentioned having to undertake a ‘cull’ to get those he was following down to a more manageable 200. I’ve seen a number of folks mention this in the past, but it’s not a task I’ve ever felt the need to perform, which then set me thinking …why?

When I was first introduced to Twitter back in 2009, the strategy I adopted was quite simple. Follow anyone from whom I might learn something. So initially I searched out a few people about whom I was already aware to see if they were on Twitter. If anyone followed me or I saw a retweet which included someone new, I then applied my basic criterion and if the person fulfilled that, then I followed them. The way I would establish whether they were ‘interesting’ would be to check their Bio first to see whether they had an interest in education, then confirm that by reading through their recent tweets.

As things rolled forward and I moved beyond the n00b phase, I became slightly more discriminating and elected not to follow people who were ‘touting’ something (a product or themselves) or people who were so prolific in their tweeting that they would have swamped my timeline. I also rarely follow back companies or people who are completely off topic and just occasionally I block accounts – they often have avatars featuring women with … limited wardrobes (never men interestingly!)

Although I’ve never felt the need to undertake a formal cull, I do occasionally unfollow. That’s usually if someone’s tweets become too extreme or evangelical (political, religious), if they become disrespectful to others or if they become too spammy and spend too much time off topic (education, learning etc).

I’m conscious however that I’ve perhaps skirted around Ben’s question, so returning to that. To some extent I guess it’s down to the way I access Twitter. I rarely use data on my smartphone (which I rarely have with me anyway!) so 24/7 access and feeling the need to respond to every notification has never been an issue. I tend to spare about 15 – 20 minutes a day using my tab at home on wifi checking and responding to my Twitter stream, plus the time it takes to make a post or two (I’m far from prolific). If I’m away from home or at work, then I hardly ever check in. Occasionally I participate in a #chat, so that would be an hour, but then I’m focused on that alone, rather than the rest of my stream. I guess the clue is in that word – ‘stream.’ I see it as a continual flow of information which I dip into fairly regularly, but much of which passes unseen. I’m OK with that. I don’t feel the need to be obliged to respond, though will do when it’s appropriate. Where sources of information and ideas are so important that I don’t want to miss a thing, I’ll subscribe to their RSS feed and pick that up in my reader, where I skim everything and read what stands out.

For me, the priority is to seek out the diversity of views provided by an eclectic international mix; from different curriculum areas, different sectors (primary, secondary, tertiary), teachers, advisors, learning technologists, even a couple of humorous parody accounts for amusement, but no celebs (apart from Brian Cox & Jim Al-Khalili!). It’s important to me to enjoy a wide variety of views, including those with which I disagree and which challenge my conceptions. The flip side of adopting such a broad church is that the contents of my stream are not always relevant – I’m not particularly interested in who’s got pole position in the next GP, how many people followed or unfollowed you today or that your baby’s just puked down your shirt, but they are the human side of the 140 character snippets and help in providing the context from which connections can evolve. I accept that my stream may be less ‘tight’ than Ben’s, but will allow me to delight those serendipitous or unexpected gems which the wonderful people I follow regularly share.


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