59% of Americans think Trump's presidency has been a failure. The other 41% still don’t have twitter.
— Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) August 9, 2017
If you're into Twitter lists, I put one together for tracking repeal-and-replace news https://t.co/kqu9PSmUXb
— Adrianna McIntyre (@onceuponA) March 6, 2017
Today, the GOP released the text of their proposed new healthcare plan. I’m blinded by my privilege and thus pretty clueless about our healthcare system and healthcare policy. So, I was looking for some healthcare policy experts to follow on Twitter. After only a short time looking around, I saw this tweet which included a Twitter list of experts. I love me some Twitter lists; they are an underutilized and under-supported feature of Twitter.
Follow the list and/or make it a Tweetdeck column and you’ve got real-time healthcare policy analysis1.
Amazon’s Cloud is down but Twitter is unaffected, because it runs on pure animosity.
— Downtown Josh Brown (@ReformedBroker) February 28, 2017
Other than President Trump’s joint address (which I am avoiding right now), today’s big story was an outage at Amazon Web Services. It hampered lots of #edtech platforms including Canvas, Coursera, and others. There were lots of jokey/snarky tweets about the outage, and I thought the one above was crisp and funny.
That New York Times video of people looking down from a 10-meter diving board is how I feel opening Twitter now
— Dan Cohen (@dancohen) February 3, 2017
I fell asleep rather suddenly and unusually early last night. As a result, there was no tweet of the day. Again, I received about 1.5 million1 inquiries about this. Since I couldn’t respond to each of those, let me just offer a global apology here. I’ll try harder next time.
So, let’s pretend today is actually yesterday and that I’m blogging from yesterday. And, I’m telling you that Dan Cohen nailed it. If you missed the video of Swedish people diving from the 10 meter platform, I HIGHLY recommend it. I’ve embedded it below. I literally laughed out loud at multiple points. As one with an acute fear of heights, I related to a few of the folks on that platform. Actually, I probably would have quit halfway up the ladder.
And, yeah, opening up Twitter these days is a harrowing experience. Great analogy, Dan!
I tried something new a few months ago, and I’m not sure I like it.
You see, I used to tweet a lot about sports. Still do, kinda. I tweet about lots of things related to my interests, but for some reason, tweeting about sports always felt different to me. I felt like:
So, I created a separate Twitter account, @profballer. Before I offer my observations of having done this, let me say a bit about the logistics of the move.
I should also add that when I created the @profballer Twitter account, I also bought profballer.com and thought I might try out sports blogging as a hobby. You’ll see that I didn’t get far with that. But, I haven’t given up on the idea entirely. I actually went to college thinking that I wanted to be a sportswriter. My first year at college, I wrote for the sports department of The Chronicle. It wasn’t a great experience. I was assigned women’s lacrosse and men’s and women’s soccer. I enjoyed those sports, but I hated tracking down the coaches after the game and asking them questions about the games. I was just a little too introverted and not assertive or confident enough. Maybe I needed to give it more time, but I stopped writing for The Chronicle after my first year in college. Then, later during college, I was locked out of a course taught by the great John Feinstein who was a visiting professor one semester. I took that as a sign that I wasn’t meant to be a sports writer. But, again, I’m not giving up all hope. I think I’d enjoy sports blogging, but I’d have to prioritize it in my life in ways I’m not yet comfortable with.
But, back to Twitter…
After three or four months, mostly, I feel dissociative. I feel like I’m not being true to myself at @jonbecker. And, I feel a little too anonymous and inauthentic at @profballer. But, I’m also cognizant of the possibility that what kept me from fully enjoying my time as a sports writer for The Chronicle may also be stopping me from enjoying using @profballer. That is, I’m a little shy and hesitant to engage with that account. Having been on Twitter for so long as @jonbecker, I had completely forgotten what it’s like to be a noob on Twitter. When you mention someone using an account with 20 followers, they are really unlikely to take you seriously. Most of my engagements using @profballer have been with people who follow me at @jonbecker and who also follow me at @profballer. So, it takes some courage to reply to or mention someone like Bomani Jones who has over 379K followers. Why would he bother to engage with me?
Additionally, I find it hard to engage with other completely random people. So, for example, during a VCU basketball game, I look at the #LetsGoVCU hashtag and see folks tweeting about the game. Often, those tweets come from an individual who presents as maybe 19 years old and who mostly otherwise tweets about getting drunk and hating college classes. It just feels weird to me to engage with that person. It’s probably completely elitist and snobby of me, but I just can’t get past the feeling of not wanting to engage with someone with whom I’d most certainly have nothing else in common.
So, I have had no luck trying to engage with people who are really smart and who think a lot about sports but who are likely bombarded with tweets and therefore unlikely to reply to me. And, I don’t feel fully comfortable tweeting with Joe or Jane sports fan who is probably half my age and who probably doesn’t want to have conversations about sports like I do. And, frankly, that’s kind of what I’m looking for; much like I have actual conversations about education and/or politics over at @jonbecker, I’m looking to have reasonably sophisticated conversations about sports on Twitter. And, that’s hard to find and to do.
When we see events like Serena and Venus Williams reaching the finals of the Australian Open like they did this week, that kind of event transcends sports. There are massive socio-cultural implications of that story and it’s not possible to put it in the box of just sports. And, it’s not possible for me to comment on that with *just* my sports hat on over at @profballer. Same thing with the upcoming Super Bowl. That sporting event has become a massive cultural event in this country. It’s not *just* sports.
I’m constantly reminded that David Weinberger taught us that these days, Everything is Miscellaneous. The subtitle of that book is “The Power of the New Digital Disorder.”
I’m going to keep the split for now, but you may also see me going back to tweeting a little bit about sports via @jonbecker. If I decide to trash the whole experiment, it’ll be because I’ve decided that in the digital age WE are miscellaneous; our identities are not meant to be dissociated. Time will tell…
I've gotten questions about distinction bw/ executive orders and presidential memoranda (which are what Trump signed today). Some answers:
— Gregory Korte (@gregorykorte) January 23, 2017
I might have to rename my #365project “Twitter thread of the day.” This is now the 2nd tweet of the day that was actually the beginning of a good thread/string of tweets (again, click on the timestamp of Korte’s tweet to see the whole thread).
I know Twitter has some serious problems around harassment, microaggressions, abuse, etc., and I’ve been leaning with those who’ve recently said that they can no longer ask students to use Twitter as part of a course. But, I would still like to run a completely elective course where students know what they’re getting into where we follow lots of really informative Twitter accounts to supplement other forms of media and content. For example, imagine a course running this semester that’s an interdisciplinary course cross-listed between political science and journalism. Among the accounts the students follow is Gregory Korte, White House correspondent for USA Today. Then, this morning, after President Trump issued a few executive orders, students see Korte’s Twitter thread on executive orders vs. memorandums (and proclamations later in the thread). The thread starts with a link to a 2014 article Korte wrote which is very informative. That article includes lots of links, including one to a Harvard Law Review article written by Elana Kagan, former Clinton associate White House counsel. Oh, the associative trails student could blaze just by having followed Gregory Korte this morning!
Now imagine the students following bunches of political reporters and conversing about what they’re seeing, both using Twitter and perhaps a blog. It would be real-time, timely, relevant connected learning.
So, yeah, maybe I’m looking forward to getting back to teaching in the Fall…
[featured image courtesy of Tijakool Yiyuan ]
If I did this right, I will have hit publish on this blog post when I’m at 99,999 tweets and IFTTT will have automatically pushed out a tweet announcing that I’ve written this post.
My 100,000th tweet shouldn’t be a particularly big deal, but I have a thing about round numbers. Thus, I’ve been thinking about what to do at the moment I hit 100K. And, worrying. Because I also have generalized anxiety and high expectations of myself. So, yeah, Dan…
@jonbecker it better be an epic tweet.
— Dan (@DanAgins) October 26, 2016
Ultimately, I decided the best way to to recognize/celebrate/mourn this moment is to thank my Twitter network. As I’ve said before, people find community in different ways and in different places. Some people find community in houses of worship, some at bowling alleys. I found and continue to find community on Twitter.
Earlier this week, this happened:
— Jen (@injenuity) October 25, 2016
I love that. I’ve engaged with Jen on Twitter for a number of years, and we’ve only met once, face-to-face, for a few minutes at a conference. Yet, she knew about my first date with my wife. We’ve had many conversations, both in the public timeline and via direct messages. I know Jen pretty well, and I think she knows me. I’ve watched her beautiful children grow up and she mine. I have Twitter to thank for that.
And there are many other reasons why I’m thankful for Twitter and my Twitter network. Over 8 years ago, I wrote about how I’d come to know many amazing educators on Twitter who I wanted to teach my own child1. Only one of the people I mentioned in that post have disappeared from my network.
I’m not keen to singling out people or instances as I’m sure I’ll leave some out I should mention. But, off the top of my head, Twitter had a part to play in VCU getting to hire the great Tressie McMillan Cottom, The university I work for is a better place because of Twitter.
LOL So do, I @jonbecker! And the world should know that this all started with a tweet from you…
— Tressie Mc (@tressiemcphd) January 13, 2015
Twitter is also the first place I “met” Tom Woodward even though we lived in the same city. We subsequently got to know each other professionally at face-to-face events, but we cultivated a professional relationship on Twitter. Then, 3 years ago, when I got my current job, Tom was the first person I recruited to join our team. Again, the university I work for is a better place because of Twitter.
I first met Laura Gogia face-to-face when she was a reasonably new Ph.D. student. I encouraged her to apply to be a doctoral fellow in the teaching center at VCU2. When I got the opportunity to join her as a colleague and supervisor3, she wasn’t a big Twitter user. I like to believe I encouraged her to become more engaged on Twitter, and she sure did. Eventually, I had the magical opportunity to be Laura’s dissertation advisor and to watch and support her as she did some amazing and ground breaking research that was to some extent about the affordances of social media for Connected Learning. It’s an incredible piece of work that deserves a bigger audience. Thus, I firmly believe that the scholarship of teaching and learning is better because of Twitter.
When I taught a course on Educational Technology for School Leaders, I argued to my students that Twitter is at least 4 things for me:((yes, yes, I know, Google Sites… I didn’t know any better at the time))
I like that construction; I still think of Twitter this way, and I’d add news aggregator to that list.
Recently, Lee Skallerup Bessette, another great Twitter friend of mine, wrote about how Twitter changed her life.
Seeing the real connections that have been made over the social media platform, started there and nurtured elsewhere, or even continuing on over 140 characters, it reminds me why I can’t quit Twitter. I still have too many friends, people I legitimately care about, who live all over the world, with whom my primary contact with them is through Twitter. People I never would have met without Twitter. It is still where I can learn a lot about a lot; I have long argued I was custom-built for the Twitter firehose, so it is the best way for me to learn.
Twitter has made me a better person because it has afforded me the opportunity to come to know some truly wonderful people. Thank you Twitter, and thank you Twitter friends. Here’s to the next 100,000 tweets4.
Ever since VCU’s Center for Teaching Excellence became the Academic Learning Transformation Lab (ALT Lab), a persistent
challenge opportunity has been to let the VCU community know what ALT Lab is and does. Getting that challenge out is complicated on a number of levels, and there are days I just want to shout “Follow us on Twitter and read our blog and join our Diigo group and, and, and…After all, our tagline is ‘Connected learning for a networked world!'” But, most of the time, that’s hardly appropriate or sufficient. We do lots of face-to-face messaging, too. Shortly after the transition from CTE to ALT Lab, we held an open house party of sorts. We’ve been to the last few instances of New Faculty Orientation at VCU to introduce ourselves to new faculty and staff. We hold our own New Faculty Academy at the beginning of every year. A couple of our team members (mostly Molly and Enoch) attend Faculty Club every month to network and get the word out. I’ve asked for time (5 minutes, even) on agendas of department faculty meetings to introduce myself and ALT Lab. We have three liaisons assigned to various units around the university. We have a website (which isn’t up to our standards, but that’s not terrible relative to our peers). We tweet. We blog…
And, yet, it’s never enough. VCU is a massive institution and the academic mission is carried out across mainly two somewhat separate campuses. Furthermore, a lot of what we try to do is fairly cutting edge and pretty foreign to most within the VCU community. But, those are just excuses; we can and will do better to communicate to the VCU community1 about who we are and what we do. That’s the opportunity and figuring out how to do better is one of my big goals for the Spring 2016 semester.
One thing I hope to do more of, but that I wasn’t able to do last semester (because surgery), is to get out and meet faculty and staff where they are. I have to be more shameless and extroverted in my attempts to get on agendas of faculty meetings. I need to attend more university-wide functions and “schmooze” more. In doing that, I’ll need to get better at my elevator pitch about ALT Lab. Lately, I’ve been saying that ALT Lab is about helping faculty members create awesome learning experiences for students. Period. Full Stop. That seems to be resonating, so I’ll stick with it for now.2
So, I’ll be out “pounding the pavement” more this semester. That seems apropos in a presidential election year.
Additionally, one new (to us) form of digital communication that I’ve been thinking about a lot is the newsletter. For lots of reasons, I’m not going to do the old-fashioned print newsletter. And, though I originally started down this path, I’m not sure I want to produce another MailChimp newsletter. I’ve checked out TinyLetter (which I know is owned by MailChimp) and I’ve been inspired by people like Caitlin Dewey and Laura Olin. I feel pretty confident I could find a workable platform for an eNewsletter.
The big problem with eNewsletters is figuring out who to send it to. You could use multiple avenues to invite people to subscribe and hope you build up a decent subscription base that way. Alternatively, we have built up a pretty sizable database of names and email addresses of VCU faculty and staff who have engaged with us in one way or another. When people register for faculty development sessions, for example, we keep that information in a database. But, to this point, I’ve been hesitant to use that database as a mailing list because those people didn’t ask for us to send them anything when they registered. Lately, I’ve been leaning more towards using that database and making the unsubscribe option clear and easy. We’ll see…
In addition to our newsletter, I’m thinking of ways to amp up our social media presence. We have an ALT Lab Twitter account, but until recently, it was only announcing new posts on our blog. Last week, I added Diigo to the mix. We have a fairly active, public Diigo group where we share articles of interest with others in the group. Now, whenever someone in the group bookmarks something in our Diigo group, it will be automatically (through the magic of IFTTT) broadcast via the ALT Lab Twitter account. But, I’ve long moaned about Twitter as broadcast-only, and nobody is really acting as the wizard behind the @VCUALTLab curtain. Implementing a good Twitter strategy is hard.
At the end of the day, whether it’s a newsletter, or a blog, or a Twitter account, or whatever… you need content. So, last week, at our first full ALT Lab team meeting of 2016, I did something I didn’t want to do. I told everyone that I expected at least one blog post per week. Until now, there was a general expectation that if you work for ALT Lab, you share your work publicly in some way. I asked team members to blog and/or tweet as they feel moved to do so. Doing so is even built into our annual performance plans. Unfortunately, the truth is that there was much unevenness, and a lack of content to share. Lots of interesting ideas, projects, musings were communicated within ALT Lab, but not beyond that. I told the ALT Lab team that we need to communicate who ALT Lab is and what we do and the best way to do that was to document what we do. I framed it very explicitly as documentation; public/open documentation. If the team members produce the content/documentation, I will make it all sing. It’s my job as the Director to find the best ways to promote and share the good work that the team does, and if they give me good content, I can make that happen.
So, to the VCU community, I’d say, look for me out and about on campus. Watch us on our blog, on Twitter, and in Diigo. And, as soon as I get the newsletter thing figured out, I hope you’ll subscribe to that, too. Finally, if you have additional ideas/ways for me to communicate who ALT Lab is and what we do, I’m all ears!
If nothing else, if this post causes you to learn that Dissociative Identity Disorder is the actual term for what lay people call “split personalities” or “multiple personalities” (or entirely incorrectly “schizophrenia”), I will feel good about having written it.
But, that’s not what I’m writing about.
I’m writing about social media and identity. Not in the way that Bonnie Stewart writes about it; if only I could…
Rather, I’m writing about a conversation I had on Twitter a couple of nights ago. It started with this tweet.
Pretty sure it's time to start a sports-related account. I deleted a sports tweet because I'm nearly certain none of "you" would have cared.
— Jon Becker (@jonbecker) January 3, 2016
This is something I’ve given considerable thought to, before that tweet and since. The responses I received all told me not to create a separate account. Here’s a strong sampling of the responses.
OK, Audrey, I’ll blog about it…
I believe that anyone who says that they don’t care who follows them on Twitter is (a) lying, (b) failing to understand networks, (c) not nearly the insecure narcissist I am, or (d) all of the above.
I’ll focus on the most serious of the choices, aka (b). Without a whole lecture on Network Theory, let me just say that on Twitter:
Fancy network jargon notwithstanding, I’m also a terribly insecure narcissist. So, I care who follows me on Twitter…
Though I have no empirical evidence to back this claim, I am fairly confident that people I follow have made an active decision to not follow me back because of at least the following two reasons: (a) I tweet too much (I mentioned the insecure narcissist thing, right?), and/or (b) I tweet too much about things they don’t care about. Namely, sports.
I tweet a lot about sports. I’m a big sportsball fan. I know more about sports than I care to admit. I don’t know why I don’t care to admit it. Maybe because caring about sports feels gauche compared to many of the educator-scholars I do interact with on Twitter. (I mentioned the insecure thing, right?).
And, when I tweet about sports…
@jonbecker What did you have for breakfast Jon?
— dave cormier (@davecormier) January 3, 2016
Notice that I put the little asterisk do-dads around FEEL in that tweet. It’s that feeling of a lack of connection that bothers me. When I tweet about sports, I feel like I’m shouting into the abyss. Not the wind, the abyss. And, that’s too bad, because I do crave connections around sports. I have (strong) opinions, thoughts, questions, etc., but Twitter hasn’t given me a platform for that with my current account. Worse, yet, I feel my network is less dense because I do tweet about sports.
Maybe I just need to go hangout in the message boards of MSM sports sites, but I don’t want to. I like Twitter. And, I’m an insecure narcissist and I don’t want to have to make new friends in a new place…
Yesterday, VCU, the institution for whom I work, announced the hiring of Tressie McMillan Cottom as an Assistant Professor of Sociology. This is a huge win for VCU and for our sociology program. I’ve come to know all of our tenure-track sociology professors and they are an awesome group. They are top-notch scholars who have also demonstrated a deep commitment to creating engaging learning experiences for undergraduate and graduate students. Adding Tressie makes this team extra fierce.
Tressie is an amazing scholar; a “public intellectual” in every sense of that term. The announcement by VCU barely begins to capture it, and the “About” page on Tressie’s website doesn’t do her work justice. So, on her own, Tressie adds enormous value to the VCU faculty.
But, I argue that we’re not just hiring Tressie on her own. That is, it has been said1 that “these days,” when hiring someone, you’re also hiring her network. That has always been true, to some extent, and perhaps even more so in academia. But, now, in the age of the social web, how we build, engage and use networks has changed dramatically. Veletsianos & Kimmons (2011) coined the term “Networked Participatory Scholarship” to mean “…the emergent practice of scholars’ use of participatory technologies and online social networks to share, reflect upon, critique, improve, validate, and further their scholarship” (p. 768). Tressie is an exemplary networked participatory scholar.
Back in 2011, Jo Van Every posed the following question to academicians: “How do you build an academic audience for your (published) work?” She went on to write, “Bloggers actively build an audience for their blogs. Newspapers actively build an audience for their newspaper. Are you actively building an audience for your scholarship?” Per her own website, Tressie’s “…public writing has appeared in Inside Higher Education, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Slate, Dissent Magazine, and The New York Times. Additionally, she has appeared on NPR and Dan Rather Reports.” By writing for publications such as The Chronicle, Slate and The New York Times, Tressie;s work is necessarily accessible by large audiences; they expose her work to mass audiences.
But, Tressie doesn’t stop there in building an audience for her work. She is a prolific blogger and a very active participant on Twitter. As of the writitng of this post, Tressie has 12,763 followers on Twitter2. That’s a few million short of Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, but for a sociologist, that’s quite a following. On any given night, you might find Tressie tweeting about House Hunters on HGTV, but, from my perspective, Tressie uses Twitter as a platform to build an audience for her work. Twitter is a tool in Tressie’s toolbox of networked participatory scholarship.
What are the implications of having such a significant following? When Tressie went public with the news of her hiring on Twitter, she was making the news publicly available to her 12K+ followers. Given the ephemeral nature of Twitter, it’s not the case that all of her followers saw the tweet at that moment. But, also as of the writing of this post, Tressie’s tweet announcing her hiring (see below) has been favorited 344 times and retweeted 84 times. That latter number is significant because a retweet is a form of signal amplification. It means that after Tressie told her 12,763 followers, 84 other people passed along the news to their network of followers. There’s certainly overlap in those sets of followers, but network effects mean Tressie’s news about her hiring was pushed out far and wide. This is the power of social media and network effects.
— tressie mc (@tressiemcphd) January 13, 2015
Furthermore, it’s not just the sheer size of Tressie’s network that is important. Who is in her network matters, too. So, for example, when the great Audrey Watters tweets about Tressie’s appointment, it is made available to her 27,323 followers:
Today was the best day because Tressie got a kick-ass job. — Audrey Watters (@audreywatters) January 14, 2015
And, Ryan Brazell from the University of Mary Washington sent out a tweet that speaks to Tressie’s draw as an academic:
VCU’s Sociology program was already in my short-term hopes/plans. Now that @tressiemcphd is there? Y’all. Y’ALL.
— Ryan Brazell (@ryanbrazell) January 14, 2015
Ryan doesn’t have a huge Twitter following, but I’m certain that Tressie is known to Ryan almost exclusively through Tressie’s work in networked participatory scholarship. Finally, for the purposes of making my point about networks here, there’s Jennifer Vinopal tweeting today about a job that’s available at VCU Libraries. Jennifer is a librarian at NYU and didn’t just share the job posting on Twitter; she pointed out to her followers that they might be particularly interested in this job because they’d get to work with Tressie:
Tressie kindly credits me with initiating the process that led to her appointment at VCU. I don’t know if that’s exactly right, but it’s worth noting that I’ve never actually met Tressie in person. I know her only through screens. I know her only because our online networks brought us into contact with each other.
So, needless to say, I can’t wait to meet Tressie face-to-face. And, by virtue of network effects, I’m certain I’ll get to “meet” the tremendous network of Tressie’s that we’ve effectively hired as well.