Blogging about blogging, and tweeting about tweeting: what I have learnt after 100 tweets

I was once extremely skeptical about social media. Look, I’ll be honest, I was more than skeptical – I thought it was a load of frivolous cow poo. Twitter was part of the problem. The name hardly gives a sense of intellectual gravitas, does it? Even once you get past the name, what on earth could anyone communicate of substance in 140 characters? Or so I wondered. I imagined all sorts of frivolous conversations whipping back and forth across the ethernet. In fact, the difficulty of saying profound things within a tweet was the topic of my second ever tweet: #haiku Seven syllables; With five before and after; Are not enough to… Twitter is a little like haiku; skill required to communicate in 140… Of course, a haiku, which usually has much fewer than 140 characters, can be quite profound. So, it seems can tweets. I am a newbie – I still know very little about social media. I only have a small circle of blog and Twitter followers and those whom I follow. And I am not particularly good at communicating in 140 syllables, let alone 140 characters. But I am a dead-set convert to social media. I have a blog, and I set up a Twitter account earlier this year. I’m even thinking of getting into Facebook… I’m still sure there really is plenty of frivolous cow poo on Twitter, and on social media generally. So, what changed my mind? As a newbie, I assume that I’m about to cover lots of ground that people have heard before, but here is how I got into social media, and some things that I have learnt…

The primary motivation for using social media was to improve communication of science from our research group. Will Morris, John Baumgartner and Jim Camac were the drivers of this, setting up, which is the blog/web-site for our Quantitative and Applied Ecology Group (QAEG). Now most of the researchers in QAEG have their own sites linked to, and many are quite active bloggers. This site is used to try to communicate to other scientists, but also more broadly. How effective is it? I’m not really sure. Any feedback about this would be appreciated. I use blogging as a useful forum for communicating research ideas, potentially reaching a different audience. But it is also a way to write about ideas that fall outside the mainstream journals; I’ve posted about the role of scientists in public debates, contributed to public debates, and covered topics related to the conduct of science. Of course, communication is a two way process. I have tended to not enable comments on my posts simply because I feared I wouldn’t have time to moderate them and respond, at least in a timely manner – it turns out that is the case. However, I have commented on a few other blogs. It is a useful way to discuss ideas, not dissimilar to conversations that one might have at conferences. Of course, it is important to be polite – perhaps more important than in a face-to-face conversation where misunderstandings can be resolved quickly. But, I’d hope that social media can assist my own thinking, but also assist the thinking of other scientists. While I took to blogging quite enthusiastically, Twitter still seemed for the birds to me. But one day I signed up to Twitter so that I could search for tweets on a particular topic – I was interested to know if there was any breaking news about a particular environmental management issue. It turns out there wasn’t, but a few days later I returned to Twitter for the same reason. Lo and behold, I had some followers and there were even some interesting tweets from those I had followed. And so I sent my first tweet, quoting Mark Burgman in a newspaper article: With “a small proportion of these grasslands left, it seems madness to sacrifice any more” Mark Burgman, via @theage It has snowballed from there. Some tweets can be very informative. Twitter helps me find things that I might otherwise overlook. ‏For example, follow @Bill_Sutherland if you want leads on new research papers about effects of environmental management. But there are plenty of others doing similar things – telling me about new papers, or about thought-provoking blog posts – thank you one and all! Some tweets are quite funny. I guess this one has been all over the web for a long time, but for someone with a quantitative bent, it really tickled my fancy when I first came across it: “Hey Maths – stop asking me to find your x. Dude, she’s not coming back!” If you want a combination of thoughtful tweets and humour, I suggest checking out @BobOHara. I’ve also learnt a little about people I didn’t know at all previously (e.g., @philipwallis, @LizHadly, @tatsuya_amano) – now that is a good thing. So, I am about to reach my 101st Tweet. What will it be? You might have guessed. I’m about to tell my band of followers about this new blog post. Click…

About Michael McCarthy

I conduct research on environmental decision making and quantitative ecology. My teaching is mainly at post-grad level at The University of Melbourne.
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4 Responses to Blogging about blogging, and tweeting about tweeting: what I have learnt after 100 tweets

  1. Pingback: The Scienceblogging Weekly (August 11th, 2012) | Stock Market News - Business & Tech News

  2. Pingback: The Scienceblogging Weekly (August 11th, 2012)

  3. Pingback: @SanaBau now on Twitter + a beautiful demonstration of how to apply critical reasoning | Sana's research

  4. I just came across a retweet (via @DavidJohnGibson) about this recent post by Heather Doran (@hapsci):

    It has advice about Twitter, plus quite a few other useful links.


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