Tweetfest (and more about Twitter)

Yesterday my Writing I Blended class hit the streets of Twitter and had a tweetfest about a blog post by Jay Dolan of The Anti-Social Media about Why Smart People Use Twitter. it went very well, and a bonus was having @JayDolan join in the conversation. He had read about the upcoming event on this blog (ping tracking) and asked to join us. This is one of the things I like about Twitter. It has that possibility of interaction between people who share interests but may not otherwise meet. I use it to both follow interests and to follow people I know who share those interests. I also check the profiles of people who add me, and if they are say, grad students in Rhet/Comp or Computers and Writing and tweeting about what they study, I add them back. Sometimes they are new to Twitter and are still treating it like Facebook posts. In that case, I wait a bit and to see if they start using Twitter more effectively.

On the other hand, I got an email  or two about the event from class members who had trouble accessing the hashtag stream, so here’s some more about hashtags and using Twitter. A hashtag is just a word or phrase starting with # (no spaces though) that is used to sort tweets throughout Twitter. When you add #eng110c to your tweet, that means it will show up in a search for that tag. Within a tweet, you can even click the tag and get a stream of all the tweets using that tag. You can find hashtags using a Twitter client (how depends on which one) or by going to hashtags.org. I have a new favorite Twitter client now called Janetter, but I use Twitterific too on my iPad and know people who like Tweetdeck. Power Twitter users also like Hootsuite, but I see from the site that it offers a 30-day free trial and does not have a free version. When you’re just getting started, I think it is just as easy to like a free program as it is to like a pay program. After all, it takes some time to really see what your pattern of usage will be. Power programs like Hootsuite may be more than you need for a while.

So, why should you use a Twitter client rather than just go to the Twitter site using your web browser? A Twitter client allows you to track more than one stream at a time and  most importantly, they refresh the stream regularly with the new tweets. The Twitter site on your browser does not do that. For example, I used Janetter to view my timeline (all the people I follow), my at-replies (replies to tweets I made), and the class hashtag stream in one place. Having  everything I’m tracking in one place is convenient, and more so for tracking hashtag streams since like the regular Twitter site, Hashtags.org does not automatically refresh. I did not want to keep doing that, and also like having all three panes  lined up in a row (see screen shot).

Another thing that Janetter does that I really like is that for at-replies it gives a greyed-out and smaller version of your original post right below the at-reply. This is wonderful since  Twitter is by nature asychonous, meaning that the replies may come much later than the originating post. If you have done 5-7 or so more posts since the one that is being replied to, it can take some mental backtracking to figure out what the person is replying to. There may be other Twitter clients that do this, but I don’t know of any from my own experience. It also has many cool backgrounds to choose from, including anime.
Note to my Writing I students: So, if the Twitter assignment was confusing for you, chances are you were trying to do it from the Twitter site on your browser. It does not do hashtags searches consistently (sometimes not at all), and you also had to keep refreshing your view to see any new posts from people you follow. If we as a class continue to use Twitter as one of our places to ask questions and make comments, and I think we should, you really need a Twitter client. Most are free, and it isn’t possible to experience Twitter fully without one.
That aside, I would say the most important thing to do before class on Monday is to have a fairly finished draft of SP1 and upload it to the workshop using the link on the Hub. Make it as finished as you can–the more you do, the better feedback you’ll get. We’ll talk about how a Moodle workshop works in class Monday.

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Author of the poetry collection The Tethered Ground and Professor of English at Missouri State University. Contact me for readings or for workshops on writing/publishing and on teaching writing online.

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