The Ten (faux) Commandments of Twitter

1. Thou shalt not have any other Social Networks ahead of me. Don’t even mention the F bomb.

2. Thou shalt not make idols of the Twitter logo. Take the piss, sure, just no idolatry,  mmmkay?

3. Thou shalt not take the name of Jack, Biz and Evan, your Co-Founders, in vain. Everyone and every other being is free game.

4. Remember #followfriday, to keep it holy. We are not responsible for your recommendations and the quality of tweets.

5. Honour your father and mother. Feel free to judge other people’s mothers and fathers though.

6. Thou shalt not commit murder. Well quite. This one’s a good ‘un yo.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery. You prolly will and just remember it’s a social networking site on the interwebs where the evidence is always against you.

8. Thou shalt not steal… another person’s tweet. Or quote others incessantly. Or claim you said it.

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbour. Make all kinds of accusations on threadbare facts, and anonymous trolling are completely acceptable though.

10. Thou shalt not covet… another person’s popularity or ability to garner a huge number of retweets. It’s just some people are better than you.

A Twitter story

A while back I decided I was going to get involved with Twitter. It was in part because the company I was working with seemed to be obsessed by it and I wanted in on the action. It was partly because I was looking for a way to connect with other people and talk about things outside of family life and kids.

That was three years ago. In the early days Twitter was a fun distraction. A way to pass the time when time allowed. I tried to find some people I thought I could connect with. Folk in the L&D field, HR field and the likes. It took time and I eventually found some few people that I started connecting with in small ways.

From there it progressed quite rapidly. Suddenly there was a tweetup is Twitter folk who used a hashtag called #connectinghr. There was an unconference which attracted a lot of attention. There were these blogs being written about all sorts of fascinating topics and I started paying attention to them. Even my writing in those early days was mostly just rants and the odd post about something worth talking about. #hrblogs became a core source of finding some brilliant writing.

Then there was another tweetup I decided I’d try attending, and suddenly met all these people. And that’s where life started to become really interesting. These people were actively interested in supporting each other and creating a much more refined community. It was seriously attractive and very compelling. I bonded with various other Twitter users and forged friendships with some, ongoing discussions with others and the network kept growing.

Through all this time I was encouraged. I found my voice in a world I didn’t know I was going to be part of. I grew more confident in wanting to be more involved and supportive where I could.

The time came where I felt there was enough people I had connected with that I could put forth the idea of the L&D community to come together and forge their own path. #ldconnect and #ldblogs was born and we’ve started to really help move the L&D conversation in some interesting ways. Opportunities for partnering and progression have developed with industry bodies and groups.

Somewhere along the line I started to gain a following independent of the mutual I follow you, you follow me thing. It’s been nice to see how that happens. Sometimes I lose followers. Sometimes I gain them. It all works itself out and I just quietly muse about the way these things unfold.

I’ve enjoyed this unfolding of Twitter life. It’s created a sense of purpose I didn’t expect to find, and a way of being I didn’t expect to be. The people are what makes it a continuing pleasure and what motovates me to keep at it.

Tonight was a chance to meet up again with people who use Twitter, and I’ll be doing it in a different way on Monday. It is affirming to know the community still wants tolve forward, and I like being part of it.

In time life will move on and other things will take priority. Until then I enjoy connecting and talking with you all who choose to honour me with your presence and dialogue.

Wanna be in my gang?

I’ve been using Twitter now for some years. It is the single reason I exist in the online world. It meets so many of my needs all in one place that it’s honestly really hard to think what there was before Twitter. Well, I know, but it was all boring stuff – MSN Messenger, ICQ, chatrooms, all boring stuff. Suddenly, I had a place I could access a network of like-minded people, information on the largest array of topics I never knew I wanted to learn about, generally chat shit, and most surprisingly make some friends.

In that time, I’ve also enjoyed learning about finer pieces of Twitter, such as the etiquette. And there’s a lot of bloody etiquette. You have to start learning about what the trending topics mean, how much attention to give to them, and what purpose they serve. You have to learn about hashtags and how they are used, how they’re devised and how you become part of the conversation. You have to learn about how to spot bots from real people and discern which accounts are just there for spam.

So once you get passed all that, and you’re following people, they’re following you back, and you’re navigating your way with relative ease, comes quite probably the biggest challenge in being comfortable with Twitter. Those bloody cliques.

I don’t remember when I started noticing cliques existing on Twitter. The hashtags make it obvious – #lrnchat, #connectinghr, #biztalk, #twoptips, #bbcqt, #hrblogs, #earlyshift. And even I’ve been guilty of using and promoting hashtags – #wimbledon, #ldconnect, #ldblogs, #ldcu all cases in point. But they’re there. A group of people having a jolly good natter about that topic, connected with something in common, and generally creating their own buzz about stuff.

And the one thing they’ll all claim is that they’re inclusive. Except that they’re not. By their very nature, they are singling out a group of people. The hashtag itself is a call to arms for people interested in joining that conversation. You’re either part of it or you’re not. Is there a membership? Can you opt out? Is there an expectation to use the hashtag in every conversation? What happens if you hijack a hashtag?

Oh cripes, suddenly it’s not as fun a place as I thought it was. Until I realise that actually none of that matters. Not on Twitter at least. In life outside of Twitter, what would I do if I see a clique, or if I’m aware enough that I’m part of a clique? I break free and do my own thing. I wrote some while ago about the power of conformity, and we should never be made to feel we have to conform. Conformity can be useful to set social norms and the such like, but once they stop serving a purpose we all have the right to partake or not at our leisure.

I’m all for doing things that are useful, meaningful and helpful. When they stop fulfulling those aspirations, then we should feel no obligation to falling into line. We all use Twitter for our own purposes, and it helps us to achieve a variety of things, but once we start to feel bound by etiquette, is when we should say to ourselves that you’re just not doing that any more.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology. Book now to attend and learn more.

The mechanics of tweeting

When it comes to gadget type things or electronic type things, I like to learn how they work. I don’t want to just use a device, I like to know the mechanics of it so if and when it goes wrong I can at least have an idea of why it’s happened.

Twitter is no different. Tweeting itself is enjoyable, and I like the social aspect it brings. But the actual mechanics of tweeting is of interest too. And because I’m such a prolific user, you start to learn how best to use it for your purposes.

The first thing a person will do is to send a general tweet to the world along the lines of ‘hello world’. From there on you find people to follow and hopefully get followed back. And you get to a stage where you actively start to ‘@’ people. That is, you want to engage with others and send them a message. And surprisingly this is where it gets complicated.

Twitter 101 tells us that when you ‘@’ or mention someone, they will see it appear in their ‘mentions’. This much we know. So, if I tweet ‘@Bob hope your presentation goes well today’, Bob, will see this appear in his mentions.

What if Bob isn’t following me? Does he see the tweet in his public timeline? He will only see it in his public timeline if he follows me back. If he doesn’t follow me, he will only see it in his mentions.

What if Brian is a mutual friend, will he see my tweet to Bob? Only if Brian is following both Bob and me. If he only follows me, he will only see tweets I send that are general. If he only follows Bob, he will only see tweets from Bob sent in general. If he follows us both, he can see tweets sent to both of us.

What if I want everyone to know I’m about to ‘@’ Bob? Now, this is where it gets really complicated. The way Twitter works, it will recognise when you ‘@’ someone and depending on where the actual ‘@’ sign occurs, will treat your tweet itself differently. If the ‘@’ is at the beginning of a tweet, only the person being mentioned will see it, and anyone mutually following you both. If the ‘@’ is in the middle of a tweet, Twitter will recognise it as a general tweet and everyone following you will see it. If you want to begin the tweet by mentioning someone, and want it to be a general tweet, you have to add a character before the ‘@’ in order for it to be treated as a general tweet.

@Bob hope your presentation goes well today – will be seen by Bob himself, and anyone mutually following us both

I hope your presentation goes well today @Bob – will be treated as a general tweet, and will be seen by everyone following me. You don’t have to follow Bob in order to see that tweet. Bob will see it appear in his mentions.

.@Bob hope your presentation goes well today – will be treated as a general tweet because you’re not directing it at Bob himself, you’re making it known to your followers that it’s only for Bob, but worth a wider audience knowing about it.

It’s when you start following mutual Twitter users that conversations start to happen in your public timeline. Without this piece of the pie, it just ends up being a broadcast of updates from the people you follow. That’s fine, but there is so much more richness in the conversations that happen.

What does it mean when you ‘favourite’ a tweet? Essentially, you’ve seen a tweet being sent and it’s resonated enough with you that you want to keep it for future reference. At least that’s what you might assume it’s there for. It also gets used by your followers because they don’t want to miss reading what you’ve posted – such as a link to a blog/article/etc – and keeping it, on file as such, for later reading. It doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve favourite it because it’s a favourite tweet. It might, but it’s probably not.

What about when I see a tweet being favourite in my public timeline that I didn’t favourite? That often means the person you’re following has favourited that tweet, and Twitter wants you to know they’ve done this when they’ve Retweeted that tweet.

Can everyone see a message I send to someone else? No. This is Twitter’s way of keeping some conversations private and only the person you are sending a message too will see it. The other person has to be following you though in order for you to message them. You can provide links and even mention people with their proper Twitter name with the ‘@’, and it will remain private. Not even the person being mentioned will see it.

Please be careful though that if you intend to message someone privately, it is actually a message. Some Twitter clients preface a message with a ‘d’ (Tweetdeck does this for example). There *must* be a ‘space’ after the d, otherwise your message ends up going into your public timeline for all to see. There have been some very embarrassing messages sent this way.

How does it work if someone has a private profile? If someone has a private profile, it basically means that they’re trying to keep their tweets from the general public at large. Having a Twitter account is a very public affair, and anything you tweet can be seen by anyone. A private profile partly guarantees that only those you accept as following you can see your tweets. In general, if you tweet something, it can’t be Retweeted in the traditional sense, and the official Twitter apps won’t allow it. But with a bit of copy and pasting, or using a Twitter client, you can still RT something from a private account.

Also, if someone has a private profile and they try to mention you, unless you follow them back, you won’t see this either in your public timeline or your mentions.

There’s more I could talk about – hashtags, links, spamming, PR, abbreviations – but that can all wait for another day. I decided to write the above, because I don’t think it’s that well explained on Twitter’s own 101 service, and there may be other people who have posted something like this, I’ve just not really looked.

>I’m a sharing soul

>Last night I attended an event for folks who use social media, Twitter in particular, to have a tweet-up. Those of you who follow me know of this as #ConnectingHR. It’s odd going to an event like this. You talk to these people on Twitter. You’re kind to each other, and you have an interaction of sorts. You can’t really call it a relationship because there’s no vested interest in the other party. Not really. We might help and we might offer support, but you can’t do much more virtually. But you know, in your mind, that you don’t care if these people listen to you, if you offend them, or if they like you, because they’re not real. Not really. Of course, they’re real, but you know, they’re not to you, because there’s no relationship.

And then you decide you’re going to meet up. Not just one or two of you, but all of you who talk. It’s reminiscent of the old chatroom scenarios. You remember those. Bob lives in England, Karen lives in Fiji. They talk, they think they have a spark, they agree to meet and either they find they really do have a spark, or it was all based on false perceptions. But this was nothing like that. At all.

So the first #ConnectingHR event was last year, another after that, an unconference followed, and then last night the first tweet-up of the year. Right. So I’m off to meet a group of folk who share a hashtag. WTF? Are you fucking serious? Yes. Absolutely. Erm. Why exactly? Because we’re a community. Ok. Now you’re just talking nonsense.

Am I? Twitter is where I am me. I tweet about everything under the sun. I mix personal, with professional with work with food with my children. This a) gives those following me a complete insight into who I am b) fills up timelines because I tweet so damned much. On a night like last night though, that leaves me in an interesting position. I knew there would be folk there who actually read my tweets. They respond – actively – to what I say. For whatever reason they do this, they do this. I’m grateful for that. So going into the pub, the first thought that struck me was – Fuck. This is like going on a blind date where the other person actually knows an awful lot about you already, but they have no idea who you are. And having a Twitter handle such as @LearningGrump (nee @naturalgrump) makes things even more interesting as often folks just have their names as their handles, so mine is a bit more distinctive than most.

And then we say hello. And you look round the room recognising folk. Bob! Billy! Ben! And you connect immediately. Because you already know each other. Because all you’re doing is putting faces and real people to the names. And you find they’re just as wonderful in real life as they are on Twitter. I didn’t need to meet these folk in real life to help me know I have a supportive community. It’s helped, as now I can associate better with all of them. More importantly, though, I can now build relationships with them.