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Tweeting for Science

Posted in UC3

At risk of veering off course of this blog’s typical topics, I am going to post about tweeting.  This topic is timely given my previous post about the lack of social media use in Ocean Sciences, the blog post that it spawned at Words in mOcean,  and the Twitter hash tag #NewMarineTweep. A grad school friend asked me recently what I like about tweeting (ironically, this was asked using Facebook).  So instead of touting my thoughts on Twitter to my limited Facebook friends, I thought I would post here and face the consequences of avoiding DCXL almost completely this week on the blog.

First, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.  Check out these resources about tweeting in science:

That being said, I will now pontificate on the value of Twitter for science, in handy numbered list form.

  1. It saves me time.  This might seem counter-intuitive, but it’s absolutely true.  If you are a head-in-the-sand kind of person, this point might not be for you. But I like to know what’s going on in science, science news, the world of science publishing, science funding, etc. etc.  That doesn’t even include regular news or local events.  The point here is that instead of checking websites, digging through RSS feeds, or having an overfull email inbox, I have filtered all of these things through HootSuite.  HootSuite is one of several free services for organizing your Twitter feeds; mine looks like a bunch of columns arranged by topic.  That way I can quickly and easily check on the latest info, in a single location. Here’s a screenshot of my HootSuite page, to give you an idea of the possibilities: click to open the PDF: HootSuite_Screenshot
  2. It is great for networking.  I’ve met quite a few folks via Twitter that I probably never would have encountered otherwise.  Some have become important colleagues, others have become friends, and all of them have helped me find resources, information, and insight.  I’ve been given academic opportunities based on these relationships and connections.  How does this happen? The Twittersphere is intimate and small enough that you can have meaningful interactions with folks.  Plus, there’s tweetups, where Twitter folks meet up at a designated physical location for in-person interaction and networking.
  3. It’s the best way to experience a conference, whether or not you are physically there. This is what spawned that previous post about Oceanography and the lack of social media use.  I was excited to experience my first Ocean Sciences meeting with all of the benefits of Twitter, only to be disappointed at the lack of participation.  In a few words, here’s how conference (or any event) tweeting works:
    1. A hash tag is declared. It’s something short and pithy, like #Oceans2012. How do you find out about the tag? Usually the organizing committee tells you, or in lieu of that you rely on your Twitter network to let you know.
    2. Everyone who tweets about a conference, interaction, talk, etc. uses the hash tag in their tweet. Examples:    
    3. Hash tags are ephemeral, but they allow you to see exactly who’s talking about something, whether you follow them or not.  They are a great way to find people on Twitter that you might want to network with… I’m looking at you, @rejectedbanana @miriamGoldste.
    4. If you are not able to attend a conference, you can “follow along” on your computer and get real-time feeds of what’s happening.  I’ve followed several conferences like this- over the course of the day, I will check in on the feed a few times and see what’s happening. It’s the next best thing to being there.

I could continue expounding the greatness of Twitter, but as I said before, others have done a better job than I could (see links above).  No, it’s not for everyone. But keep in mind that you can follow people, hash tags, etc. without actually ever tweeting. You can reap the benefits of everything I mentioned above, except for the networking.  Food for thought.

My friend from WHOI, who also attended the Ocean Sciences meeting, emailed me this comment later:

…I must say those “#tweetstars” were pretty smug about their tweeting, like they were the sitting at the cool kids table during lunch or something…

I countered that it was more like those tweeting at OS were incredulous at the lack of tweets, but yes, we are definitely the cool kids.

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