Category Archives: Ten Days of Twitter

Day…11?! #STEM10DoT evaluation

Well, that’s the end of the Ten Days of Twitter! I hope you enjoyed it, and that you are now tweeting confidently and productively if you were a beginner, or that you reviewed your practice and picked up a few hints and tips if you’d tweeted before. It was great to see so many people with experience of Twitter offering help and advice too- a fantastic demonstration of how Twitter can be a powerful learning network for professional development!

If you’re still catching up, don’t worry! The materials will remain online here for you to work through in your own time, and hopefully those who have already completed the course will be around on Twitter to offer support, advice and company!

So where will you go from here? Have you decided that Twitter isn’t for you (and at least now you can make that decision on an informed basis!), or will you keep tweeting and taking part in the discussions such as #PhDchat and #ECRchat?

If you need more help with using Twitter, the site’s own support pages are a good introduction to the various things it can do. Or if you google your question or search on Youtube for video tutorials, you’ll also find that there are a host of resources that people have made and uploaded to help others. But perhaps best of all, your Twitter network itself is a great place to ask questions and find people who can answer them, as we’ve found on this course!

Ten Days of Twitter was a new format which we’ve developed and piloted. We’d really appreciate your views on the programme, so that we can improve future versions. Whether you’ve been participating actively in the programme or have been ‘lurking’ and just reading the posts, we’d really like to hear from you. If you would like to contribute your feedback, please fill in the questionnaire below. If you can’t see the embedded version of the form on this page, then you can also click on this link to view it.


 

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Day 10 of #STEM10DoT: Past and Future

Twitter is ephemeral. Tweets are short, throwaway observations, which capture the present moment, flow past quickly and are succeeded by more recent and relevant ones. We’ve looked at a way to favourite tweets, and to bookmark the urls they may contain, but once you’ve done this, why would you want to keep a tweet? Why would you want to tweet in advance?

The Past

You can scroll through your last few thousand tweets (which might cover quite a span of time, depending on how prolific you are) but searching and looking at hashtags won’t take you back very far, only a few days. And yet… although finding past tweets might be difficult, they can come back to haunt you. If you want to find a tweet, it might be quite tricky, and yet if you want a tweet to disappear, someone may be able to dig it up!

Deleting Tweets

Let’s look first at deleting. You can delete your own tweets, by hovering over it and using the option that appears below next to ‘reply’, ‘retweet’, etc. If you make a mistake in a tweet, it might be less confusing to send another tweet with a correction rather than delete one that people may already have seen. If you tweet something you shouldn’t… well, don’t! However, you can’t delete someone else’s tweets, so if they’ve already retweeted you, taken a screenshot or archived the tweet using some of the options below, it might be too late!

But what if you want to keep tweets, either your own or someone else’s? Why might you want to do this?

  • Perhaps a discussion on Twitter helped you to think something through, and you want to keep the discussion so you can work it up into a blog post, or integrate it into a chapter or article later
  • Maybe there was a good twitter ‘backchannel’ of livetweeting at a conference or other event, which you want to preserve either for yourself or others
  • Perhaps you want to preserve a selection of good advice or observations on a topic, when you asked for suggestions on Twitter and got some great responses. You might want to keep and share them with others.

Tweet URLs

You can save a link to individual tweets. Each tweet has its own URL. To find this, you click on ‘expand’ below the tweet, and you’ll see the date and time stamp. Next to this, it says ‘details’. If you click on ‘details’, it will take you to the URL of that individual tweet, which you can copy and paste. You could save it, bookmark it, embed it in a website, or email it to people.

STEM URL

This form might not be the best or most convenient way to present tweets to others though.

Your Twitter Archive

If you want a copy of all your tweets, then Twitter can send you an archive of everything you’ve tweeted. Click on the gear icon, and select ‘Settings’. In your ‘Account’ page, scroll down to the bottom where you will see an option “Your Twitter archive: Request your archive”.

Storify

However, one of the nicest ways to keep tweets, especially for others, is a third party application called Storify. Storify is a way to create a narrative out of linking to content on the web, including tweets, websites and blogs, Facebook posts, Youtube videos or photos on Flickr. You can search for content, drag and drop it into a linear narrative, add some comments to contextualise it, and publish it on the web or share the URL. You are linking to the original source, rather than taking the content, so it doesn’t breach copyright. It automatically notifies people whose content you have used in this way, so if they object to your use, you can edit out their material (all the material visible to Storify is publically visible anyway).

Storify is a really nice way to create and share a summary of tweets and other online material around an event or discussion, such as a conference, blog or livechat.

Other tools

Other tools

There are other more advanced tools which you can use to archive tweets and present them in other visual formats, such as TAGSExplorer. This takes a little more know-how to use, but might be something to explore as you get more confident with Twitter. Here, as an example, is a visualisation of the tweets from the 2013 ALDinHE conference I attended recently, which was  kindly created by Andy Mitchell, who knows a lot more about it than I do! If you want to know more about how these were created, there are instructions online and further instructions on making a visualisation such as the ones linked to above.

If there have been any tweets over the course of the programme which you think will be useful to you, perhaps ones you favourited yesterday, or ones with further resources or advice on using Twitter, try archiving them in one of the ways shown above. 

The Future

And what about future tweets?

You can schedule tweets to send themselves automatically later on. Although Twitter is a medium which captures the moment, but there are several reasons why you might want to do schedule tweets in advance.

  • If your following contains people in a different time zone who are most likely to be online in the middle of the night
  • If you have collected a lot of links you want to share, but don’t want to overwhelm your followers with lots of tweets at once (see this example of an awesome workflow, from Pocket to Buffer to Twitter!)
  • If you want to tweet repeated information, updates or reminders, perhaps about an event you’re organising, a blog or article you’ve written or a deadline for a job or funding opportunity, without having to remember to do it manually
  • If you’re away but want to keep some presence on Twitter

You can schedule tweets from both Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. To schedule a tweet in Tweetdeck, write a tweet as normal, and then click on the clock icon at the bottom of the window you’re composing a tweet in. This brings up a small calendar, where you can choose the time and date when you want your tweet to be sent.

tweet schedule 2

You could also use an app called Buffer. You can sign in with Twitter (or Facebook, or LinkedIn), add an email address, and install it to your browser. Once signed in, it will ask you what you want to share. Type in a tweet, and click ‘buffer’. You will also want to go to the ‘Schedule’ tab and set the timezone, and the day and time you want it to be tweeted!


There’s quite a bit there to play with! Well, that’s the last of our Ten Days of Twitter, but don’t worry if you’re still catching up – so are others, and the conversation will be continuing on #STEM10DoT for quite some time. I hope you’ve found the programme useful, and thanks for joining in!

Day 9 of #STEM10DoT: Managing information

If you’re choosing who to follow effectively, then your Twitter feed should be full of interesting tweets and links to webpages etc which you might want to follow up on. It’s easy to lose track of it all, miss things and mislay things!

Twitter itself has a few features which can help you stay on top of all the information.

Favourites

If you see a tweet which interests you and which you’d like to come back to later, you can mark it as a ‘favourite’ and it will be stored for you to return to. To mark a tweet as a ‘favourite’, hover over the tweet, and a star icon will appear below it, along with ‘retweet’ and some other functions:

favourite

When you want to look at your favourited tweets, you will see them marked in your Twitter stream, but it’s easier to see them all together. If you click on the top tab with the profile icon and ‘Me’, a menu will appear on the left, with ‘favourites’ as well as your tweets, followers and following. Click on ‘Favourites’ to view.When you favourite a tweet, the person who tweeted it is notified, which may help to gain you an extra follower, but it also gives them feedback on what others are finding useful.

Me and other things

Search

You can also search for tweets, by username, hashtag or just by a keyword. The search box is at the top of the screen in the right hand corner. You can also organise the search results by top (most popular) topics, all results, or limit the results just to the people you follow. Once you have searched, a small ‘settings’ cog icon will appear next to the ‘search’ box (not the main cog icon at the top right of the screen!). If this is a search you might repeat regularly, click on this, and you can save the search so you don’t need to keep performing it. You could also perform an advanced search using this icon- you can narrow down the tweets you’re looking for by word or by the person sending or receiving it, or by location.

Trending

in the left hand column, Twitter will also show you what hashtags are popular at the moment. This may or may not be of much use to you! You can narrow the trends down by location, by clicking on ‘Change’ in this box, but if you are networking at a national or international level, this may not be very helpful.

Third party applications

If you’re feeling more adventurous again today, here are a few more third party apps which will help you curate all the links which people are tweeting about.

Tweetdeck

If you explored Tweetdeck yesterday, you may not have realised that not only can you add columns for lists of people, you can also add columns to follow hashtags. Click on ‘Add column’, and then choose ‘Search’. If you perform a search for a hashtag, you can add a new column to your Tweetdeck which will now display all the tweets using that hashtag, whether you follow the people using it or not. This might be useful if you are following a conference hashtag or chat such as #PhDchat but don’t want to follow all of the people tweeting with this hashtag.

Pocket

Pocket is an application which saves any webpage for you to look at in more detail later, when you have time. It is a bookmarking tool -if you find a webpage via a link in Twitter (or anywhere else), you can save it to Pocket, and then return to it and the other things you’ve saved later on. Pocket is a web browser based service, meaning you can access it from anywhere and any device or computer. To create an account, you’ll simply need an email address, username and password. On your desktop computer, you can download and install it into your browser, so you can simply hit a button in your toolbar to save a webpage (how to install it depends on which browser you prefer to use, but Pocket will take you through the steps – it’s easy!). When you use Twitter in a browser with Pocket installed (and also if you have installed the Pocket app on your smartphone or ipad), then a ‘Pocket’ option appears alongside  the other options of ‘reply’, ‘retweet’, ‘favourite’ etc when you hover over a tweet  containing a link, so you can save it right from the tweet instead of having to open the link and add it to Pocket from there. You can also access Pocket on the web, if you’re on a computer which isn’t yours, or where you can’t install it into the browser.

Flipboard

If you use a smartphone or tablet such as an iphone, ipad or Android device, you could download an app which curates content from your Twitter feed, such as Flipboard. Once you have downloaded the app, you can connect it with your Twitter account (or other social media) and it will draw in the links that people share with you and display them for you. To find out more about Flipboard, and how to set up an account, see instructions in its ‘support’ section. Alternatives to Flipboard are Zite and Pulse.

News.me

If you don’t have a tablet device, you can set up an account with news.me, which will deliver the main stories shared by the people you follow on Twitter in an email. To sign up, you’ll need to add your email address, and then connect it with your Twitter (or Facebook) account by clicking on the request to authorise this. That’s it!

Paper.li

Paper.li is an application which curates content from social media streams which you use (in this case, Twitter, but also Facebook, Google+ etc). It then presents the links it’s found in a easy to read magazine form. You can share this with others (and it will tweet automatically on your behalf, but it is not recommended that you ‘spam’ your followers in this way!) but you can just use it to pick up the links you might have missed on Twitter by adding Twitter as a source.

You can create an account and log in to Paper.li using either Twitter or Facebook. Use Twitter in this instance, of course! After that, follow the instructions given by Paper.li.

So there are a range of ways to stay on top of all the information that’s being shared with you by the people you follow. Choose one that looks useful to you, and experiment with it!

Day 8 of #STEM10DoT: Managing people

Over the last 7 days, you may have found that as you continue to use Twitter, you come across more and more interesting people to follow and your following grows exponentially. Keeping track of them all can be a challenge, and sometimes you will want to focus on certain groups of them over others, or check in on some people only sporadically. This is hard to do in the undifferentiated stream of tweets on your Twitter feed, where they are all mixed in together. Fortunately, there are ways to split up your Twitter stream and group the people you follow into separate streams, so you can keep an eye on their tweets as it suits you.

You might want to group the people you follow into any of the types that we looked at in Day Three. Some examples might be

  • Colleagues or services at your institution
  • Colleagues and peers across the country/world in a particular field
  • Professional or funding bodies
  • News accounts
  • Social, personal or fun accounts

Twitter lists

Twitter has a feature which allows you to make lists of people – and you need not follow all of them to add them to a list. These lists can be private, so only you can see them, or they might be public so you can share them with others. I created such a list for the participants of this course on Day Two, so you could find each other on Day Three. You might create such a list for the benefit of others, for example, to bring together the attendees at a workshop or conference, or the top accounts on a particular topic which you recommend other people should follow. You can share a list by giving people the URL of the list page, or let them view the lists you’ve created on your profile, where they can subscribe to your lists too.

To create a list on Twitter, go to the gear icon at the top right of the page. Select ‘Lists’, and you will see a page which will contain any lists you will make. Click on ‘Create list’, and you will be asked to name your new list and add a brief description. This description will be very helpful if you now choose to make the list public, so others can find and subscribe to it.

You will now be invited to search for people to add to your list. You can also add them later, by clicking on their @handle and going to their profile. Next to the ‘Follow(ing)’ button, you will see the head and shoulders icon. If you click on this, you will see a menu containing the option ‘add or remove from lists’ (this is also where you can send them private Direct Messages, as in Day 4). While we’re on the topic of managing people, you can also block or report people using this menu, for example, if you are followed by a spam account or someone you don’t want following you.

STEM lists

To view your lists, you can simply go to ‘lists’ in the left hand column on your ‘Me ‘ tab, and see only the tweets from the people in that list.

Me and other things

Third Party Apps

The beauty of Twitter is in its simplicity as a platform. However, sometimes you need a bit more functionality. There are some third party applications created by other companies as add-ons to Twitter, to help you out with some of the things about Twitter which you may find a bit overwhelming.  Some of them will need to be integrated with your Twitter account to drawn information from them, and to do this, you will need to grant them access to your account (you can revoke this again from your Twitter account settings).

You might want a more convenient way to view different aspects of your Twitter stream, or even add in updates from other platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn together with Twitter, so your whole social media stream is visible in one place. To do this, you can use one of the third party applications that were developed to make Twitter easier to use.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck is owned by Twitter, and is a good way to manage more than one account, if you have more than one (for personal and professional use, or perhaps an individual one and an official one on  behalf of an institution). It saves you logging out of one account and into another, but it’s easy to get confused and tweet from the wrong one, though! However, you can also use Tweetdeck to split your Twitter stream into columns divided by people. It will import any lists you have made on Twitter too.

You will need to create an account, with an email address and password. Once you have set up an account, you can connect your Twitter account(s). You can use it as a web-based application to access from anywhere, or you can download the Tweetdeck app to your computer (there is no app for smartphones or tablets). Tweetdeck is organised into a number of columns, and gives you a number of columns automatically, such as your timeline, your own tweets or your @mentions (tweets that mention you), and you can add new columns for the lists you create. You can also create new lists in Tweetdeck. Click on ‘add column’, and choose ‘lists’ (or any other column you want to add!).

You can do everything we’ve covered in Twitter on Tweetdeck too, including shortening URLs. Tweetdeck also makes some other things in Twitter a little bit easier. For example, when you retweet, it will ask you if you simply want to retweet or if you want to edit the tweet, as we discussed in Day 6. On Twitter, you need to copy and paste the tweet if you want to edit it; this does it automatically.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is similar application to Tweetdeck, but it allows you also to import other social media accounts such as Facebook. You can sign up using Facebook, or if you prefer to keep Facebook separate from your professional social media use, you can sign up with an email address, name and password. It will then ask you to add your chosen social network accounts. You can then add streams of content similarly as in Tweetdeck, and tabs for the different social networks. Hootsuite has a quick start guide to help you set up your account.

The other bonus of tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite is that you don’t see the advertising ‘promoted tweets’ from companies you don’t follow!

Think about the kinds of update you’ve seen on Twitter so far from the people you follow. Who do you most want to see tweets from? You might want to try making a list of your colleagues on Twitter, or perhaps one for the professional and funding bodies you follow.

Day 7 of #STEMDoT: Hashtags

Hashtags (using the # symbol) is where Twitter really gets interesting. The hashtag is, like the @message, a feature that was developed by users of Twitter, and was taken up and integrated by the platform as it was so useful.

Basically, the hashtag is a form of metadata. A # in front of a word signals that it is a keyword of some sort, tagging that tweet with a hash symbol (hence hash-tag). This means that you can easily search for all other tweets containing a word similarly marked with a hashtag symbol. In fact, you don’t even need to search – if you click on any hashtagged word, it will search for you.

The hashtag for 10 Days of Twitter is, as you’ve guessed, #STEM10Dot You can therefore search for any tweets containing that hashtag, whether you follow the people using it or not. It’s how I found out who was participating in the 10 days of Twitter, right on the very first day when you sent a tweet with the hashtag in.

(if you’re a Mac user and wondering where your hashtag key is, there isn’t one! You’ll need to press the alt key and the 3 key together to make the # symbol!)

A hashtag needs to be a single word, preceded by a #symbol, with no space in between. It doesn’t need to be a real word – it can be an acronym of some sort, like #STEM10DoT , and it needs to be understood, known or guessed by the people it’s relevant to. It could even be several words run into one (which counts as one word!) such as #IloveTwitter (it helps to capitalise the individual words to make it easier to read). What it should be above anything else, though, is short, so that it doesn’t use up too many characters!

How do you know what hashtags to use, or to search for? You make them up! If you’re creating a new hashtag, it’s good to do a search first and check if it’s been used before, and if so, whether you are going to use it in a similar way for similar people. If so, you’re joining a larger, pre-existing conversation! If not, then you might be confusing things, with a hashtag meaning different things to different people. If you’re talking to a limited, known group, as I am here, or as you might at a conference, then the hashtag might be meaningless to outsiders (which is probably fine – people for whom it’s relevant will probably be aware of it already or easily figure it out). If you’re creating a hashtag hoping to start a larger discussion which is open to all, then it needs to be self-explanatory and something that someone might very likely search for or guess.

You’ll see people using hashtags you might be interested in, and if you click on the hashtag, you will find all the other tweets using that hashtag recently. Or you can search for hashtags, using the search box at the top. If you click on the ‘#Discover’ tab at the top of the screen, you’ll see the top hashtags that the people you follow are currently using. When you hear the phrase ‘trending on Twitter’, it means that there are a lot of people talking about the same thing, using a common hashtag.

Hashtags really come in useful in academia in three ways.

An open, extended discussion

Someone might start a discussion about a topic on Twitter which is open to all to contribute, and it is drawn together using a common hashtag. #Twittergate (see Livetweeting below) is an example. You can also use it to gather responses. #OverlyHonestMethods is an amusing way for scientists to share the real thinking behind their methods, and give the public an insight into how science is done. #TweetMyThesis is one which is happening at the moment, sparked by this THE article, which you might like to contribute to – it’s a challenge!

Livechat

A live chat is a conversation on Twitter which takes place in real time. A topic, time and a hashtag is agreed by the leaders, and they are joined on the day by people who want to talk about that topic with each other. Livechats can be fast and furious, but a great way to discuss, make new contacts and share experiences. Popular ones which you might be interested in are #PhDchat and #ECRchat, which deal with the experience of being a PhD student or postdoc, and might offer some moral peer support! The Guardian Higher Education Network also hosts livechats on a Friday, on #HElivechat. Search for the hashtags to see what was discussed last time, and join in the next one!

Livetweeting

To livetweet an event means to tweet about it while you’re actually participating in it. Conferences are often livetweeted. This may be done in an official capacity, with organisers inviting participants to livetweet the papers, giving attendees a pre-agreed ‘official’ hashtag to use, running up to the event, during and after, to find out who’s going to be there, what the papers were about, and any follow-up questions. A live stream of the tweets at the conference may even be displayed alongside the speaker on a ‘tweetwall’, using a tool such as Hootfeed.

  • If you’re at a conference, livetweeting it is a great way to connect to other attendees. It’s less nervewracking to approach someone when you’ve been ‘talking’ to each other already on Twitter, and if you’re at the conference on your own, you can find people to hang out with.
  • By livetweeting the presentations, you alert people who aren’t present that you are there, so they can find out more from you later if they couldn’t attend the conference, or were in a parallel session.
  • You can let your followers know who was presenting, and a brief insight into what the papers were about – if it sounds interesting, then your followers can look up publications by those people.
  • You can ask questions or for clarification from the presenter, from other conference attendees, or in fact anyone on Twitter, during the sessions. You can also enhance what the presenter is saying, with links to more information and comments.
  • It’s a way to continue conversations, perhaps with the presenter themselves, after the conference has finished.
  • People following the livetweeting from elsewhere can still participate in the conference, addressing questions for the speakers via tweets. This is especially effective if the conference is also being livestreamed on the web, with live video and sound.
  • Presenters themselves might find the tweets useful feedback, to see how people have responded to their paper.

However, livetweeting events must be approached sensitively and professionally. Some presenters may feel that the conference space is a closed group, and feel uncomfortable with their paper being conveyed outside the room to those who aren’t there. They may worry that their ideas and words are being misrepresented in 140 characters. It can also be quite distracting to see people typing away and surfing the internet when you’re presenting! There was a great deal of lively discussion about livetweeting a few months ago on Twitter, under the hashtag #Twittergate, and with blog posts from TressieMC, Kathleen Fitzpatrick,  Roopika Risam, Steve Kolowich and an article in the Guardian, which offers useful tips.

If you’re livetweeting, then do:

  • check with the organisers and presenters that it’s ok to livetweet
  • make sure you tweet professionally – be polite and respectful! It will be very visible if you are being unpleasant about a colleague or peer.
  • ensure that you reflect the speaker’s words as accurately as you can, and make it very clear, as with livetweets, that you are conveying someone else’s words. You might, for example, tweet:

Good point! @scholastic_rat: “the ethics of livetweeting are contentious- check permission first!” #STEM10DoT

Day 6 of Twitter – Retweeting

You’ve send a few tweets over the last five days – hopefully you’ve found plenty in your everyday routine as a scientist which would be of interest to others, whether they are your peers, other professions such as industry, policy, journalism or publishing, or to the general public.

But it really would be hard work to generate all the material yourself to feed your followers with regular, interesting tweets! Fortunately, you don’t have to – you can retweet the tweets of others. By doing this, you’re performing a valuable service:

  • to your followers, by sifting the stream of information available to them, filtering out what’s potentially interesting to them, and also by making them aware of potential new contacts they can add to their network. They may already follow the person you’ve retweeted, in which case you’re bringing their attention to something they may have missed the first time. They may not yet follow the original tweeter, in which case, you’ve made available to them information they may not have had access to, and given them a new contact to follow.
  • to the people you follow, by amplifying their message and spreading it outside their network (and also possibly putting them in touch with new contacts)
  • and of course, you‘re displaying to others that you’re well connected to interesting and important people, and that you are a discerning judge of what information is interesting and significant!

To retweet a message, you simply click on the ‘retweet’ button which appears below each tweet when you hover over it.

retweet button

The message will then appear in your followers’ twitter streams as if it appeared from the original sender, even though they may not follow them (although they might!). The tweet that they see will be marked with ‘retweeted by @yourname’ in small lettering, so if they look, they can tell that it was you who retweeted it.

retweeted by

However, as with sending @messages, if you simply use Twitter’s ‘retweet’ button, you’re missing out on retweeting in the most effective way. The etiquette around retweeting is very much in sympathy with academic conventions of acknowledgement. You can quote the tweet – you can either copy and paste it into your tweet, or if you are using an app like ipad’s Twitter app, they give you the option to quote or just retweet. This makes the tweet come from your account, rather than the original sender, making it clear that it’s you who has chosen to pass this information on.

However, that would make it look as if you’re claiming that it’s your tweet. To clarify that you’re retweeting, the convention is to

  • start the tweet by adding a comment of your own, if you wish and if there is room! If you don’t add any comment, then your retweet may be ambiguous – are you endorsing the original tweet? Plus, it may add context, value and character for your followers if you add something of your own.
  • write RT (which stands for retweet) and then the original tweeter’s @name
  • copy their original tweet.

the result will look something like this:

STEM RT quote

So, to the original tweet, you’ll need to add RT and @name, and possibly quotation marks if you feel you need to clarify any further.  Of course, as you only have 140 characters, adding these will eat into the original message! You can, of course, cut out any part of the original tweet you feel is unnecessary, but to signal that you’ve done so, it’s polite to write MT (modified tweet) instead of RT.  This is all a good reason to keep your own tweets as short as possible and not use up all 140 characters, so your own tweets can be easily retweeted!

Remember that to use Twitter effectively to promote your own work, you need to update frequently with interesting content to gain a following, and you also need to reciprocate and promote the work of others. No one wants to read or retweet a Twitter feed which is just broadcasting announcements about itself!

So have a look at your twitter stream and see if you can find tweets you think your followers might be interested in – funding opportunities, calls for papers, an item of news, a new blog post or publication someone’s tweeted about, a comment you agree with…

Day 5 of #STEM10DoT: adding URLs

You can’t say a lot in 140 characters – but you can link to other places on the web where a topic can be discussed at greater length, perhaps in an article or blog post. Maybe you’ve seen an item of news or a webpage you want to comment on or pass on to your followers. Perhaps you’ve just posted something on a blog or website and you want to encourage people to have a look. Twitter works really well as a way to bring people’s attention to other, longer things online.

You can simply copy and paste a website’s URL into a tweet. However, many URLs are pretty long, and even if they fit into 140 characters, it leaves less space for you to add a contextualising explanation or comment which will encourage people to click on the link. Fortunately, Twitter has an inbuilt URL shortener, which will cut the link down to 20 characters.

You can also use other URL-shortening sites, which will cut the link down to even less. Try these ones:

  • Tinyurl.com
  • Goo.gl (owned by Google, obviously! If you have a Google+ account, you can track statistics on click-through, useful if you’re evaluating publicity strategies for a new web resource or event)
  • Ow.ly (you can also add links to photos, files and videos with this site, useful for spicing up livetweets from conferences or events)
  • Bit.ly (you can also track click-throughs with this site)

When tweeting a link, it’s good practice to begin your tweet with a brief comment explaining what it is and why you’re tweeting it. A URL by itself doesn’t necessarily say much about content or provenance, and a shortened one using one of the above services gives nothing away at all about what it is. Your followers will ignore your tweet and the link if they can’t immediately see what it’s about, where it’s from and why they should be interested. Moreover, it might be assumed that by sharing a link, you are endorsing the content, so if not, it would be as well to add a comment stating your stance on it – do you agree, or disagree? Or is it simply that you found it useful and think your followers might too? Another reason to keep the URL as it is rather than use a URL shortener is longevity – if that service is withdrawn, the link will no longer work. It’s a trade-off between keeping it short and having some analytics, and longevity and a bit more context in the URL.

So what might you link to?

  • a news story about Higher Education with a comment on how it’s reported
  • a conference or funding call that’s been announced
  • a book or article you recommend (or don’t recommend…)
  • a blog post you found interesting (and whether you agree or not)
  • slides or other material from a presentation you attended (or gave!)
  • a video on youtube or vimeo, perhaps of a presentation or talk, or public engagement
  • something you’ve uploaded yourself. This blog is set to update automatically on Twitter whenever I post something new (which is why there is a hashtag in the blog post title!). Try and personalise the  automatic update message yourself if you can.
  • your new publication! There’s evidence that tweeting about your research output really helps to increase views, and therefore possibly citations!

You’re not expected to spend time deliberately looking for links to tweet to your followers; this is more a byproduct from anything you happen to be doing online anyway. And with more and more sites including a ‘Share This’ button or buttons for the various social media platforms, it’s very easy and quick to do. This is part of what we mean by being an ‘Open Scholar’ in the digital age – it costs you very little to share your useful daily digital finds with others, so why not?

See what you come across today online, and remember to tweet it to your followers!

EXTRA TASK! 

As it’s Friday, let’s try using the #ff or Follow Friday convention. Did you follow anyone on Wednesday who’s tweets turned out to be really useful, who you think we should be following? Let us know! A typical Follow Friday tweet might look like this:

Follow Cambridge scientists! #ff  @athenedonald @JeromeCharmet @TEMguru @SiljaVoolma @condensedmatter @kirstie_j @drosophilic @paulcoxon

Day 4 of #STEMD10DoT: directing @ messages at people

You’ve sent some tweets, followed people and hopefully gained some followers of your own. Some people prefer to listen more than they tweet, which is fine – the only thing to consider is, the more you say about your interests, the more people will know what kind of information might be useful to you, and direct relevant things your way. It’s a way of fine-tuning your twitter feed as well as providing useful information to others.

Sometimes you might want to address a tweet to someone – it will be visible to other followers, but you want to catch a particular person’s attention with it. This might be because you are replying to or responding to one of their tweets, asking them a question, because you think they might be particularly interested in the information passed on in your tweet and want to make sure it catches their eye, or because you mention them in the tweet and want them to know, for example, if you retweet one of their tweets or are talking about their work. It may also be that you don’t follow that person, or they don’t follow you, but you still want to catch their attention with one particular tweet: they will still see it if you include their @username. For example:

  • ‘hey, @scholastic_rat, enjoyed your presentation! Do you know @libgoddess’s work on this subject?’
  • Giving a talk at your uni next week, @scholastic_rat – are you around for coffee? would be great to meet up!
  • Great resources on using social media in teaching – of interest, @scholastic_rat? http://www.edudemic.com/guides/
  • Reading @libgoddess’s chapter on information literacy: some intriguing ideas! http://www.facetpublishing.co.uk/title.php?id=8224
  • I recommend this too! RT @scholastic_rat “a good read on digital scholarship! http://www.bloomsburyacademic.com/view/DigitalScholar_9781849666275/book-ba-9781849666275.xml “

To call someone’s attention to a tweet with an @mention, you use their username or ‘handle’ preceded by a @ sign. For example, to let me know you’ve mentioned me, you would include ‘@scholastic_rat’  in the tweet. This is another reason to keep your Twitter handle as short as you can – it uses up some of the 140 characters! This is a feature that originated with the users of Twitter, which was then designed into the platform. It’s what has turned Twitter from a broadcast medium of updates into a conversation, and that’s Twitter’s real strength. Note – as the @ sign is reserved for marking people’s handles, you can’t use it as an abbreviation for ‘at’, for example, ‘let’s meet @6pm @cafe’ – it will treat these as an @message, and it’s likely that someone, somewhere, will have chosen @6pm or @cafe as a handle!

A small but important point is where you place the @username. If you are responding to a tweet, using the ‘reply’ button, then Twitter will automatically begin your tweet response with the @username, and you can then type the rest of your message. However, if the very first thing in the tweet is someone’s @username, then only that person and those who follow both of you will be able to see it. If you want the tweet to have a wider audience, then you either need to put a full stop in front of the @ sign like this:  .@scholastic_rat  OR you could include the @username later on in your tweet as part of the sentence, for example: ‘reading @scholastic_rat’s blog post about Twitter – some useful tips!’

Why might you want a wider audience to see conversations between you and another user?

What’s in it for them:

  • It’s polite to acknowledge them if you’re retweeting something they’ve said, or to let them know if you’re commenting on their work
  • You are drawing attention to them and their work to people who don’t already follow them – they get publicity and new followers

What’s in it for you:

  • You gain a reputation as a polite, helpful, knowledgeable and well-connected professional
  • You may also gain new followers or make new connections

What’s in it for followers:

  • They get to know about someone’s work which they may have been unaware of, and a new person to follow
  • They are offered a chance to contribute to the discussion too, and thereby gain new contacts and audiences
  • If replying to someone who’s passed on useful information to you specifically, it’s helpful to copy in their reply to your tweet response, in case your followers are also interested in the information.

Of course, there may be times when you don’t want a wide audience to see the interaction, if it’s not going to be understandable out of context, or of interest to them but just cluttering up their feed, and in these cases, you can just start the message with ‘@’.  Remember that Twitter is a very public medium, and whether you @message someone or not,  your tweets will be visible to anyone who views your profile. If you really want to send a message to just one person, but don’t want it publicly visible, Twitter allows you to send them a DM or Direct Message

To see @messages directed at you, click on the tab marked @ Connect in your profile. They will also appear in your Twitter stream, but you may miss them there! Depending on your settings, you can also receive an email when someone @messages you.

So- send some @messages to people you follow- ask them a question, comment on something they’ve tweeted! And send me (@scholastic_rat) an @message with the hashtag #STEM10DoT !

Day 3 of #STEM10DoT: Who to Follow

You’ve sent your first tweets, creating interesting and engaging content for your potential followers. The other side to Twitter, of course, is the stream of information  brought to you by the people you follow. And if you follow people, chances are they will take a look at your profile and decide to follow you in return (which is why setting up a profile with some engaging tweets first was important!).

One of the key features of Twitter is that unlike other platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, following is not necessarily reciprocal – the people you follow may not be the people who follow you (although they may be!). Some people have a more-or-less even match of followers and following; others follow lots of people but don’t tweet much themselves and therefore don’t have many followers; and some Tweeters, usually very well-known people or institutions, may have a large number of followers as they tweet a lot but don’t actually follow many people, using Twitter more as a broadcast medium to get their message out there.

As an individual early career researcher, you’re probably going to get the most benefit in the first instance for the first option, having roughly the same number of followers and following. Twitter works best as a dialogue, and this won’t happen if you’re doing all the talking, or have no one to talk to!

How many people you follow is up to you, although perhaps 100 is a good number to aim for, to ensure a useful stream of content. Think about what sort of information you want access to, and what sorts of tweeters are likely to offer it (see the list below for some suggestions). It is an organic process and will take time to build up, and don’t forget that you can always unfollow people if the content they tweet is not useful to you! There are ways to find out if you’ve been unfollowed, but there is no automatic alert and generally people don’t bother!.

So how do you find people to follow? When you first sign up to Twitter, they will suggest people for you to follow, or invite you to search for names or keywords, but this can be a bit hit and miss. Some people give up at this point, thinking it’s all pop stars and people tweeting about their breakfast!

At this point, it would be useful to know who else is participating in the programme, so I’ve compiled a list of participants – everyone who sent the tweet I suggested yesterday, so you can find and follow each other!

Here are ten more suggestions (not exhaustive!) to build a useful feed of information that might work well for you as an early career researcher in the sciences.

1. ‘Celebrity’ academics and media dons Following well-known people like Cambridge’s @AtheneDonald or @ProfBrianCox will give you some ideas of how to build your profile and impact, as well as offering commentary on scientific policy, ideas for teaching and outreach, access to their own network of followers and interesting material to retweet to your followers. LSE’s Impact of Social Science blog has a list of STEM academics on Twitter

2. Professional Bodies For updates about events, news, policy, or funding opportunities, your subject’s professional body will be very useful. Try for example @royalsociety, the Institute of Physics (@PhysicsNews) or the Institute of Medicine (@theIoM). You might also follow a teaching-related body such as the Higher Education Academy’s subject centres, like @HEASTEM

3. Funding Bodies For calls for funding and other news, follow bodies such as the Research Councils UK (@research_uk), @EPSRC or @BBSRC

4. Academic and Professional Press Scientific press such as @newscientist, Scientific American (@SCIAM), @TimesHigherEd or @guardianscience will give you access to news stories which may interest you or your followers. Following their journalists too might be a way to raise your profile in the press. Many journals also have their own Twitter accounts which are useful for updates on calls for contributions or new contents. Try the various Nature journals such as @NatureChemistry,  @NatureNano or  @NatureMedicine

5. Academics in your field Search for people you know to see if they have a Twitter account. Look for both more senior academics and peers (PhD, PostDoc and junior lecturers). Search by name or by keyword, or import contacts from your LinkedIn account or email.

6. Research Centres in your field, both here in Cambridge and elsewhere, for events and news.

7. Academic mentors There are several bloggers and tweeters who create a supportive community for other early career academics, who have really useful advice and experiences to share on the various aspects of being or becoming an academic, from writing and publication to managing your career. Follow @thesiswhisperer, @researchwhisperer, @ECRchat, @ThomsonPat@NetworkedRes and even @phdcomics

8. Public Engagement Following the university’s public engagement teams and other researchers interested in impact will help you be aware of events which you might volunteer for, or interesting ways to present research to other audiences. Try @camscience or @NakedScientists. You could also follow commentators such as Ben Goldacre or Simon Singh.

9. Associated Services and professionals There are lots of people on Twitter who can feed you useful information, but aren’t academics. You could follow @jobsacuk for jobs and career-related articles, or university services such as your department library (for example, @CJBSInfoLib) for news, tips and updates.

10. Industry and other sectors To keep an eye on developments in the sector, possible future impacts and applications of your research, or developments which might affect what you’re working on, you could follow some of the professional bodies or companies which represent the types of sector related to your research.

How to grow your Twitter feed from here:

Twitter will suggest people for you to follow based on who you’re currently following. This can be a bit random at first, as you’re not following many people. There are other ways to add people to your twitter feed

Snowball – look at the profile of the people you’re following – who do they follow, and who else is following them?

You can see who’s following you, or anyone else, by going to your or their profile, and clicking on ‘followers’. If you suspect one of your new followers is spam, you can ‘block’ them using the head icon next to the ‘Follow” button, and selecting ‘block’.

following twitter

Retweets – people you follow will retweet things they think might be of interest. Keep an eye out for retweets from accounts you don’t yet follow, and add them. We’ll cover retweeting in future Days.

Hashtags – especially around livechats or livetweeted events such as conferences. Joining a discussion around a hashtag is a good way to find more people interested in that topic or event. We’ll also cover hashtags in future Days.

#FF or #FollowFriday – this is a convention on Twitter that on Fridays you can tweet the names of people you think are worth following to others. Watch out for these, or tweet your followers and ask them for recommendations!

Day 2 of #STEM10DoT: What to Tweet

Twitter only allows you to send 140 characters, which doesn’t seem much. Academics almost always write at length about complex ideas, so it’s difficult to say something meaningful in such a short amount of text. But that doesn’t mean that Twitter is superficial or only used to tweet about frivolous things. Many researchers who are new to twitter aren’t sure what to say, or why updates about whatever they’re doing would be interesting to others. But there are actually many aspects of your day-to-day work that would be of very practical use to others. Have a look at some Twitter feeds from academic tweeters and see what kinds of information they share, to get an idea of how you really can say something useful and engaging in 140 characters.

Some examples:

  • an article you’re reading that’s interesting
  • a book you recommend
  • a seminar or conference you’re going to – others may not have known about it, may want to meet you if they’re also going to be there, or may want to ask you about it if they can’t make it
  • a new person you met today who might be a useful contact
  • some advice on research methods from an incident that happened today
  • a question asked by a student or colleague that made you think
  • slides from a talk which you’ve just uploaded online
  • your thoughts on a research news story
  • a funding or job opportunity you’ve just seen
  • a digital tool or software you’re using or problem you’ve solved with it
  • a typical day – an insight into a researcher’s life or moral support
  • your new publication which has just come out (there are ways of mentioning this gracefully!)

This bit is important! For this second Day of Twitter, as your first message, please send the following tweet- we’ll explain why later!

Joining in  #STEM10DoT with @scholastic_rat!

Over the next week, we’ll be sending the following ten types of tweets. For today, though, send a few of the first type of tweet over the course of the day, using the suggestions above. You could also include the hashtag  #STEM10Dot in your tweets – again, we’ll explain why later!

  1. A simple message – what are you up to? What kind of event or activity might your intended following find interesting, personable or quirky? You could let them know about an upcoming event they were unaware of or might also be present at, a thought about your research or work that’s just occurred to you, or just show that you’re approachable and share common experiences. Don’t agonise over it though – Twitter is in many ways ephemeral!
  2. An @ message directed to someone. Ask someone a question, comment or reply to one of their tweets, thank them for a RT or welcome a new follower. NB – don’t start your tweet with the @ sign, as then only the people that follow both of you will see it! either include their @name later in the message or add a full stop .@ before the @ if it’s at the start.
  3. Send a direct message (DM) to someone. What kind of message would need to be private in this way?
  4. A link to something interesting and relevant you’ve read online, or link to a journal or book. Shorten it using Twitter’s automatic tool or a separate one such as tinyURL, bitly or Ow.ly  Add a bit of context or comment on it!
  5. Ask a question of your followers – crowdsource their views, ask for tips or advice or recommendations on a topic of mutual interest! Perhaps ask them to retweet (pls RT)
  6. Tweet a link to something you’ve shared online recently- a profile update, slides from a conference presentation, handouts from teaching or public engagement event. Many platforms can be set up to do this automatically when you update, such as a blog, slideshare, Storify, LinkedIn, etc. Add an engaging and contextualising comment!
  7. A retweeted, quoted tweet from someone else. Don’t just use Twitter’s retweet button – start with your own comment, then add RT and the @name of the originator or retweeter.
  8. A tweet incorporating a hashtag which links to a wider discussion. Search for your chosen hashtag first, to get a sense of what others use it for and what the discussion has been, and what you can add. Look at tweets from followers for hashtag discussions to join, make one up and see if it’s been used, or try #ECRchat, #PhDchat or #overlyhonestmethods, or add something to our hashtag #STEMD
  9. Livetweet an event of some kind, even if only for 10 minutes. You might try a research seminar, conference presentation or lecture. It’s polite to ask permission from the speaker. See if there is a hashtag for the event and if so, use it. Practice summarising the event and distinguishing your comments from the speaker’s.
  10. Take part in a livechat on twitter. #ECRchat and #PhDchat are popular ones.

If you can think of any more academic uses for Twitter, then do add them in the comments!

Think about the writing style of a good tweet. These tips from Meg Westbury, from the Judge Business School Library, are helpful:

Ultimately, your tweets will look a bit like this, but we’ll work up to that!
anatomy of tweet
From edtechsandyk‘s blog