Another dot in the blogosphere?

Posts Tagged ‘twitter

Once in a blue moon I check the stats that Twitter maintains for my account. Every time I do that I say, “That’s typical!”

I shared these two tweets recently:

This were the returns as of yesterday.

The numbers indicate the tweet views. To keep the screenshot readable, I cropped out the engagements which were 37 and 16 respectively.

What is typical is that I can share something on education and it will walk on stubby legs, if at all. But when I share something that rides on popularity or celebrity, it takes long strides.

That seems typical of reactions on Twitter. That is also sad given that I prefer to tweet as an educator about education. Such action and content is not as “sexy” and it cannot compete with entertainment. It should not.

However, blaming the nature of the tweets and their linked content is focusing on the symptoms. A deeper fault is likely mine and yours. It is mine for not cultivating a bigger following of passionate educators who will share and retweet. It is yours for not knowing what the rules of the game are and which to break.

I have been around the Twitter block since January 2007. I have learnt that sometimes I have to block and report other Twitter users.

The first category is scammers and spammers. Both might be bots or semi-bots that send scams and spam to #hashtagged chats, or to @handles publicly or via private DM. Blocking this group is essential for a clean and focused Twitter experience.

The spammers and scammers are easy to spot. They tend to have:

  • nearly identical messages sent out to different people
  • identical or nearly identical messages sent from different accounts
  • different profiles but the same personal website URL
  • dubious-sounding claims, promises, or links

The second category is trolls. This is an ugly, venomous lot. They tend to be attracted to celebrities and the entertainment industry, but a few wander into the edu-Twitterverse. Trolls need to not only be blocked but also reported to Twitter so that they can be blacklisted or removed.

The trolls are tend to be negative, but not critically so. The problem with this definition is that what is negative depends on how tolerant a person is. A tweeter can be negative but constructive, and that does not make him or her a troll. Trolls tend to attack people instead of ideas. It is best to observe that person over a period of time to gauge overall behaviour and monitor the responses that others may have.

The third category is people who do not know how to use the right handles. This might be something reserved for people with unique handles like me (@ashley). I get lots of misdirected tweets and retweets every day. Make that every hour. No, make that every minute.

Sometimes this is an honest mistake. Other times these tweets are from Twitter newbies or lazy tweeters.

If the tweeter seems to have made an honest mistake or is a newbie, I take less drastic action by muting instead of blocking.

I block recalcitrants. If I do not block or mute these folk, I suffer a slew misdirected messages from them that were intended for someone else. The messages can be abusive, personal, x-rated, or otherwise undesirable.

In the last year or so, I have noticed a surge of poorly curated “myfollowers” lists. This is when people I do not know or follow add me to their “myfollowers” list. These folk could be spammers, scammers, or newbies.

If they are not educators, I tend to block them. If they are and have added me by mistake, I remove myself from their lists (original guide).

  1. Visit your profile on Twitter
  2. Click on lists and then on “Member of”
  3. Visit the profile of the person who created the list
  4. Block that person for a few seconds
  5. Unblock them

Why not simply grin and bear with the spam, scam, trolls, misdirected tweets, or improperly curated lists? I know that ignoring the problems will not make them go away. Not doing anything is defeatist and irresponsible. I choose to be empowered, not helpless.

I failed to get verified as @ashley on Twitter.

When I read that Twitter was opening up the Twitter verified account to anyone, I thought I would give it a go. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Apparently, something ventured also led to nothing gained.

I jumped through hoops and provided information in a form. It took a few days for me to receive this rejection email.

Twitter rejection email.

Twitter did not say why I could not get a blue check mark against my handle “at this time”. So, maybe much later?

I can guess why the verification was rejected though. I am not a celebrity Ashley or an otherwise famous one. My account is not of enough public interest.

It does not matter that I have had @ashley since January 2007 and that Twitter is the only social media platform I believe in and am active on.

It does not matter that I have ignored threats and monetary offers for my Twitter handle.

It does not matter that I promote edu-tweeting when I can.

A little over 2000 followers does not pass muster. It is a drop in a celebrity ocean. This is my fault since I block between 30-50 people every day for assorted Twitter sins. Imagine how many I would have it I did not stand my ground.

Video source

Twitter is 10-years-old on 21 Mar 2016. However, it is not a perfect ten.

Matt Santoro gives a nice roundup on Twitter by highlighting five facts about it in five minutes. The information is rather US-centric and I have not found an education equivalent video.

However, I learnt something quite astounding from Santoro. He cited a statistic that about 44% of all Twitter accounts have not tweeted.

Imagine if four out of ten students in class were marked as present, but were not there. Actually there is no need to imagine this. Kids disappear from class all the time. Not physically, but mentally.

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Twitter has a lot of problems. It has to contend with the loss of current users, how new users do not want to jump on the bandwagon, and if new users do join they quickly jump off. There is also the problem of Twitter zombies.

So the Twitter higher-ups and tech folk come up with features like algorithmic timelines, GIF-adding buttons, adding videos to DMs, increasing the character count in tweets, etc. In other words, they are thinking of technical solutions to social problems like buy in and ownership.

Most of Twitter’s problems have social roots. Trolls want to put others down, spam bots are created by the greedy, and fake accounts can be harvested by the insecure. These are the more obvious ills.

There are more insidious ones like individuals who add you to “my follower” lists. I am not sure how exactly this benefits these folk. Perhaps they like the proximity.

My plan is to do what I already do with fake followers. I will go on a culling spree by blocking not just those who follow me erroneously, I will also block those who claim I follow them but actually do not.

There is no automatic auditing tool from Twitter to do this and add-ons from third parties are blunt instruments. So I will have to block each account one by one. This will be my new weekly routine and I expect the experience to be like a Zen garden of peaceful repetition.

Some Twitter users die, but not literally. They stop using the service for a long time and then rise from the dead to feast. I have noticed some who seem to tweet or retweet only at major events.

Is there anything wrong with this? Is it not their right to use Twitter as they wish?

No, it is not wrong when you look at it that way. But it is a selfish perspective. It makes me wonder if they are tweeting to be seen and to gain from being seen. A cynic might point out that this is smart but sneaky.

Edutweeting is about giving consistently and generously. It is not about shouting into the ether; it is about having conversations. It is not about spamming a hashtag; it is about building community. It is not about fake, auto-curation; it is about caring and carefully considered curation.

TV and movie zombies are not real and they do no harm. They might even be entertaining because the good guys get to kill them (again).

Twitter zombies, particularly ones that claim to be educators, are real and their mere existence taints the consistent and communicative edutweeters around them. They are harmful because the good guys are too good to do anything. The most the non-zombies can do is point them out or let others know they exist.

This is my warning. Twitter zombies exist and their teeth work fine. If you get bitten, you will become an Twitter zombie too. You then join a growing hoard and make life miserable for the rest of us.

If you are brave, kill them. If not, avoid them. Don’t feed the Twitter zombies.

This tweet provokes an important question.

We want to teach our children to write essays and compose poems. Why do we not teach them how to tweet?

I am not referring to the mechanics of setting up a Twitter account or firing off 140-character salvos. I am referring to responsible and consequential tweeting. 

Responsible tweeting could be guided by these questions (not an exhaustive list):

  • Would you tweet something you would not otherwise say to someone in person? Why or why not?
  • How might my tweet be interpreted some other way?
  • What tone should I use and how do I represent it non-verbally?
  • How important is context, spelling, and grammar?
  • Is there a better way to express myself?
  • What other considerations should I have?

Consequential tweeting is knowing when and how to retweet, quote tweet, comment, direct message, mute, block, or report. It also deals with unintended effects one’s initial tweet.

  • How do I give credit where it is due?
  • How do I promote or add value to a conversation?
  • How might I clarify, critique, or correct?
  • When and how do I create conditions for inclusion or exclusion?
  • When do I take a conversation offline or to private space?
  • How do I deal with a bot, unsolicited advertiser, or troll?

It should become obvious that these skills and values have no fixed standards or end. There is no ultimate checklist to follow or guru to worship. 

It is about constantly learning to learn. That is perhaps the best metalesson about edutweeting.

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