The occasional ramblings of a freelance lexicographer

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A year in the Twittersphere

I've been having so much fun on Twitter over the past couple of days (I'll explain why later!) that this afternoon I started mulling over a blog post about my experience. Then when I checked, it turned out that I actually joined Twitter exactly a year ago today … now that's what you call serendipity and this post just had to be written!

I actually first ventured into the Twittersphere because my local baker, the lovely Laura Hart, had had to close up shop and suggested I follow her on Twitter as she looked for new premises. In the 12 months since, I have managed to grab the odd one of her delicious custard tarts when she's tweeted that she's selling them somewhere, and now it seems that she's finally found a new permanent home for her bakery – hooray! Sadly, it's on the other side of town, but I'm still looking forward to visiting when she opens. My Twitter experience hasn't all been about patisserie however …

I decided early on that I wasn't interested in celebrity gossip or what Stephen Fry had had for lunch, so decided to restrict my Twitter activity to work-related topics and ‘professional development’. I started off by following a few of the obvious ELT names and a couple of publishers. Then I ventured into the discussion thread, #ELTchat, partly as it's moderated by a very old friend of mine, Shaun Wilden. The first couple of times I ‘tuned in’, it was all just a bit overwhelming, but I slowly got the hang of it. And once I'd been introduced to Hootsuite, and was able to separate out different ‘streams’ on screen, the confusing babble started to make more sense and I got up the courage to start joining in. Although reading the chat and comments from teachers all over the world was a fascinating experience, I soon found that I often had to plough through a lot of stuff that I wasn't really interested in, just to come away with couple of, more or less, interesting points. I still keep an eye on what topics come up, but only dip in if it's something I'm particularly interested in.

Next, I came across #EAPchat, my area of special interest at the moment, which seemed more promising. When I tuned in for my first session though, it turned out to be a slightly stilted ‘conversation’ between myself and just one other teacher! Thankfully, @sharonzspace (aka Sharon Turner, an EAP teacher working in Turkey) piqued my interest just enough to encourage me to come back! As a much newer and more niche chat, #EAPchat (1st and 3rd Mondays of the month at 6pm UK time) still generally only attracts a handful of active participants, but on a good day, there are enough of us to get a decent discussion going now. The main frustration I come up against is in trying to discuss what are often quite complex issues condensed down into just a few words. You often find that you'll put out a comment, somebody else will come back with a critique, and you'll then spend your next few tweets trying to explain why they've misunderstood what you really intended! To me, it seems that Twitter comes into its own perhaps less as a space in which to fully discuss ideas, but as a place to get things started, then for sharing links to blogs etc. where there's more space for those discussions. Through Twitter and the EAPchat hashtag, I've come across all sorts of interesting resources, blogs and discussions, and got involved in commenting and discussing all kinds of topics at more length.

Perhaps one of the most interesting, and for me unexpected, benefits of Twitter has been building what's known in the jargon as a PLN, a network of contacts made up of people interested in the same stuff as you. It's something that’s still building gradually, but there are definitely a few folks out there who I now come across regularly and who are starting to feel ‘familiar’. But then I suppose that's what social (or professional?) networking is meant to be all about, isn't it?

And what have I been having so much fun with in the Twittersphere lately? Well, yesterday I came across the Twitter Fiction Festival - in that social media kind of way, I can't remember exactly how I found it, possibly through a post on Facebook that linked to an article in the Guardian? Anyway, I started following #twitterfiction. As with a lot on Twitter, it took me a while to wade through all the ‘noise’ and actually, quite a lot of content in other languages too, but I gradually started picking out little gems of sharp, witty, teeny-weeny fiction. I soon latched on to the #litmash thread, attempts to mash up different combinations of literary genres; so yesterday there was some hilarious Edgar Allan Poe versus Dr Seuss (check out a summary of some of the best here) and today I've been laughing out loud at Cold War fairy tales and Sex in a Dystopian City! If you're on Twitter and understand what I've been talking about, then it's well worth checking out, LOL!

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Anonymous Sharon Turner said...

Dear Julie,

Thank you so much for the kind words. I remember that conversation. I agree that twitter is a kind of springboard to other places for more in depth discussion and exploration.) I'm glad you stuck around and that you are apart of the #EAPCHAT tag.


9:26 pm  
Blogger Tyson Seburn said...

Yes, I completely understand the points you make about the #EAPchats. I'm glad you've stuck around to realise that as word gets around, more participants begin to join in, as is the case with everything under a year old (1-year birthday coming in Feburary!).

It is definitely challenging with this platform to flesh out full conversations on complex topics, not only within the character limit, but within 1 hour. I must agree that it serves a springboarding, interest-piquing, networking purpose more than a full-on deep conversation. I always encourage participants to blog about the ideas that stem from points made during the chat, so we can continue and elaborate on a platform that allows that more organically. That's my goal, anyway.

In any case, I'm thrilled with yours and everyone else's participation in the chats and hope that we morph it into what we want it to be, rather than feeling like the tone or purpose needs to piggyback off of #ELTchat forever. In fact, during the next chat (Dec 17) I hope we can all brainstorm where to go with #EAPchat in our second year. :)

12:56 am  
Blogger The Toblerone Twins said...

Thanks Sharon and Tyson for taking the time to comment.

Although I only dropped in briefly this week (3 Dec), it seemed like we've gained a few new #EAPchatters and it looked like a really good chat. Let's hope it can continue to grow and evolve in it's second year. I'm super-busy at the moment with a house move and a string of work deadlines, but I'll try and drop in on 17 Dec to contribute to the 'where next' discussion.

11:04 am  

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