Perfect Status

It comes as no surprise that I like Twitter for lots of reasons … the primary reason for me is that it seems to solidify connections in close to real time. Facebook has surprised me in its ability to do something similar in the recent months. Both seem to be really interesting steps forward in the online conversation space. The one thing that both of them have going for them is a very powerful, “what are you doing right now” approach to status updates. This simple question pushes people to participate and to me it is the most powerful piece to coalescing community.

With that in mind I read a really good piece at the NY Times the yesterday called Being There, about the art of the status update. My favorite line from the whole thing was a simple statement about what a status update really is …

Spontaneous bursts of being

I really enjoyed the article and decided to conduct my own status update InstaPoll on my network to see what I got back. What I found was that people want to be drawn into a conversations via a status updates. Most are interested in the notion of engaging with those “around” them. That is really interesting to me … some people view the status update as shouting into an empty room, but what it looks like from my very informal and unscientific data gathering is that people crave engagement … they want to respond to where others are in the moment.

Seems to only make sense given our intense interest in not only providing constant updates, but our incessant need to know what people think in 140 characters or less. Some of the better responses to my question, “What makes a great Twitter/Facebook status update?” are below … if there is anything you might want to add to this conversation leave as a comment.

  • @colecamplese re: your survey. I think good status updates offer a chance to continue a conversation. personal/professional items are good.
  • @colecamplese asking a question everyone has wondered but never asked?
  • @colecamplese I think they are (should be) different… Tweets for more frequent (often mundane)…Facebook for daily/weekly “bigger stuff”?
  • @colecamplese Small, mundane little things that when taken out of context seem oddly amusing….and lots of punctuation.
  • @colecamplese whatever you feel in the moment.
  • @colecamplese NOT where I am or what I’m cooking. New blog post, new idea or concept, looking for discussion – yes
  • @colecamplese totally depends on the reader IMO. Interesting stuff to ME makes it a great post. (news, games, VW stuff, etc)
  • @colecamplese I totally agree with Bart. I love opinions, what peeps are doing, where they’re headed, etc.
  • @colecamplese something that makes me laugh
  • @colecamplese re instapoll Posts that helps me learn/think. Links to interesting stuff, plus reasons why I should click. News, questions
  • @colecamplese layers.
  • @colecamplese witty comment about common activity.
Instant Feedback

Instant Feedback

Twitter Responsiveness

On Thursday I asked a really simple question on Twitter on a whim, “Quick Poll: What are the first 3 applications you fire up when you log in?” I got dozens of responses on both Twitter and Facebook … and it stunned me. This reminds me once again about what is right with Twitter for me personally — connectedness. To me the idea that I can shout a question into a 140 character text box and get something back from all sorts of people all over the place is a very interesting thought. There’s no need to take it any further … but I would love for you tell me why Twitter is important to you if care to share.

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I took a little time to gather the results of the question (totally unscientific) below … note that I combined similar applications and tried to take into account things like gmail, google calendar, and other web-based productivity tools (that, as my Mother-in-Law reminded me, are applications). I also just lumped a bunch of stuff like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, etc into “Other” as there were a bunch of one-offs. The other thing to consider is that these are a percentage of the total responses — so while nearly every single person said a browser, they all almost all said email as well. So the chart is a bit misleading … I choose unwisely with that, but my data is at work and that’s life. BTW, my first launches are Mail, Safari, and Evernote (which no one else mentioned).

With about 60 responses accounted for.

With about 60 responses accounted for.

Wall Streams

When you get off the elevator on the second floor of the Rider Building you see a small plasma display hanging there that typically has a Twitter stream of ETS staff displayed on it. It is cool to see and I often notice people walking by and stopping to read what is visible. It gives an interesting view into some of the activity happening in and around our office.

If you’ve been to an education technology conference worth its weight then you have probably seen something similar — someone has set up a Twitter account so people can be followed by the event and their back channel stuff can be displayed live as people move around the event. Good enough and a smart way to get a crowd sourced idea of what is happening at the moment.

I’ve wanted something that goes beyond just the standard Twitter stream to use at our annual TLT Symposium, but haven’t wanted to take the time to build something that aggregates more of the social stuff together — Tweets, pictures, links, etc. This weekend I stumbled across a new feature by the folks at Brightkite … they call it The Wall. The Wall is a simple to setup tool that gives you a way to aggregate content posted to the Brightkite network into a very simple full screen view. It gives you the option of using the location of the event as the determining factor — which is nice, b/c once you check in with Brightkite that you are in a certain place, all your updates are counted … no need to use a hastag or anything else. You can also choose a search term which I admittedly didn’t try out (but plan to) as well as person stream. Take a look below to see what I mean …

Setting up the Wall.

Setting up the Wall.

Once it is setup, in my case, I choose to use a location — State College, PA. When I launched my Wall I was surprised to see activity talking about the Blogs at Penn State from someone I know, but who isn’t in my network. It was very cool. It even pulls in pictures posted to Brightkite from people checked in at that location. Have a look …

Full Screen View.

Full Screen View.

This will be a great addition to the Twitter stuff at any event, but the issue still exists of asking people to create a Brightkite account. I think you can join in via texting to the site … check out the Wall for 16801 and give it a try. But, now think of how cool it could be in a class where you have much more more control over the networks that your students post to. A Wall featuring updates in one spot would be very attractive to help bind community. I’d be interested in hearing other ways this could work. I am very attracted to the mash up of location, community, and content … I wonder if it works to drive additional context for a community?

Update: BTW, I have 15 invites for Brightkite. If you want one, just leave a comment.

Twitter Intranet Style

I have been a long time user of Twitter for mass community connectedness. I started using it quite some time ago and while my use of the tool seems to ebb and flow, I do find it very useful on all sorts of levels. When I first started using it I was instantly struck by the power the tool could have to help my own work unit stay connected. So far it has served that purpose and a host of others — binding the PSU community, helping me stay connected to distant colleagues, and more. The one thing that always bothered me was the tool’s inability to let me focus Tweets to a group of people in a simple and native way.

Tonight as I was catching up on feeds I came across a new tool from the TechCrunch50 conference going on, Yammer. Yammer is a Twitter knock off with a few new twists. The first, and most important to me, is the notion that it is a private network open only to those in your organization with a valid, biz, tv, etc) email address. What that means is that when you sign up you are signing up to participate in a network only made up of those within your organization. Along with it are a handful of enterprise-like features that make this an amazing little Intranet addition with the power of Twitter. I know people will jump at me and say this is a closed and walled garden, but take a little bit of time to investigate the product and then think about how powerful Twitter would be as part of an organizational email replacement strategy, dynamic directory, and a collaborative toolset that only you and your co-workers could access. I think there is potential.

Yammer. Intranet Style Twitter.

Yammer. Intranet Style Twitter.

I’d urge you to take a look at it by signing up or watching the quick overview video. There are features here that could be very useful. I actually invited a few people from ETS who I thought might like it (or hate it) … I’d just like some people to hang out with in there for a bit to learn more. Going in, I think it will be tough to make it work at PSU as there are a ton of people with email address, but who knows. I think it may be worth a look. Let me also say I don’t see this as a Twitter killer for me … my Twitter network has huge upside, I just see this as another way to get on top of constant organizational information needs. Take a peek and let me know what you think!

Weirdly Refreshing

SavedSo yesterday all of a sudden my blog stopped accepting comments. All of my posts were set to comments closed. No idea how it happened, but it did. Was I hacked? Did the configuration somehow get blown up? Things seemed to be OK otherwise, but the idea that all of a sudden something like comments could just be turned off is very strange. This issue came at a time when I really didn’t have the cycles to really figure it out. When I started to investigate it I jumped on IM hoping to find someone to help … no one there. So instead of sending an email to my much smarter friends I tried asking twitter. As one would assume, it worked. Within a few minutes a former student of mine Twittered the solution. Amazing and wonderful! That kind of speed is new.

To me this is the story of web 2.0 that is emerging — the speed at which connected communities can influence change has become astonishing. Would I have gotten my answer without Ben’s Twitter help? Sure … much, much later. The idea that there is a network there to help at 11:00 PM is pretty amazing. This is a reason why the State College PD and PSU itself started Tweeting — they recognize that working within targeted, connected, and interested communities works.

If I pull back from this I can begin to see interesting opportunities in the teaching and learning world. For the most part, classes don’t emerge as communities unless something very special happens. Each semester is different and it is completely unplanned (but hoped for). One semester the thing just clicks and others not so much. The results from the last class I taught were in line with this — Twitter worked. If we tried it again it may or may not. What I am seeing though is that Twitter has the power to bind communities in ways that are weirdly refreshing to me. When groups of people decide to join and participate they are creating new opportunities to create shared experiences … that tells me they are going to create a shared awareness with each other. This creates a situation where people can quickly come to the aide of each other and create change very quickly. I see this on Facebook every now and then, but Twitter has taken over the title of community creator for me.

So thank you Twitter … more specifically, thank you Ben!


I have talked about Twitter many times here, but I am continually amazed at its overall staying power. This semester provided me with some new observations as it relates to Twitter … I thought I’d take a minute and share two of them.

The first thing I was amazed with in my Disruptive Technologies for Teaching and Learning class was how powerful the community felt because of the constant connectedness. Twitter was “assigned” as a technology we would investigate — at the outset, we got lots of the typical “Twitter is stupid” comments … that was expected. After a couple of weeks however we saw an interesting thing happening — people connected and used Twitter to build stronger bonds. Again, that was expected and I wrote about it here at the time. What wasn’t expected was how Twitter formed the most powerful back channel I have been a part of in a learning environment. I am not a Twitter junkie — some days I actually don’t even update — but I do check it quite a bit to see what is up. This semester one of the most essential components of the course was Twitter and our students’ use of it during class. I found myself refreshing constantly as we sat and discussed things to see what people were thinking about in the moment. Some of the best pointers to related resources emerged in the Twitter stream — people talking about things and others instantly sharing links to them created a much richer course experience. I didn’t find it distracting and I can only assume by watching the ones participating that it had the same effect on them. The ability to instantly share new insights to those connected was simply astonishing. I am not doing the experience justice with this post on any level.

The second observation has to do with Twitter’s inherent goal of dragging you into a stream of thought from your contacts. What I mean is that the design of Twitter is built around the assumption that I would actually care what someone else is up to. Sure, we use it to spout off and embellish strange details of our own lives, but the real power is that we also sit around and read what our Twitter stream is sharing with us. Again, the simple ability to follow others creates new connections. When I compare it the blog community I spend time in it is very different — not because of the length of the posts per say, but because of the intensity of the connections — my Twitter page is my personal gathering place for my community. Again, I am having trouble articulating this. Let me try to simplify … I can’t read all of my friends’ blogs, look at the their Flickr photos, or check their links the same way — aggregation into a reader just doesn’t provide the same joy that the Twitter stream seems to.

I tried out TweetWheel this morning to see my Twitter connections … I am amazed that when I look at the intense connections that have been created via my Twitter stream I am simultaneously struck with the fact that I cannot easily visualize my RSS feed subscribers the same way. It leaves me feeling like I am writing to no one (or perhaps only myself) here in the blog while when I type in Twitter I instantly know who is getting the post. Just take a look at the image below and tell me that it doesn’t make you feel really good about making and following new connections … I have seen that power first hand — organizationally, professionally, at conferences, and now in a classroom.


PSU Tweet Meet

I didn’t take any pictures, but I am guessing some of the new faces emerging on the campus Twitter scene did to document the first PSU Tweet Meet. Funny, I tried to pull the trigger on something like this last year, but it never happened … no matter. I have to say I am constantly amazed at how my digital connections continue to materialize into real live people — right before my eyes. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, Twitter has afforded new opportunities to engage the local community like nothing I have been involved with. My colleague, Stevie Rocco, said it best when she described how Twitter is so much more effective for her in her local space — it has shaped new relationships right here on our campus and for that I am thankful.

So, I want to offer I heart felt thank you to all who attended and want to apologize for being in a sub-colecamplese mood … crazy day and without a doubt the Tweet Meet was a very bright spot! It was a pleasure meeting new people and reconnecting with others.

My Twitter Community

I have been writing and talking about how Twitter has seemed to re-emerge in my life recently. I can’t seem to shake my re-found need to connect and share with the vibrant Twitter community. As a matter of fact, we spent quite a bit of time talking about it on ETS Talk 41 this week as well … So much of it has to do with the extended network I can connect to, but recently I am finding myself really engaged in my local tweets. As my friend Scott McDonald remarked at lunch the other day when I was saying I haven’t been this plugged in since this time last year, “its the energy leading up to the Symposium.” He is right on several levels, but I would contend that it is more than that. Let me share a couple of recent examples.

The first started on Wednesday evening when I decided to post the Symposium Tag images that were created for the people tagging at the Symposium. I made a simple post over at the ETS site that explained the tags and provided a simple download for the whole group. The ETS site is setup to send an automatic tweet, so it hit the Twitter stream. After that I decided to change my Twitter icon to one of the tags and wondered out loud if others would do the same.

Twitter Change

Within minutes I was getting tweets from every direction … and a strange thing was happening, people were changing their icons. Then I jumped and used CafePress to make myself a tag t-shirt. I let people know via Twitter and several people wanted one. I made a few more and shared the link and some amazing things started to happen — several people Tweeted back that they too bought some of the “Tag Swag” right then and there. The more amazing thing was the flow of the whole thing … people firing Tweets back and forth all getting hyed up for the Symposium next week. It felt like it was the kind of thing Twitter is designed for. At the end of the evening, people were recounting their purchases and expressing how much they enjoyed the interaction … the community had emerged, come together, and was ultra engaged.


When I got on Twitter the next day I was amazed at what my Twitter stream looked like … nearly all the PSU people (and I follow a heck of a lot of non-PSU people as well) with Symposium Tags flying around as icons.

Twitter Stream

Now on to the second example — and I promise I will make it quick. Thursday is the day Scott and I teach our “Disruptive Technologies” course … about half of the class is on Twitter and they all went through the Alan Levine Twitter Curve cycle … started with “this is the stupidest thing I have ever done …” and have ended up with, well, I’ll let their tweets tell the story.

Class Tweets

I know this is a long and twisted post, but if you’ve made it this far I’d love to hear if you are finding similar things in your environment. I know that Twitter started to make me ultra aware of how lucky I am to live and work in such a vibrant community like PSU … now I am seeing how amazingly connected and interesting all of them are. Being able to push the walls of a class out by several hundred miles and also push beyond the normal roles our identity assign us (teacher, student, staff, faculty, etc) has been an amazing eye opening experience.