Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My Co-Workers Live All Over the World

The thing I love most about social software is the way it's connected me to so many different people, from many many places. Certainly when I started reading blogs and then writing my own, I tapped into a resource that allowed me to engage in critical inquiry with people I wouldn't normally be able to because of distance or difference in discipline or even profession. I've learned from blogs that ideas come from unexpected quarters and that opening up the conversation makes it richer and more valuable.

While I still thing blogs and blogging are at the core of my social software world, my experience with Twitter has added another dimension to that world. When I first signed up over a year ago, I didn't get it. Then I went to Faculty Academy at UMW and got more than 2 friends and it suddenly made sense. Alan Levine has a great Twitter curve that shows almost everyone goes through the same process and that Twitter can be quite addicting.

Here's just a few things I use Twitter for:
  • Conference backchannel. This has been both good and evil. It's good when the talk is good and people often send more links and make interesting comments. It's bad when the crowd turns against the speaker and uses the backchannel to let off a little steam. Related use: conference notes.
  • Quick questions. I've thrown out questions to the twitterverse many times. I've asked everything from specific how-tos to more philosophical questions. The responses I get come in much faster than they would via email or even through a blog.
  • Arranging meetings. This is great at conferences when you don't have someone's cell or if you don't even know who you want to meet with. I've arranged two meetups for dinner this way.
  • Keeping up with distant colleagues. This is actually my favorite use. I get to find out more about people I meet at conferences. I know now that some people go jogging every day, get up really early, or spend Saturdays making breakfast for their kids. These intimate details bind us together the same way they do when you talk to people in person. And then when I see them again, I feel like we haven't been apart as long. We connect more quickly and then keep building up a relationship from there.
Although I have great colleagues locally, work can still be isolating at times. Twitter gives me a world full of co-workers, motivating and inspiring me constantly throughout the day.