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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Tips on Twitterpaneling from the #educhat Experiment



It is 9:53 pm and there are another 7 minutes on the edutweetpanel for tonight.  I've been tweeting away until 5 minutes a go, however, I just discovered that twitter prevented me from tweeting about 9:24 pm - so my questions haven't been posting, etc.  So, while the others are sharing link goodness and I'm totally left out (and hoping Twitter doesn't mark me as a spammer,) here are some tips and reflections.

What is a Twitter Panel?
What I've learned this week is that twitter panel is really sort of a guided discussion that centers around a hashtag and a timed discussion on different topics.  Some do it to make their topic trend (like crayola's girls night out that introduced me to this concept when I happened upon their hashtag last week) but really, we just wanted to try it out to talk about technology tools, but you could talk about anything.  You use a tool to "mash it up" like Tweetgrid that helps everyone stay on the same page.  It is really just another way to talk and share.

On the pro side, it was cool to share and discuss in such an easy way, it was really kind of a focused discussion with people moving in and out as they wished and no one was really "in charge" but just talked about things.  We had the questions as guidlines but several great topics happened as well. It is a cool way to mash up twitter.

On the con side, I worried about annoying people who didn't really want to talk about the topics on #edchat and in overtweeting -- and I did overtweet - Twitter blocked me and my tweetlaters from coming through after 9:24, but the others did take over.  I don't really know if twitter was created for this purpose and if it is hogging the timeline.  I just don't know what I think yet, but perhaps if it was for a shorter period, it wouldn't be so bad.  If everyone started doing it, it could get annoying, so I guess, I just don't know yet.  As I told them tonight -the jury is still out with me and I think, perhaps, you, the readers are the jury.

I ask you, actually, I plead with you to weigh in on this grand experiment.  Good? Bad? Do you agree with these thoughts? Yes?  No?  What do you think?

So, for now, IF you do this, here are some guidelines and thoughts.

1) Keep it Short, Less than 1 hour!

I set this Tweetpanel for 2 hours because that is what I thought that they were supposed to be (participated in Crayola Girls night out on twitter on Tuesday night and it was 2 hours.)  In my opinion, 2 hours is MUCH too long.  I think perhaps the hijacking of the stream is a bit much and surely expect some pushback. (Just remember that this was an experiment, we had no clue how it would go but wanted to try it!)  To me, an hour is enough and would prevent you from perhaps going over your limit.  Really, 30 minutes could be just fine for an edchat, I think perhaps that I'll try that next.

2) Set up a Grid
The Tweetgrid tool is a neat one.  You go to the homepage and click on the matrix.  This is the one I set up for tonight. It has everything tagged #edchat on the left, the "panelists" (just discussion facilitators in the middle) and on the right you can add your own userid.

3) Set up questions
I was so glad that I had set up the questions in the wiki beforehand, because when I got kicked out of twitter (temporarily I hope) - they kept going!

4) Schedule Yourself
It is easier if you set the questions to post in tweetlater so you can focus on the conversation.  Just don't do like me and get kicked out.

5) Don't Wear Out Your Welcome
Don't do this too much or too often!  For me, MAYBE once a month for less than an hour.  I just feel like that twitter is so useful because the people I'm following are all cool people with a lot to do and don't tweet too much.  I am concerned that for some I wore out my welcome tonight, however, I will say that I'm an experimenter and won't apologize for that. 

6) Agree on hashtag WAY ahead of time
I messed up big time and had originally said #educhat was the tag, but I wanted to use the one that has been floating around and fixed it about 15 minutes before we started to #edchat which was what I meant - I didn't catch that Tweetgrid didn't update the hashtag and others had already used the other one.  We had two streams going for  a while and it was totally my fault.  I told everyone to blame the cat -- if you do this, you just have to know that it will go viral ahead of time, so the earlier you do one hashtag the better.

7) Make the hashtag part of your tweet

I started the tweets like
"Let's #educhat about..."   -- try to embed your hashtag, it saves space.

8) Have a backup
Have some people that can back up for you in case you get kicked out -- you might even want to take turns with who poses the questions. 


9) Ask for Feedback
Twitterpanels are certainly not perfected and I'm not sure they should even exist, although I think they are indeed becoming something that will be done whether we like it or not.  But, even so, these guidelines will change and we must talk about what we think and ask for pushback until twitterpanels can be:  useful, inclusive, and nonintrusive. 

Again, I do expect pushback, and as long as you don't curse me soundly, I hope you can see it for what it was -- curious people who wanted to see how this was done without a corporation involved but just a viral sort of experiment to talk about topics.  I certainly learned a lot and still am pondering what I just saw, what I think, and if I'll participate again.

I'm sorry for the panelists and others who think I abandoned them, I just could not use my school account which is private and just for my students and I!

So, my friends, the jury.  Let's talk about this.  What do you think?
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