10 Years on Twitter…

Evidently I first joined twitter exactly 10 years ago. Gosh – where has all that time gone! 80.4K tweets and 115k followers later, it continues to play a fairly major role in how I engage with the world and I owe it a great deal. In truth, June 2011 was a just a brief flirtation; a false start. I dipped my toe in to see what twitter was all about but I didn’t immediately see the value. I only used it for a few days and then deleted the app for almost year, rejoining in earnest in May 2012 at the same time that I started this blog. I remember thinking that a handle had to be something other than your name. I tried ‘Saya guru’ which means ‘I am a teacher’ in Indonesian.. but that was already taken. Eventually I settled for headguruteacher which now seems ludicrous but at the time I didn’t really think anyone but me would really see it. Then it stuck for while.

In that first month, before I learned to control notifications, my Blackberry (remember them?) pinged every time one of the handful of famous people I followed tweeted – I remember waking up to find Brian Cox had had breakfast – or some such thing. I deleted it thinking it was all a bit crap. However, I had already had a go at tweeting:

It appears that I went for some cheesy pontification, nice and early:

I’m pleased to see that politicians’ poor grasp of basic stats provided an early target:

I was also exploring the nicely down-to-earth area of marking, referencing my own lessons. I remember it being a very large backlog of marking that was overdue….

And it’s great to have a record of one of my very first edutwitter interactions -with the wonderful @informed_edu, David Weston. We’re both still talking about the same issues now. David was one of the early users that inspired me to embrace twitter for professional reasons..

When I reached the milestone of 50K followers, in 2017, I wrote a blog reflecting on the use of twitter and my own rules of engagement. Edu-twitter Rules OK. I think I pretty much honour those rules now. With some protections in place, I find that the general spirit of edu-twitter is wonderful. There are so many enthusiastic, creative people sharing ideas, sharing resources, exchanging perspectives. Mainly, it’s a joy. It’s also, for me a lifeline. Nearly all of the working partnerships I’ve forged over the last few years have developed from twitter contacts – this is how I know people and how they know me. Twitter is my staffroom, my pigeonhole and my noticeboard – and I’m very grateful for it. Increasingly I love how international it is and how easily it allows people in any role within education to communicate without barriers of status or location or editorial approval from someone else.

Over the last 10 years, twitter has certainly developed as an app. It’s much better now – with better protections and more tools to help curate your timeline. Thank goodness for ‘mute this conversation’! That was a game-changer. You just don’t need to fret about being tagged into something you’d rather not be. I’m also now firmly converted to the 280 limit after being very dubious about the change from 140. It works. It feels normal. I’ve also got over the Star/Favourite being replaced by Heart/Like. I think the threading features are really good too. I don’t create too many threads – still prefer blogging by far- but I enjoy reading those well-crafted extended bits of reasoning that people contribute.

For a while I explored using a deck – Hootsuite – because of the way it could make streams for different hashtags and lists – but hashtags don’t have the role they once did and the twitter app’s lists feature deals with curated streams now so I haven’t used the deck for years and will probably never return to it.

I’ve thought about making a list of people who I enjoy following but really it’s too long and changeable – and potentially divisive, as various other people’s lists have proven. However I do like checking my chirpty.com circles – which reflect the people you actually engage with at a particular time, rather than any constructed list of recommended follows; it just tells you how it is. Here are two from this today and about a year ago. If you can recognise their images, you can spot the regulars in my timeline.

I follow over 4000 people which has the advantage of diluting any one particular individual or group or theme – it’s nicely varied. This does, however, mean that you miss most of what most people have shared. It makes me laugh when people ask if you saw their tweet last week… as if! I turn on, scroll down 20-30 tweets from a stream of 1000s and that’s it. Tweets are transient; ephemeral. But, happily lists help to create focus and I often dive into my my edu-commentary list or my Monkey Cage list for a more filtered read. I’ve also found the fact that you can list people without following them helpful in some circumstances. It means you choose when to engage or not.

If I were to add some additional features to twitter they would include:

  • An option to never see fleets. I’m just not interested in those things at all and would rather never see them – to be it’s just an annoying row of circles at the top the app that I could happily live without.
  • An option to deselect people who can DM me within people I follow. One of my bug-bears is when people DM with something negative or personal and I’d rather not give them that option – it’s my space, and I’d like more subtle control over it. Currently, it’s one of my ‘one strike’ rules – unsolicited negative DM = unfollow/mute etc.
  • Longer videos. The 2:20 limit seems unnecessary – you can’t fit a whole song in and sometimes a more extended bit of input that plays in twitter, not on youtube, would be nice to share.
  • Notifications for quote tweets. I don’t really understand why you seem to get notifications for RTs but apparently not QTs – especially when people use them interchangeably. I miss quite a lot of responses from people who think I’ll see their QT reply – but I don’t.
  • A five-second edit feature or a ‘check before you send’ message – I don’t want to go back and re-invent old tweets, but something to allow for typo-correction would be neat!

An aspect of twitter life I’ve been more accepting of recently is that I’m not thick-skinned enough to allow it to be a source of aggro. My toleranc is for almost literally none. So, if I get any from anyone, I remove them. One strike and you’re out. I want it to be a friendly supportive place to get ideas and share things so, in order to curate the twitter I enjoy, I’ve got block and mute lists of 100+ accounts. If I look down those lists, it’s just a horrible reminder of the snipers, the sneerers, the bullies, trolls and jeerers and rude people I have no interest in. Life’s too short – and it’s not as if, in real life, I don’t engage in challenging conversations with other people. I get my ideas challenged all the time – so I don’t need it from a random stranger off the internet or someone who decides they operate on a higher moral plane to me. (Some people really love to judge!) If people don’t respect what you do or only ever engage to offer their personal critique – assuming you need and deserve to receive their review – I hit the mute button. Bye! Anonymous snipers get blocked – twitter spam as far as I’m concerned. Not brave enough to say who you are and be accountable but brave enough to dish it out? No thanks – grow up! Occasionally I pick up that there’s been another twitter spat or pile-on – but I rarely actually see them happen because it turns out I’ve muted nearly everyone involved. I like it better that way. My feeling is that if someone in education tweets something I privately roll my eyes at or has produced a document I think is a bit crap… they really don’t need my opinion or a bunch of strangers putting them in the stocks of shame for it. I might draft those knee-jerk tweets but I don’t send them.

Every time I pass a biggish milestone of followers, I’m astonished by how far twitter can reach but I tell myself it won’t last. One day, we’ll have moved to another platform. Twitter will be MySpace. But maybe that’s wrong.. it looks like it’s here to stay for the next decade at least. I’m happy about that. It’ll see me through the rest of my working life… people will know where to find me and I won’t have to learn new tricks! I’m grateful for it and like it how it is! Big big thanks to everyone who makes the community we share so great.

The exception is of course for music.. it’s still hilarious just how bad twitter is for sharing music. Almost nobody is really interested.. But, just in case, here you go:

St Jude Vapour Trails. Album Released!

Between 2003 and 2010 I recorded some songs with my friend and former colleague Tom Andrew-Power.  We called ourselves St Jude.  I played the music and Tom wrote all the words and sings.  We recorded some songs in a studio with producer Adam Fox who also plays several instruments on certain songs.  Recently I discovered…

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