Have you noticed the rise in commercials with a Twitter focus? Recent advertisements by Honda (full disclosure, I own one) is an irritating play on the hashtag element of Twitter. It’s unfortunate as hashtags are a clever device to differentiate tweets and categorize them into particular categories. For instance, if I want to read tweets that relate well to school administrators I’ll search for #cpchat (Connected Principals chat) or #edadmin. If I want to read about productivity, the hashtag is, not surprisingly, #productivity. Or, if I’m looking for ideas on iPad apps, I head to #ipaded. In fact, there’s a hashtag for nearly any interest in education. The most comprehensive list has been compiled by Jerry Blumengarten the “Cybrary Man”.
The history of hashtags in Twitter is fairly simple and while asterisks or ampersands could have filled that role, Chris Messina figured it all out in August 2007 when he wrote “how do you feel about using # (pound) for groups?”
One of the most useful recent uses of Twitter has been the rise of Twitter chats where participants agree to meet at a particular time and using a specific hashtag, they engage in conversation, 140 characters at a time. It’s a bit like a distinct channel.
Here is some advice if you want to get going with Twitter chats:
1. Find just the right chat. The best known list for educators is archived on a public Google Doc. It’s pretty exhaustive.
2. Use a program specifically designed for Twitter Chats. Generally, these web based programs parse the tweets under the hashtag you choose and provide a in-page tweet box that already includes the hashtag so that you don’t have to type it every time. My favorite is Twubs but you can find other choices in this piece by Wesley Fryer.
3. Have a second Twitter program on a tablet device or on a separate screen so that you can monitor specific replies or direct messages. It’s typical during chats that participants may communicate with you, with or without the hashtag.
4. Check out the hashtag ahead of the chat time so you can discover the general theme of the hashtag theme as well as the specific topic for the chat which is usually announced on the hashtag “channel”.
5. Depending on the popularity of the chat, you may find the flow to be too much. Fortunately, many chats are archived on a program such as Tweetbinder or Storify so that you can read the comments at your leisure. If you participated in the chat, you will likely receive a Twitter reply with a link.
6. The procedure for the chat is quite simple. Typically, the moderator will begin by asking everyone to introduce themselves with their name, location, and position. Then comes the first question, usually preceded by Q1 followed by Q2 for the second question, and so on. If you choose to reply (and you shouldn’t feel obliged to reply to every question) put A1, A2, etc. before your reply.
7. Try not to fill all 140 characters of your tweet so that others can easily re-tweet and not have to modify what your wrote. This is actually good advice for any tweet.
8. Twitter chats are effective ways to find who to follow. As chats create a community of sorts, I’ve found that most educators you follow on a chat will follow you back.
Part of my impetus for writing this piece is the announcement of a new Twitter chat: #edchatne or “Ed-Chat New England.” It debuts Tuesday night, August 6 at 7 PM.
I hope to see you at #edchatne. We welcome newbies.