My name is Shannon and I used to be a twitter chat addict.
Seriously, it was nothing to participate on some level in no less than three twitter chats a week. All usually, “learning” related.
However, there is something happening with the state of twitter chats that is making me less engaged than in years past, and has put me in a bit of a conundrum. In this two-part post, I am going to tackle the biggest issues I feel are affecting twitter chats today. First, the organization of chats and secondarily addressing the topic of participation. I hope you will share your thoughts on this post in the comments below – you never know, you may see your name in “Part Two”!
The concept of chats.
Today as I glance over to my phone – activity abounds, I’m getting the notifications and pings from my twitter network. Then it occurs to me that I am not really seeing anything new pop up. Nothing that makes me think I am missing out. What’s happening in the world of twitter chats today? (If you are new to the concept of a twitter chat check out my slideshare on “Travel Guide to Twitter Chats“.)
To me this sheds light on a bigger question. (Now bear with me, the context of this post can be applied to all manner of group chats, not just twitter – so read on.)
I follow several chats, but what purpose do they serve? Are they for debate? For learning? For the patting of one’s own back to validate our intelligence? To prove how evolved our thoughts have become?
Do we use chats for increased knowledge? For increased personal awareness? For increased personal or professional branding? To remind people we are relevant, and therefore what we say is important?
All of the above, none of the above, some of the above? I’d like to propose an idea for those of you are also wondering about the state of twitter chats (or chats in general).
Perhaps it’s me, getting older and more cynical (or perhaps not enough caffeine today); but a few twitter chats that I used to participate in, now bore me. Chats for better or worse, have become like late-night shows filled with actors looking to plug their latest work or thought piece without regard to the real conversation. It is time to evolve the community around the chats and I am starting with myself. How do I interact with the chats? Am I thoughtful? Do I add value? Hmmm. More on this later.
Now before everyone starts getting all protective of their favorite chat, let me say this first. I hear you. My point of view is coming from a place of thinking there is an opportunity to take chats to the next level. To create more value, where an hour after the chat I’m still thinking about the topic and what I learned. I participated in two chats and “lurked” in another last week. For one of them, I had to do a twitter search to remind me of the topic. Unfortunately, this is not an abnormal occurrence.
I am not saying to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. What I am advocating is to stop being so predictable in our L&D conversations. Twitter chats used to make me think. They made me look at the industry in a different light. Made me want to be a better professional and set fire to my curiosity.
Sure, it’s great connecting with your peers in chats, it’s my favorite thing. However, #SpoilerAlert twitter is open 24/7. Beyond “talking” with my peers, I’m finding chat groups to be repetitious. Redundancy is becoming the norm. Have we run out of interesting topics? On any given day there is an L&D twitter chat where you can have a great drinking game built on the same answers to tired questions. I am seeing the same conversations and the same tweets day in and day out, in most of the L&D related chat groups. Don’t get me wrong, chats are very important to growth of learning and development and in no way am I saying the conversation needs to stop. It’s this writers opinion that chats require a new paint job.
If we want deep thought, ask deep questions. #JustSaying. Now, there may be some of you who want to tell me to put my money where my mouth is. My response (for now) is the world doesn’t need another L&D related twitter chat. There are several from which to choose during any given week, all moderated by brilliant people. I am suggesting we need to revamp our thinking.
Here’s one thought – (for any group or chat regardless if it’s twitter based). Build an occasional theme. Chats lately have felt very random, so therefore are not very deep. Perhaps the very nature of twitter is in it’s randomness – or in the moment feel, but I like to connect my learning too. We could learn from social media managers and build an events calendar. I can look at the calendar and perhaps actually black out dates for a specific chat – the one I do not want to miss! I would also know when one is not scheduled at all for some reason and so on. Included are call backs to previous chats creating connections in the learning, and would then allow for deepening questions. We have forgotten the one thing on which we all agree, in order to learn, one must be allowed to reflect and think. Granted, a twitter chat is fast and furious, but that doesn’t mean the questions should be shallow. Perhaps you start with 8 questions but because the topic is being debated you adjust to 5 or the other way around – we may want deeper questions but we don’t want lag time. Which leads me to…
It has become a trend where the moderator is also part of the audience. While this is not terrible, I think if a moderator is trying to come up with an answer to his own question he may be missing other activity (or lack thereof). I would like to see the moderator do more at guiding conversations and creating debate. The moderator should be responsible for pointing out great comments and providing redirection. “Hey, @Foodcoloring what do you think of @AuntSally response to how the color green makes people hungry?” When chats are fast and furious (and focused on the “regulars”) we lose track of new brilliance. A good moderator sees this and addresses the issue. Not unlike a teacher always calling on Billy because he has his hand up first. Moderators know how to spread the wealth and help make learning connections. This is especially important for the bigger more populated chats which can be hijacked by regulars who are always ready with the “right” answers, the troll, the squeaky wheel or promoter. As an aside – One should not be allowed to link to their own work during a chat. Party foul.
Your Turn. Share your thoughts.
What are the responsibilities of the participant? This goes beyond the normal chat etiquette, but as self-directed, socially minded gatherers of knowledge, what is our role? How can we make chats be an even more important part of our knowledge man
Now I throw this back to you. Put on your rose-colored glasses and let’s not be media specific. If you were going to improve on a chat, twitter or otherwise – what would you do? Share your comments below.
Have a think on that, and I’ll see you next week.
If you want to further share your thoughts on twitter chats, here is a post and video for you check out on the topic of “A Chat on Twitter Chats” for #Ozlearn
Part 2 is live! See how your comments came to life!
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