Twitter: My go-to learning network

Posted on June 13, 2012

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A lot of folks who connect with me in the online world know I’m a pretty big fan of Twitter. That wasn’t always the case.

When I first signed on to Twitter in September 2007, I was skeptical about its value, but I thought I’d give it a whirl anyway. About 10 months later, as I prepared to post my thousandth tweet, I had warmed up to the platform, and even back then it had become my favorite form of connecting with people online.

I lauded Twitter’s attributes: “It’s mobile, it’s easy, and it’s flexible, even amorphous, in that individuals can fit it to just about any purpose, personal or vocational. It’s also fun.” I called it “the Seinfeld of social networking: a social network about nothing.”

“Maybe that’s why it’s so popular,” I wrote. “We all gather around — all the Jerrys, Georges, Elaines and Kramers and, yes, even Neuman — to chit-chat about nothing. It worked for Seinfeld. Why not for Twitter?”

But Twitter is not a social network about nothing. It has become my go-to network for learning, discovery and information-sharing.

I was reminded of Twitter’s value by a recent blog post — discovered via Twitter, of course (thanks to John Dupuis). The post is by Nigel Cameron, the president of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies. Cameron calls Twitter tomorrow’s knowledge network, even though for many of us, it’s the knowledge network of today.

Cameron cites two great values of Twitter, and I agree with both of them:

1. Twitter as research tool. Cameron follows people he sees as “key thinkers and doers and scanners of every possible horizon, who funnel their best finds and their smartest comments to me: every day, all the time, and for no cost. The value added to my thinking is so immense I find it impossible to think of reverting to other modalities of gathering intelligence and intelligent commentary.” Twitter “gives me daily 100x what I could ever get from a research staff. And it comes pre-curated by people of whatever level of skill and judgment I choose.”

For me, Twitter is more of a learning, knowledge and information-sharing network. I’m not always there to conduct research, but like Cameron, I follow hundreds of fellow twitterers who provide a vast wealth of knowledge and learning resources on subjects that interest me, both professionally and personally.

2. Twitter as 24/7 cocktail party. Here, Cameron’s view more closely aligns with my July 2008 view of Twitter as Seinfeld episode. “This vast research staff is also quaffing cocktails and engaged in constant chit-chat,” Cameron writes. “In some respects it’s more like a game of enhanced frisbee. Person A passes to B — we can all see; B then adds some comment (expert, snark, both . . .) and on to C. Hey, who’s C? I take a look. C is fascinating; gets added to my staff of researchers and advisers forthwith. Not sure I agree with B, so I push back and offer a comment. And I thank A for sharing something important. Who can tell what A will do? A often responds, and we exchange. B passes on my comment (very common on Twitter, whether it’s complimentary or not) to his/her followers. C wonders who I am who now follows him/her and may decide to follow back. On it flows.”

You know, Seinfeld was never really a show about nothing. Likewise, Twitter is not a social network about nothing.

Perhaps Twitter is more like the mullet of social networks: business in the front (research, learning, etc.), party in the back. Except I hate mullets.

Enough with the forced analogies. For me, Twitter simply is the most valuable of social networks.

What about you?

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