Monday, January 12, 2009

Mobilizing Twitter

A while back, I commented about my slowness to get hip to Twitter, the microblogging app so popular with journalists and industry "insiders" these days. To a certain extent, I get the idea easily enough: 140 characters (almost) instantaneously blasted to a feed, which can be tapped via visitation to a webpage or, better yet, received via mobile device.

Thus, I've heard that some media outlets swarm an event with Tweeting journalists covering "all sides of the story." Their disparate perspectives become integrated into a single space. Moreover, as the Mumbai attacks illustrate, anyone with a useful Twitter feed can contribute even more than a credentialed journalist. So, yeah, I think that Twitter is worth thinking about. That's why I've decided to experiment a little by setting up three Twitter feeds.

The first one - highway163 - is a personal feed for pals who might be interested in what I'm posting to Facebook, what I'm reviewing at Yelp, what I'm watching via Netflix, and what missives I post to Blogger. I use Friendfeed to grab that material and send it to Twitter, particularly since entries that exceed the 140 character limit are automatically shortened, with the excess being transformed into a tiny URL. What's cool about Friendfeed is the site's ability to grab text from dozens of my sites, plucking them all for my Twitter feed.

The second one - profandy - is a faculty feed for my students who might want an instant update of changes to class location, delays, or other time sensitive info. I've arranged that feed up to flow from my mobile phone. So if I'm stuck in a massive traffic jam on Highway 17, I can send a text to inform my students. Right now, only visitors to the feed page could access that information, but I plan to start inviting students to subscribe to the feed via their mobile phones (reminding them that (a) I won't send any but the most time sensitive messages and (b) standard SMS charges apply).

The third one - omnitopia - is an idea-feed related to my omnitopia research. This is potentially my most promising use of Twitter. When City Ubiquitous hits the shelves, I'll post that Twitter feed to review sites, listservs, responses to omnitopia-related emails, and my blog (which includes a section dedicated to my last five omnitopia Tweets, thanks to the Twitter Badge feature). Then as I come across interesting news items, article references, photos, YouTube videos, and the like, I'll post Tweets. To send the content, I've set up a Twidget module on my Mac's dashboard for the text and a Flickr dropbox in my dock to add pix (sending images to the feed via Twittergram).

The goal with this third feed is "stickiness," inviting readers to stay engaged with omnitopia, commenting on it, adding to it, and (ideally) sharing it with friends in their own networks. Enhanced book sales is one goal, but a meaningful conversation about omnitopia is even more important.

Using Facebook for personal stuff, my mobile phone for time-sensitive classroom stuff, and my desktop for omnitopia stuff just may help me avoid confusing the streams. The next step is to develop the kind of content that inspires people to subscribe and return. I may take some time to think about this a future post.


detroit dog said...

Wow. This is making me dizzy. Remember to come up for air!


Anonymous said...

um, andy, have you noticed that your students-only feed looks a lot like 'profanity'?

highway163 said...

I've noticed it NOW! :-)

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, Andy, does your university value all this digital work in their Tenure and Promotion criteria?

highway163 said...

"Value" is hard to quantify. I'm certain that the official answer is "yes" - that my efforts to share my work in a broader public sphere are recognized.

However, I sought tenure (and currently, promotion) with the assumption that my peer reviewed essays and published books would make the difference, that I'd better be plenty active in traditional forms of academic writing.

And, of course, service and teaching contribute greatly to the final decision.