I am one year into the "Twitter experiment."  This was my second attempt at trying to use Twitter, and this attempt so far has lasted about 10-months longer than the first.  I came back to Twitter as a learning experience while attending ASTD TK11 in San Jose, CA one year ago this week.  I wanted to give Twitter one more try, and to experience the back channel communication from Twitter.

Twitter is my professional PLN.  I have included a couple news sources, and a couple hockey people that I follow.  However, the list of people I follow and who follow me are primarily around my professional interests.

Here are some lessons learned:


You can meet some great people online:

Over the last year, I have renewed several professional relationships, some with people I had lost touch with.  Twitter has allowed quick communication with these associates again.  In addition, I have met a lot of new people who, often on a daily (sometimes hourly) bases share a wealth of knowledge.  Finally, I was fortunate enough to get to know Terrence Wing a little more through Twitter.  I'd met Terrence previously, at an ASTD event and he was one of the reasons I came back to Twitter.  Terrence passed on December 1, 2011 – his passing was a loss to his family and his professional friends and acquaintances.

The PLN, it is a Fire Hose of Information:

Twitter is the primarily technology to support my personal learning network (PLN).  On a daily basis it provides a fire hose of new resources and ideas.  A day doesn't go by that I don't learn something new from engaging people on Twitter.  If my Evernote account is any indication, I am apparently adigital hoarder as well.  Other tools that power my PLE include YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook, a variety of blogs, and other resources – more often than not, Twitter drives me to these other sources.

Snark and Dry Humor Doesn't Translate Well Digitally:

People have known that emotion doesn't translate well within an email.  It translates even less within the confines of 140-characters.  Fortunately, I have met people who surpass even me on the occasional snark-meter, like Social Media for Trainers author Dr. Jane Bozarth, and semantic web guru Reuben Tozman.

140-Characters Forces You to Refine Your Message:

Twitter requires that you be pithy… 140 characters is not a lot of space to develop and communicate a thought.  It takes awhile to get good at it, and I am definitely not there yet.  Thankfully there are services like bit.ly that shorten links – giving more space for your idea.  Unfortunately, Twitter purchased TweetDeck and killed the Deckly linking method for longer Tweets.

Choose Who You Follow Wisely, and Use Lists:

Building your PLN is probably the toughest part about getting into Twitter.  My process was eased by starting at a conference.  My recommendation, follow people who actively tweet and are tweeting about your interests.  Your PLN can be there to support a hobby, your professional career, or other interests.  Because of this – use lists to help segregate these streams.  Lists will also make your Twitter feed easier to read.  One way to figure out who to follow, is identify people that you are interested in – then see who they follow and who follows them.  I generally look at the last few days of tweets from someone, if there is nothing of value, no follow.  Also, some Twitter users are militant about not allowing followers who block their tweets… and one person has often said – "That isn't what the Twitter is about."

Embrace Mobile:

I hardly use Twitter on a computer, except to review links that were shared.  90% of my Twitter access is done with a mobile device – iPhone or iPad.  I use the "favorites" feature to bookmark a tweet that I need to view on a regular computer.  This workflow gives me an on demand PLN.