'The qualities that make Twitter seem inane and half-baked...

by tosca on Friday, June 25, 2010

...are what makes it so powerful'
~ Jonathan Zittrain (Professor of Internet Law at Harvard)

Twitter is not everybody's cup of tea and nor should it be, but neither is it the demon that some people believe it is. Your own personal experience of twitter is all down to you. It is as meaningful as you make it. It is as much a business tool as you want it to be. It is as useful as you allow it to be. It can be as lighthearted or as serious as you are.It's a blank slate just begging to be utilised. And utilised properly. Is your experience a crap one? Then you're following crap tweeters. I'm sorry - that's as nicely blunt as I can ever be. I've said it before and I'll say it again: make sure you have a healthy ego before putting your library staff through web 2.0 because you will need it. Yeah, it's Friday so technically this is my Ms. Cranky McRanty Pants post and I'm going to do what I said I wouldn't - I'm going to use my blog to respond to our staff who found the web 2.0 twitter exercise to be so much bunkum. And I'm taking the kid gloves off.

9 weeks ago our staff started our revamped web 2.0 tutorial. We rolled out 23 Things 2 years ago and wow did it cause some amount of consternation (note my diplomacy, yeah I can practise it sometimes). This time around, heavily revamped, we rolled it out again, this time it's 6 activities in 10 weeks covering an even mix of 2.0 work/2.0 fun tasks. One of the things we kept hearing last time was that it should have been more relevant to our everyday tasks - my fun job (ok, being slightly sarcastic) was to figure out how to incorporate that ideal. For the most part the feedback has been positive, although some issues will probably always crop up: sites being blocked, being able to use a learn.net pc and finding time during the working week to get to the tasks seem to be the most common. Two of the things I asked staff to do were to sign up to Twitter and Facebook in order to check out how other libraries use these tools and suggest methods we can adapt and use ourselves. A very small few opted to boycott. As the daughter of a former 1960s/1970s Maori radical a part of me stands up and cheers for that. And the other practical side of me says, 'How do you expect to help our patrons when they ask about it if you haven't experienced it first hand and have no idea what it is, what's it for and how it works?' For that I thank Facebook for amending their privacy policies thereby hitting international headlines and generally making our staff leery of registering with them *rolls eyes* and Twitter for only showing them the bad side of what can actually be a very fun tool. Next week, assuming I'm not feeling ratty, I may address the issue of Facebook, but for tonight I'm starting with Twitter.

Quite a few found it useless and irrelevant and, while I tried not to take it personally, it made me a tad bit grumpy. For very personal reasons. I maintain our work tweetstream. So what? So when you say it is useless, irrelevant, a time waster, inane, full of rubbish etc. you are by default saying that what I do is useless, what I do is irrelevant, that I waste time, that my job is inane and full of rubbish. And, by association, you are saying that our customers who follow us are all of the above as well. Is that really what you meant? If it were a Mills & Boon novel would you make that same value judgement about a customer who wanted to take it out? I don't want you to fall in love with it, marry it, breed with it and raise devil spawn with it - hell, no. That's just insane. But I do expect you to give it a try and THEN critically assess it. Test the hell out of it until its wheels fall off and THEN tell me it sucks to hell and back. When you tell me to get stuffed - and it's ok if you do - I will respect you a whole helluva lot more when you know what you're talking about ;) When you opt to diss it without knowing what it can truly do you've only half done your job. It's ok to not like it, we're not all going to like the same things, but your opinion carries more authority when it's backed with a little knowledge. We are professionals, we give professional advice all day, everyday - this should be no different.

As to the quality of what shows up in your tweetstream, that is all down to you. Why are you on Twitter? What are you passionate about? What do you want to hear? Who do you want to hear from? What motivates you? Which authors do you like? What newspapers do you like to read? Which news stations do you follow? How you answer these questions can go a long way toward making your twitter experience a pleasurable or painful one. Seriously, if you don't like people who tweet for the sake of tweeting (and as an example I would point out my personal tweetstream - I tweet anything and everything because I'm that kind of person and I would say that if you don't like that, don't follow, and if that's not the kind of relationship you want with Twitter then avoid people like me!) don't go near them. Pretend they're a sexually transmitted disease you never, ever want to catch (I say that like there might be kinds you DO want to catch, geez).

Why do I like twitter? At first glance it may seem inane but if you really believe that then you're letting appearances fool you. You've judged the book by its cover. What's in it for me? Information, information, information: book blog links, upcoming events, title recommendations, author recommendations, book buzz in general, chat with authors, chat with other readers, national/international library initiatives, publishing world news, news in general, awareness of issues...I could go on but I won't. To the staff who gave it a bash and then told me it sucked - I SALUTE YOU! To the staff who who tried it and didn't like it - AWESOME! To the staff who took it for a test drive and didn't see the point of it - YAY! That's not sarcasm. The spirit of web 2.0 is about exploring and you did exactly that. To the staff who think it's crap and, by association, so is my job and our customers who follow us, I forgive you. Because you've either had a bad experience OR you're just doing it wrong.

I started my post with this and I'll end with it, too: Twitter is not everybody's cup of tea and nor should it be, but neither is it the demon that some people believe it is. (Image courtesy of The Great Wahl).


lol i love a good rant entry! me and twitter have a meh meh lazy relationship. sometimes i tweet (on my personal account) but mostly i am too lazy to check my follow stream, which renders it kinda useless due to me lol.
i'm trying to revive my fleeting interest (the last time i was tweeting regularly was june last year...) by sorting out the daily feed to my lj. truth is, not many of my friends or associates tweet, and i am such a feedback reliant person :p (btw i'll be following you in a sec i think.)

by icanhasblogburger on June 26, 2010 at 3:58 AM. #

I <3 twitter and use it for all the reasons you mentioned in your post. But it seems I am fighting a losing battle to get the library I work for to tweet/facebook/use social media at all at present. I had a conversation last night with a couple of colleges about Twitter in particular and their response was overwhelmingly negative. I am yet to find out what management think but I guess if nothing has been put in place, that shows their response? And as just a lowly library assistant I have absolutely no ability to change people's opinions/instigate change.

Sorry, rant over.

by Anonymous on June 26, 2010 at 7:35 PM. #

Wowee! Helluva post, Tosca - I had to tweet it!

by Robin on June 26, 2010 at 8:35 PM. #

Oh baby, I love your tweets! How your colleagues could not see the value in what you do beats me ...

by Anonymous on June 26, 2010 at 10:18 PM. #

Would love to know what your users think of your 2.0 efforts - as librarians it shouldn't matter what you do or don't like as long as it works for the customers. So are they getting into your tweets and finding them useful ways to connect with your services and collections?

by Anonymous on June 26, 2010 at 10:19 PM. #

@icanhasblogburger - oohh it's you! We have to stop meeting like this LOL One of the best things about Twitter is that you can have a meh meh relationship with it and it will still respect you in the morning ;) My tweetstream is crazy busy/eclectic and I absolutely love it for that alone (although if I'm honest I'll admit that I can't keep up with it). Anytime I'm in need of a giggle or to vent or catch up on news/gossip I login and, when I've had enough, I walk away. Half of the time I get the idea I'm tweeting to myself but you know I think I'm ok with that LOL

@Anonymous #1 - welcome and please to rant! Seriously, this is an open forum and I have no concerns about ppl choosing to rant - either for or against me - because a post struck a chord. I'm lucky in that my boss is a forward thinking kinda guy and he gives me a lot of free rein so the handling of our Facebook page and tweetstream are, for the most part, my responsibility *blinks* Which could have been dangerous but actually works out really well LOL They're there and if ppl opt to follow us and stay informed then more power to them. And if they don't then that's all right, too. It's a pity that the naysayers can't see that it's not about pushing yourselves into people's spaces, it's about giving them more ways in which to be aware of your services. The last time we rolled out web 2.0 something clicked in my mind - we were doing ourselves and our customers a disservice by summarily dismissing any and all users who chose not to access us physically. By concentrating merely on those who actually visit the community branches we had marginalised a whole segment of our community. Not maliciously or even with serious intent - it just happened. Some staff are still resistant to my peddling our wares via social media and some aren't. They are more aware of it, though, and in context will promote our tweetstream/Bebo/Facebook pages and that to me is a huge step forward. Would it help if you suggested that they let you trial it? You keep stats for a month or so (count how many ppl click page links, who responds to your tweets, followers, fans etc.) and they can assess its 'worth' (I hate that value judgement) at the end of that period? I'd also recommend that if you enjoy these forms of social media that it be you who undertakes it and not them - ppl tweeting for the hell of tweeting (that 'obligatory' vibe) are motherfakers and who ever truly appreciates them? Do you have a digital department? If so, you could try emailing/speaking to one of them and getting them on board. Or you could prepare a report and look into the pros and cons of it - but be aware that you may end up doing that in your own time *sigh*. In fact, I'd recommend that if your management are about numbers then you take that route. You know who you should look up? Other NZer tweeting librarians and, off the top of my head I can only name two (I know, shame!): @bobinrob and @MagLib and see what policies they have in place and what reports they might have had to prepare. Oh, my apologies for the long comment LOL You could also suggest that your management contact other libraries who tweet (sounds like a self-help book 'Libraries who tweet') and pose any questions/concerns to them. Definitely let me know how it goes!

@Robin: Thank you for the RT :) I said I was taking the kid gloves off but really I didn't, or I did but not in a ghetto way LOL It was, for me, quite diplomatic but no less impassioned.

by catatonia on June 26, 2010 at 10:26 PM. #

@Anonymous #2: I'm the worst tweeter I know for all sorts of crap. I would classify my personal tweetstream as spam LOL I would not recommend to any of our staff that they follow me. It would totally justify all of that negative crap they already feel about Twitter. Our work tweetstream, however, is another matter. It's solid - informative links, lighthearted messages and we respond to all queries/replies in a timely manner.

@Anonymous #3: For the most part the feedback is extremely good for most of the 2.0 tasks they've been set - probably because we narrowed it down to 6 rather than 23 this time around. But Facebook and Twitter are, I think, always going to cause some kickback. I accept that they're not everybody's preferred method of social engagement so I'm really pleased that a lot of them are now aware of what it involves, what it can do and how it can be utilised to promote our services. Even better, some of them are prepared to talk it up to our customers should the situation arise (I'm guessing that's what they mean by 'in context'). A lot of them are following us still, although whether or not they read their streams is another matter entirely LOL I have had a couple email me and ask me to tweet certain events happening at their branches. I'm celebrating the successes where I can find them ;)

by catatonia on June 26, 2010 at 11:19 PM. #

This will probably sound really terrible like I'm generalising (which I don't want, seeing as I'm about to suggest a lot of the naysayers are also generalising - but hopefully you get what I mean..), but the trend I've noticed from reading the blogs and just talk around the place, is a lot of the negativity is coming from a slightly older generation (not even very "old" folks either) who seem to glance at twitter and associate it with teenage shallowness and instantly write it off.

It's somewhat narrow minded, and I can understand how disappointing (to put it lightly) it must be for you to get a reaction based on snap judgements rather than a more thoughtful, researched point of view.

For me I just feel too lazy to keep up with another website full of info (I get my updates on people, events, causes via facebook). Once in a while when I log into twitter I do enjoy having a good laugh though.. some of the people I follow are freakishly awesome \m/

by Anonymous on June 28, 2010 at 8:34 PM. #

@Anonymous #4 I meant to respond to this post and then got caught up in work and packing things to shift. My bad! The terribly good thing about generalisations is that they usually contain a kernel of truth. You'd be dead right in saying that it's some of the 'older thinking' (rather than 'older' in age) staff who hate Twitter with a vengeance. I get this comment a lot: I prefer to talk to people in person. Or even: This is for people who have no life. Or how about this one: What's wrong with picking up a phone? Which peeves me no end because, weirdly, I can tweet, phone, Facebook, email, blog and talk to people in person and still lead a relatively full and busy life doing other offline things, too. Yeah, I did want them to treat this as play but with a great deal of thought behind it. I wanted them to honestly see how this could work for customer's too. I'm glad to say that, for the most part, I did get that - which I'm also extremely grateful for. Some days it does feel like you're out there rowing your own waka (how's that for a kiwi-ism heh) but for the ones who get it or who approach it with an open mind and then naysay it, they make my day ;)

by catatonia on August 3, 2010 at 8:55 PM. #

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