Tweeting as a personal backchannel

I tried something “new” this past week and I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing it sooner.

I sat in on one of the many workshops we run for our Instructor cadre. Because I have an interest in the coaching function I decided it might prove interesting.

Because I already had Twitter open, instead of using something like Evernote directly, i thought, ‘why not make use of Twitter?’ I could jot down a few notes and add a hashtag and keep going.

While not a quantum shift, it is a potentially disruptive innovation in note-taking. In the same way that conference note-taking has become a public-facing backchannel, my approach opened up a generic topic to outside query or sharing. I liked the fact that I was immediately forced into a concise summary mode with 140 characters and because I have the RSS feed for my Twitter account saving to my Google Reader, the tweets are auto-archived. If I had also added the @myEN tag, I could have also saved critical tweets to Evernote (something I do when I save critical Tweets in my regular feed)

The one challenge with using Twitter is, of course, the hashtags. Because they are unregulated, you have to take come care with selecting one for your own use. One risk you also run is the relatively new technique of hashtag spamming. Some popular tags (e.g. #lrnchat) are now flooded with spam, rendering them largely unusable.

The final consideration in this technique is the material being discussed. A personal backchannel is good but consider whether or not you’re potentially disclosing information that should remain behind company doors. If that’s the case, tools like Yammer may be more appropriate than Twitter.

As with any other backchannel, it’s only worthwhile if you actually do something with the information. In my case Ie put together an internal summary for my colleague who was facilitating.

I’d be interested to hear of anyone else has tried this approach and what they thought.

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4 thoughts on “Tweeting as a personal backchannel

  1. I like the Evernote route, because you’ve got the digital capture along with the “flow control,” let’s call it.

    Because I’m an inveterate note-taker and a big user of outlining (for me, the single best feature in Word), I think I would tend to use a tool like that in the capture-for-coaching situation you describe. But that’s because I’m a pretty fast typing, and my desire (or what I think would be my desire) would be capture first, and reprocess afterward, even if in a few minutes before feedback.

    I do see a lot of value in Twitter’s 140-character limit, and enough people must agree, because I rarely see the so-called lengtheners. (I also tend to skip stuff that seems to use them.)

    Not as an argument against the practice, but as another point of view, in this kind of setting for me 140 characters would be too constraining a limit without an offsetting value. It’d be like saying I have to do your performance review in iambic pentameter.

    But as Ruud Hein says in his great article about using Evernote, I’m looking for low friction.

    • Thanks for the comments, Dave. I admit I like Evernote for things where I have time to formulate notes and lay out diagrams. I have a Wacom tablet that I used in grad school residency and it was a lifesaver. I also used it for collaborative sessions with clients in my last job. But for shorter sessions, because I’m frequently glued to my iPhone, I like Twitter in spite of its brevity limitations.

      FWIW, my wife shares your approach and types fairly quickly, so when she heads off to her own residency in July, she’ll be taking the Mac and typing away.

      Chacun a son gout, as the French say. 🙂

  2. Great post Mark. I do something similar with my tweets at conferences. If you use ifttt.com, you can easily set up a rule so that any tweets you post with a specific hash tag are added to a dedicated Evernote notebook. I do that with conferences, so that any of my tweets with the conference hash tag become a single dedicated Evernote notebook, and this become a shareable archive.

    • Thanks for the hint about managing through the site to dedicated Evernote notebooks. That will save me some time for sure. Glad you enjoyed the post. Was a little worried you might think I was stealing your thunder. 😉

      Looking forward to your session. I’ll have to pick up some tips if I want to remain the CSTD twitter champ!

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