Friday, July 22, 2011

Flowing With the Twitter Stream

"Like drinking from a fire hose."
"Can't keep up."
"My head hurts."

Scan the stream of any tweetchat and you'll find these comments, generally but not exclusively made by those new to this form of online conversation.

What stuns people at first is the sheer volume of tweets and the rapidity of which they flow...flood. Instant messages between two people -- so tidy! Tweetchats -- so not tidy!

During a tweetchat it's normal to have 20 or more people sharing thoughts plus re-tweeting what others have posted. These tweets and RTs show up as swiftly as the API can deliver them. The effect can be staggering.

And then, there's dealing with what seem to be wildly disparate disconnected content. Even those experienced in the wild ways of chatting on Twitter have been known to ask, midway through a chat, "What's the topic?" 

Cue up Archangel Gabriel . . .

Do not be afraid.

Yes, this takes some getting used to, but tweetchats do get easier if you commit to simply going with the Twitter stream flow:
  • Do not worry about reading every tweet; read the transcript afterward. 
  • Do get into the practice of using the TweetChat interface, which lets you adjust refresh speed and pause the stream.
  • Do not think of this as a formal assembly.
  • Do think of this as a dinner party with lots of smart passionate people; choose a few to focus on until you get used to the pace.
  • Do not give up until you've tried the above for a number of chats.
  • Do have fun learning from others and sharing what you know.
Me? I track the conversation and participate by keeping TweetChat, Tweetdeck, and the web interface open across two monitors. I also eat lots dark chocolate.

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