Advent calendar – Twits a wonderful life

Where are we with Twitter and Intute? The subject of the today’s advent calendar post.

Twitter is the word of the year for 2009 according to some and the Google Zeitgeist for 2009 says that it is the fastest growing search term of the year. How has providing a status update of just 140 characters taken over the online world and does it have any relevance to academia?

Here at Intute we have been experimenting with Twitter for some time, in fact here is a visual representation of what we have been Tweeting about over the last year:

That seems like a pretty fair summary of the sort of websites that Intute adds to the catalogue and the topics that Intuters have a professional interest in.

Has Twitter had an impact? Clearly, it has …

  • Nearly 10,000 followers across the 20 Intute Twitter channels
  • Twitter is in the top 20 for websites bringing users to Intute
  • Those visitors stay on the site twice as long as users from Google

… and on a personal level, I have been asked to write articles, speak at events and contribute to projects as a result of the connections that I’ve made using Twitter – even using some of those connections to come up with content for my presentations.

Twitter in Twenty Twinutes

However, it is important to have a sense of realism about Twitter.

The Farmville application on Facebook has more users than Twitter and as with many Web 2.0 applications, there is a danger that it is just people who like technology, talking to other people who like technology, about how great technology is – ie preaching to the converted.

What’s the role for Twitter in academia?

UK Universities are experimenting with Twitter feeds and are starting to promote them as ways of receiving real time information about services.

Twitter can be used to amplify conferences and events, but there are dangers to having an uncontrolled backchannel of communication.

Teaching with Twitter is not for the faint hearted, but there is potential for it to enhance the student experience and to provide real time feedback to teachers.

We are still at the stage of experimenting and looking for potential uses for Twitter. Online evangelists will need to realise that the vast majority of University activities will carry on perfectly well without being Tweeted about and probably always will.

What’s next for Twitter?

Recent innovations from Twitter include a new mobile interface to compete with the plethora of mobile apps produced by others, the ability to compile lists of users so you can collate Twitterers into topics or groups of friends and an inline ReTweet function that has upset many users.

What happens with Twitter in 2010 is difficult to predict. Feature creep may dilute the simple joys of sharing how you feel, the hype may die down and Twitter could genuinely become part of the mainstream of online life or this time next year, we could all be wondering that happened to Twitter?.

Related posts

Intute features more Internet resources relating to Twitter and a list of all the Intute Twitter channels is available.