Academic twittering: What I’ve learned from two months on Twitter

I’m a real late comer to Twitter, because the 140 character format always put me off and I didn’t really understand what the point was. A couple of months back I decided to give it a try, and haven’t regretted it at all. Here are some of my reflections so far on the use of Twitter for academic purposes.

What does Twitter add to the academic experience?

Support

There are a lot of lively communities and supportive hash tag feeds on Twitter for academic work, especially for PhD students. Here are some to check out: #phdchat, #phdforum, #phdadvice, #acwri, #socphd, #phdconf and #esrcphd.

You can also check out discipline specific hash tags, such as #anthropology, #sociology, #law or #economics.

In these feeds, you’ll also find links to a lot of resources on academic writing, how to use social media to promote your research, how to maximise the impact of your work, and how to develop your academic career.

Networking and collaboration

I’ve already connected with several academics, many working in fields related to my research interests. Most of the feeds outlined above have weekly or biweekly chat sessions, where academics get together to discuss a topic selected by members through an online voting process. This is a good forum for discussing different topics and connecting to others in your field.

Live news on academic issues

Twitter presents a convient way of keeping up to date on academic news originating from a broad range of sources. Create different lists according to your preferences, and get news about #highered from online magazines, leading academics, research councils and institutes, and higher education institutions.

For this to work well, you need to spend a bit of time organising the user names you are following, and categorising them into lists that are useful for you.

Technical support

A couple of times now, I’ve sent out some tweets asking for help on how to address questions I have about the apps I use for academic work. Within a couple of hours, the answers come back to me from the Twitter universe. It’s very convenient, and you can simply tap in to the massive amount of experiences and resources that the people on Twitter represent. It’s like an online version of karma – you contribute out to the community when you have something to share, and then something will (hopefully) come back your way when you need it.

For more on tweeting for academics, check out LSE’s guide to using Twitter in university research, teaching, and impact activities:

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2011/09/29/twitter-guide/

Apps for tweeting

After trying out the stock Twitter app, TweetDeck and TweetBot, I have settled on the latter for both mac and iPad. It’s feature packed, easy to navigate, helpfully suggests to auto complete hash tags and references to twitter user names, makes it easy to switch between different lists and hash tags, and has (in my opinion, this is of course very subjective) a nice user interface. Sync between mac and iPad is so far seamless. I miss the ability to easily swipe between different columns offered by TweetDeck, and I also miss the option of seeing retweets and new followers, which both TweetDeck and the stock Twitter app offer (on mac, you can ask TweetBot to send this information to your notifications, though). I’ve placed feature requests on both with TweetBot, and hoping they will eventually appear. An app I haven’t tested but which is getting excellent reviews is Twitterrific.

For those who’d like to connect, I can be found @iExpand.

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About macademise

I am a researcher working in the intersection of anthropology, learning and cognition.
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