top 2009 lesson: twitter is other people.

I’ll consider 2009 the year of Twitter. Not everyone would understand. Blame it on the input box originally saying What are you doing? Or blame Oprah. Or Ashton. Whatever the reason, the biggest misconception is that Twitter is all about *me*.

In reality, Twitter is all about other people. It’s about what they’re doing, not what I’m doing.

The first time you really use Twitter is not when you tell people what you’re doing (or having for lunch) — it’s when you ask someone about something they’re doing (or, if you prefer, having for lunch). Twitter is not a megaphone; it’s a telephone, a party line with hundreds of people listening and talking. It’s where people can share advice or help solve problems. It’s people turning others onto new music, new developments and, yes, new places to eat.

This year, I learned about the true community-building power of Twitter. Let me count the ways … or five ways, at least.

1. #pancaketweetup. What started as #wittybanter between @lanejoplin and I evolved into a monthly activity where dozens of people share a virtual breakfast. Our #pancaketweetup Facebook group boasts 72 members from across the world, and it now seems like every Web communications conference (most recently Stamats SIMTech) sprouts a real-life #pancaketweetup.

2. #lanesintown. Lane took front in center in this Twitter-related adventure, coming to Ithaca in an episode related to @mhaithaca sending her a Jimmy John’s sub after a tweet about how she missed the distinctive sandwich. Did I mention this weekend included a real-life #pancaketweetup too?

3. The Higher Ed Music Critics Top 100 of the 2000s. Mastermind @andrewcareaga tapped a half-dozen music-minded tweeps (this one included) to count down the Top 100 albums of the decade. Andy and some other participants had previously introduced me to some of the albums I put on the list, most notably The Avett Brothers’ I And Love And You (my album of the year). Twitter probably drove my music purchases more than anything in 2009.

4. The Higher Ed Social Media Showdown. @sethodell brought together a baker’s dozen of Web collaborators (this one included) to help host an interactive trivia game that showed the power of YouTube annotations and quizzes to engage audiences. Downright clever, and educational … and another example of the Twitter community happily playing along.

5. Twitter and conferences. I wouldn’t have even known about the regional HighEdWeb conference in Cornell if not for Twitter, and likely wouldn’t have attended Stamats SIMTech if not for Twitter. I found most of my speakers for the annual SUNYCUAD Conference via Twitter. A Twitter connection with @karinejoly, and a @rachelreuben recommendation, led to presenting my first-ever Webinar. And while HEWeb09 may have included the Great Keynote Meltdown of 2009, it also saw attendees band together to raise funds via a Twitter call when a colleague had her laptop stolen, allowing her to buy a new one.

I could go on, well over 140 characters, on the many ways Twitter changed and shaped my life this year. But mostly it introduced me — virtually, and eventually in person — to some outstanding folks. It is those other people, who epitomize the essence of Twitter, that made 2009 so special.

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6 Comments

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6 responses to “top 2009 lesson: twitter is other people.

  1. Ron

    Good stuff, Tim. Twitter is a game changer for sure. Thanks to this post, I actually know what this #pancaketweetup stuff is, because I never really knew what you all were talking about, though I could obviously infer it to a certain degree.

  2. Pingback: We Are the New Archeologists « Safe Digression

  3. dan

    “Twitter is not a megaphone; it’s a telephone, a party line with hundreds of people listening and talking.”

    Succinctly stated.

  4. Of course the sad truth is that plenty of people DO use Twitter as a mere megaphone. The least-common-denominator preference for brute force over finesse seems to apply here, too. But as you say, the beauty is that Twitter CAN be that party line of lively discourse. Thanks for the good reflection.

  5. insidetimshead

    RON: Glad you liked. And sorry we never made it clear what #pancaketweetup was before!

    DAN: Thanks! And you would know succinct!

    JON: I think the challenge comes from all the people who first heard about Twitter from celebs like Ashton or Oprah who use it as a megaphone and, in large part, for ego gratification. Before that hype, it was easier to show someone Twitter one-on-one without preconceived notions. But hey, I try to still let people know it’s worth it.

  6. sethodell

    Honored to make the list! I have met so many amazing people over the past year thanks to Twitter. It truly is an amazing tool for community building and it’s been so rewarding to meet so many wonderful and talented people.

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