Sunday, March 30, 2008

Getting more out of Twitter

As I have invited a few more friends to use Twitter, I usually get in response, "What is Twitter?" Though it is not clear why they may want to use Twitter, they do make an account. My first piece of advice is to think of Twitter as having conversations. Like conversations, there are few rules.

However, they often don't find the potential right away because they are using the Twitter web page only. To have conversations, there must be others to converse with and there must be some sort of flow. My advice to Twitter beginners.

1. Make an
Twitter account.
2. Follow people you know.
3. Follow some people who your friends are following. Find these people by looking at your friends' pages.
4. Send updates from your personal friends and close colleagues to your phone via SMS (text message).
5. Install a desktop application to get "real time" updates. Examples are
Twitteroo, Twhirl, or Twitterific. I recently switched from Twitteroo to Twhirl.

With time, Twitter conversations will move from just small talk conversations to sharing links, resources, and ideas.

I use Twitter because I find people interesting. To understand different perspectives, you must converse with them, and mostly listen. Simply, I like to learn. I follow people who represent different professions and interests. Truly, it is fascinating to see different perspectives.

I have not been worried about how many people follow me or how many I follow. When reading Twitter updates, I have found that I pay more attention to my colleagues than from general Twitter friends. Though, I take more notice to links and resources if different Twitter friends mention them.

I did have all updates coming to my phone. When the sheer number of text messages became irritating, I turned off all updates with the exception of my colleagues and a few people I follow who I find interesting, yet they don't update too often. I use Twhirl as my desktop application to get constant real time updates. I also use a news reader to glance at any Twitter updates I might have missed in Twhirl.

Sol Young used Robert Scoble's post on The secret to Twitter as inspiration to increase the Twitter flow. Sol has increased the Twitter flow and written about the number of Tweet he reads in a minute, Sol uses web site,, Adium as an XMPP/Jabber client, and email.

Twitter ‘Flow’ - Day 4 - Application Ideas and Metrics

‘Flow’ - day 3 - the volume is up

‘Flow’ - day 2

Scoble’s Secret to Twitter - I call it ‘flow’ (Day 1)

I am not sure I am ready to increase the flow to the same degree that Sol has, but certainly having the opportunity to learn and hear even more different perspectives is appealing.

Still confused about Twitter, maybe these links will help.
Wow, fast user-generated content
Advantages of Twitter
Twitter is My Village
Why is Twitter Exploding? Because it's A Conversation Ecosystem
The Big Juicy Twitter Guide
Can Twitter Be Used For Business?
If You Can’t Let Go, Twitter - New York Times
How To Use Twitter How To Split An Atom
48 hours of twitter - Google Search

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

National Agriculture Week

An article in American Farmer  let me know that this week is National Agriculture Week and Thursday, March 20, 2008 is National Agriculture Day. Some points from the National Ag media page are:

  • Average age of a farmer is 55 years old.
  • U.S. farmers produce
    • 46% of the world’s soybeans
    • 41% of the world’s corn
    • 20.5% of the world’s cotton
    • 13% of the world’s wheat
  • 1 U. S. farmer supplies food for 144 people.
  • 1 acre of land in the U.S. (about the size of a football field) can produce:
    • 42,000 lbs. of strawberries,
    • 11,000 heads of lettuce,
    • 25,400 lbs. of potatoes,
    • 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn,
    • or 640 lbs. of cotton lint.
  • Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world.
  • In 2004, Americans spent 2% of their disposable income on meat and poultry.
  • Ranchers are producing meat lower in fat and cholesterol, resulting in retail cuts that are 15% leaner. 
  • Farmers pay anywhere from $97,000 to $170,00 for a 160 horsepower tractor.
  • Advancements in biotechnology help grow tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are not damaged by insects.
  • Precision farming reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions. Tags: ,

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Youth and their expectations of content on the Internet

On Friday night (March 14, 2008), as I was excitedly explaining how amazing it was that, within 40 minutes of the storm, a Wikipedia article on the tornado that hit the Georgia Dome had already been created

I was also excited that someone took notice of my generic wow problems at the Georgia Dome Twitter message enough to start investigating.

My two youngest children were unimpressed. One said, "Oh Mom, you are such a nerd."

The other said, "That's not so great. Are you kidding me? Mom, do you know how many people are on the Internet? Of course, there is information on the Internet."

Their reactions really explain the expectation of instant communication. And why not? Look at how many people are on the Internet.

I am asking the questions again.

Are we ready to deal with the expectation of instant information, or the expectation to generate close to real-time information?

Are we able to generate content that is available in a variety of technologies?

Are we ready to quickly react to information and opinions that individuals generate about our content and our organizations? 

Wow, fast user-generated content

Within a minute of the tornado hitting the Georgia Dome (March 14, 2008), people were sending Twitter messages. Within minutes, blogs and a Wikipedia article on the storm that hit the Georgia Dome had been created.

Rapidly generated content is great, but some may question of credibility of the information. To understand the process of credibility as Jason sought information about this event, consider these steps. 

1. Jason received a Twitter message wow problems at the Georgia Dome from me within a minute of the tornado hitting the Georgia Dome. He would not have looked up information within minutes of the storm, if he had not been using Twitter and not received my Twitter message me.

2. The generic message raised Jason's curiosity, Jason turned toward a reliable tool, Google, for more information.

3. Finding the Wikipedia article, he discovered that the problem was indeed a storm.

4. Searching for more verification, he found comments on weather forums, blogs, and local media outlets and their blogs, but found no information on major media outlets.

5. Jason received my re-tweet (forwarded a Twitter message) from Leah Jones' message that linked to two searches in of Twitter messages. The TweetScan searches found messages relating to the dome and to tornados, some from people within the dome.

6. Jason Young blogged the post, Wow that’s fast, within 40 minutes of the storm.

As time progressed (less than 40 minutes), Jason's belief in the accuracy of information increased rapidly because the information came from several sources.

What did we learn from the user-generated content of this event?

  • Because individuals can generate amazingly accurate and useful content in a matter of minutes, we, in education, have tremendous opportunities to engage others to help us generate education and information. 
  • The importance of the use of multiple technologies is also evident. To develop content on the fly, we must engage in multiple communities (prior to an event or crisis), use a variety of technologies, and seek information from a variety of sources.
  • People expect information instantly and in media forms that they use.
  • People can generate content instantly in place--during the event.

Are we ready to deal with the expectation of instant information, or the expectation to generate close to real-time information?

Are we able to generate content that is available in a variety of technologies?

Are we ready to quickly react to information and opinions that individuals generate about our content and our organizations?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Why teens use Facebook

For parents who don't understand why kids are using Facebook and MySpace, Vanessa Van Petten , author of You're Grounded, has produced a video using her own reasons for using Facebook to explain teens' use of social networking sites. She begins with "Why wouldn't you use (social networking sites, like Facebook or MySpace)"?

Below is a summary of Vanessa points:

Social networking sites are used for

1. socialization

  • match teens' methods of socializing
  • stay up with friends' lives
  • keep up with many more people than before
  • create a wider network of more surface friends, but still have close friends
  • make loose connections with lots of people
  • support causes
  • join groups

2. communications

  • plan events
  • fit communication style and purpose

3. extension of themselves

  • gauge what a person is about, their style, and their likes
  • know more about the person
  • express style or persona

4. privacy

According to Vanessa, posting interests, movies, books, and likes is not giving up privacy, but rather serves as explanations of herself and a means to connect and communicate with others.


Vanessa's explanation may help parents understand teens' gravitation toward Facebook and Myspace. Vanessa's explanation is probably on target for those teens who daily active users.

Using a in-house case study, I decided to ask why each of my children uses Facebook.

Certainly, Vanessa's explanation is the closest to my oldest's (college student) use of Facebook. She uses Facebook to lurk at what her friends are doing. She checks what her friends have changed in their pages, photos and groups. Her favorite applications are compare people and bumper stickers. For her, Facebook is all about being social. Some have called her habits an addiction.

My son (high school) says he using Facebook as a communication tool. He checks regularly to see if he has new messages. He would not qualify as an active user. He uses other technologies, particularly online gaming, as a social activity. He dislikes the games and applications in Facebook.

My youngest (middle school) uses Myspace and Facebook "because that is where my friends are." She likes the games and applications in Facebook.

I also asked a friend (college student) who happened to be at our house. He says he uses Facebook as a means to keep up with friends he does not see very often.

The best explanation is that these sites are social and serve as an extension of the social life of teens. In my observation, their use mimics their real-life communication and social style.

It is also important to point out that teens use multiple communication tools, including texting (SMS) and instant messaging. Facebook and MySpace are not a stand-alone communication tools. My kids use of these tools varies, nevertheless they use multiple communication channels. Tags: ,,

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A young humble hero

This story was originally reported in articles, Auburn student honored for bravery in Opelika-Auburn News and Rep. Mike Rogers honors AU student for heroic act in Wire Eagle ,and is paraphrased below.

Yesterday, Congressman Mike Rogers presented Auburn University student Daniel Brinson with commendation of bravery. In September 2007, Daniel and his friend, Terrell Webb, encountered a car accident and tried to save people in the burning cars.

Daniel, a former volunteer firefighter, said "You just can't pass burning cars and not stop. You just can't."

They were too late to help some of the victims. However, they heard screams from one vehicle. Putting their own lives at risk, they pulled a young lady trapped in one of the burning cars. Daniel said, "And I knew it was more important for her to live and go on than myself."

The young lady later told Daniel's family how someone was looking out for her and how she was meant to live her life for her little one at home. Since the accident, she has started rehabilitation and is enrolled in a community college.

During Monday's presentation, Congressman Mike Rogers said, "Anytime we see extraordinary bravery, we should acknowledge it."

Yes indeed, we need to recognize these young men's efforts and bravery. We also need to hear stories like these so we can be inspired. We need to hear them so we stop to appreciate those who put their own lives ahead of others.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Understanding acceptance of change

John Dorner, at a time of frustration, talked about people's unwillingness to learn something new, particularly when the new technology serves as a benefit for the greater organization. His main question is "How do we get people to 'want' to learn?"

John makes the obvious observation that using technology is necessary in "today's world." We simply cannot ignore technology.

How do we get people to embrace new technologies? There are no easy answers. Focusing on the individual decision is one way to affect change.

One theory, the Transtheoretical Model, describes how people go through stages when changing their behavior. This model has been demonstrated mostly in health behaviors (smoking, eating habits, drug use, etc.), but has also been used to explain other behaviors, such as organizational changes and changes of acceptance of technologies.

Stages of change and weighing the importance of advantages and disadvantages.

The theory posits that individuals go through stages of change in the adoption of new behaviors. Levels of confidence are stronger in the later stages. Also in later stages, individuals weigh the importance of the benefits (also known as pros) over the importance of the disadvantages (also known as cons).  

house 23
Originally uploaded by
only alice

In the earlier stages, individuals weigh the importance of disadvantages over the importance of benefits. This seems very theoretical and maybe obvious.

However, we often don't change our message even though our target audience has varying degrees of acceptance of the technologies (changes). We also often discuss benefits as we see them as important--not considering what potential adopters find important. The practical piece of the Transtheoretical Model is that change efforts should adjust according to the stage of the potential adopters and to what is important to them, individually. 

John hears "I'm not tech savvy". Individuals are not confident in their ability to learn or understand the technology. This lack of confidence may come from many sources, even if they are quite capable of learning. Individuals:

  • May feel uncomfortable learning something new because they don't want to fail.
  • May truly feel they are incapable of learning and understanding something beyond their normal work and life environment.
  • May feel that the technology is not compatible with the way they operate and think (for example, some people really like Algebra and others just don't get).
  • May not understand the benefits. The technology brings such a different phenomenon that they just doesn't see the benefits.
  • Doesn't want their work environment to change and use the lack of ability as an excuse.

Disadvantages, Costs, Cons.

The lack of confidence contributes heavily to the weight of the disadvantages. Some individuals place a lot on the importance of not wanting to fail and on the belief that they are not capable. Other disadvantages include not wanting to take the time and effort to learn, nor spend resources. In adopting new technologies, some new technologies don't last so there is risk in taking the time and effort only to have to change again.

Understanding how individuals weigh the importance of each disadvantage is a step to targeting those perceptions when communicating with the potential adopters. If they are not confident that they can change, then we should develop ways to improve their self-efficacy. Training is an obvious solution. Another is demonstrating how others in their peer groups are using the technology. Also, in early stages of change, it is important to provide support to keep building self-efficacy.

Advantages, Benefits, Pros.

In making decisions to adopt a change, potential adopters also weigh the importance of the benefits to them. While some will consider the benefits for the greater good, most people will look at the direct benefits for themselves, then the benefit to the organization, and then the benefits to outside the organization. As change agents, we often fail at convincing potential adopters because we don't target our communications that punctuate the benefits that are important to the individuals.

Targeting communications and support.

While John is absolutely correct in that the "greater good" benefits are reasons for using these technologies.

It wouldn't be so bad if their ignorance only affected them. In today's world, their ignorance affects everyone around them. Their co-workers waste a lot of time because they are working on projects with them. The organization loses because countless hours and dollars are wasted, knowledge is not being shared and work is being duplicated to name a few ways their ignorance affects others.

For the potential adopters, the importance of the costs of change outweighs the importance benefits. What are the benefits to the individual for using the technology? What are the costs (time, effort, risk of failure) to the individual to adopting these technologies? How important does the individual view these advantages and disadvantages?

John's question and rant are familiar to all of us who are involved in changing our environment, organization, and technology. Simply, there are no easy answers to changing behavior because the change must come from the individual.

Effective change behavior works best when we focus on individuals. The most important time to focus on the individual is during the early stages of diffusion and in the early stages of change.