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  • The Technology Guy 07:42 on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Leaning, social networking, twitter   

    How many tweets make overload? 

    I’ve been looking at Twitter as a learning tool. Convinced that there is some way we really can make this tool work for us and not just as a noise that gets in the way.

    This morning a well know US pundit started to follow me after a post I made that they obviously liked. I was astonished to see they were following over 3000 others.

    So I started to look at everyone and how many they were following, was I lacking in playing this game, not following enough and therefore missing something?

    Some stats!

    British gurus seem to follow far less than our US peers.

    The average guru here follows less that 200 people, in the USA it averages at almost 1000.

    I saw 127 tweets in the last 24 hours and I follow 60 people. So my hypothesis is that there is a 2:1 ratio of how many tweets you see to how many people you follow. Love to know if anyone can confirm this!

    With that in mind, the guru following 3200 people must see 6400 tweets every 24 hours. Whoa!

    I spend about 15 minutes, 4 times a day looking at twitter and following the odd link I find interesting. 1 hour a day. So another off the wall calculation says 1 minute per person being followed per day?

    So for the guru following 3200 people they need to spend 53 hours a day to get the same level of information as I do from Twitter.

    Some others I looked at!

    Donald Clark, following 47. 47 minutes very manageable.

    David Wilson following 162, does David spend 2.5 hours a day on Twitter?

    Clive Shepherd follows 190. 3 hours a day? Maybe!

    At what level does it get to be unmanageable? How many is too many to be able to see all of the information?

    And, if we just skim the information, what do we miss and/or learn incorrectly!

    If we want to use tools like Twitter in the workplace, can we limit the number of people our staff follow.

    My crazy calculations would suggest an 8 hour day is equal to following 480 people and doing no work!

    Have I got it wrong….

    • Liz Cable 08:04 on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hi Neil,

      There’s some Twitter stats included in my blog post at http://www.reachfurther.com/2009/09/22/dont-twitter-just-tweet.

      Unfortunately its very difficult to split out the Uk from the US statistics.

      I think the point you are missing is that Twitter is like a restaurant. You go in and start a conversation with friends who happen to be there. If there is someone you know who isn’t there, it doesn’t matter. There’s no obligation for them to catch up on missed tweets.

      Twitter is an instant tool, unlike email or linkedin messages, there’s no assumed obligation to respond. You are either online at the time, or you’re not.

      If however someone leaves me a message – via an @reply or a direct message (DM) – then I can pick it up next time I’m in, and respond then, if appropriate.

      While I’m in the restaurant, I can listen in on other peoples conversations, and if I like what they’re saying, I can join their table and
      join in. Getting some new friends and followers along the way.

      And when you follow lots of people, that’s when you start using the tools to help – like tweetdeck, refollow and socialoomph. For example, tweetdeck allows you to divide learners into cohorts so you can follow the groups conversations easily.

      So in conclusion, I spend about half an hour on twitter a day – this updates my facebook, linkedin, website and other profiles – as well as the social interaction, so its time well spent. ūüôā

    • Clive Shepherd 12:11 on October 13, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Well I may follow 190, but I doubt if I spend more than 15 minutes a day on Twitter. Most tweets pass me by. I’m only guaranteed to look at replies and direct messages. Having said that I do find the process useful both for disseminating information and finding interesting stuff from others.

    • Mike Morrison 12:40 on October 18, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Hi, great blog
      I have a few more followers and following than most – but to me its about 2 main factors, which are unique for each user of this medium:
      1) why tweet? – what is your goal or business objective?
      2) what is your personal objective?

      I use a lot of different software solutions to help me find content I am interested in – so for me investment in designing the ‘tool’ pays off in less time on the solution.

      It also depends what your purpose of tweeting is for.
      Like Liz I use my tweets to drive LinkedIn and other vehicles – I get more from the other channels than i do directly from twitter – but twitter is a useful starting point – one which can ‘fan out’


    • Jacks 19:32 on November 4, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks! The site has very much liked. Tell, I can use this material in our magazine? We guarantee the royalties!

    • mark oehlert 13:09 on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      hi Neil!

      Lovely meeting you in person at #dl09 last week. Really looking forward to being over on your side on the Pond in January.

      I think of Twitter like a river. If I go down to the river every day and take a drink, I don’t lament the water that passes me by when I’m not there. I also don’t worry about the size of the river – I just drink what I need.

      Twitter and its kin are not like email. I like Liz’s example above – I kinda use a cocktail party to the same end. These are conversations and they swirl and eddy.

      I also think while tools like Tweetdeck and Seesmic can configure these conversations in more granular ways, the network itself is my main filter. I follow about 1500 people but I’m followed by about 2500 people – these two groups and the asymetric follow that they create provides-for me anyway-a filtering network that not so much keeps things out but rather ensures that if I miss something important-the network will swing it back around again until I catch it.

      Make any sense?

    • Michelle Lentz 15:12 on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I know you kept after me about this last week, but I hold that it works for me. I’m following around 500, followed by over 2500. My 500 number increases after each conference as well.
      Now, I always check my replies and Direct Messages, but aside from that, I suscribe to Mark’s theory above.

      In one of my classes, a student had a fantastic analogy for Twitter. Her grandmother would turn the TV on a news station every morning and then go about her day. Occasionally, grandma would stop in the living room and see what was happening on the news. The tv was contstantly providing information, but she only paid attention when it was convenient for her.

      That’s exactly how I use Twitter. I “pass through,” and don’t have to be there for every piece of information. It’s information when I want it. Do I miss things? Sure, but if they’re important, they’ll make their way back to me the same way headline news loops its feed.

      Cheers, and it was so wonderful to see you last week. I do miss you!

    • Stephen Martin 16:06 on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply


      Pleasure meeting you in person at DevLearn.

      I concur with the comments above and would add to Mark’s comment that the network is the filter. If something rises to the level of being “important” I expect that it will gain some life of it’s own and rise to the surface through retweets and discussion. Using Michelle’s student’s analogy, if it’s just filler on the news channel, it will pass by into the ether. But if it’s important news, you can bet it will be running on the ticker and get repeated every five minutes as breaking news.

    • Steve Howard 16:40 on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Columns in TweetDeck make sorting that river into multiple streams of greater or lesser interest really easy. I sort into topics – Adobe, eLearning, Tech, Local etc – then dip in and out of each as I feel like it. Makes for faster/easier scanning, ultimately.

      I also add search columns for various reasons, including conference hashtags, like #dl09 ūüôā

      I used to have to see every Tweet, but like others here, I can dip in and out to suit myself now. I still learn oodles and get plenty of valuable content. Like Mark Oehlert said, if it’s important and I miss it, it will come back around.

      The biggest downside I see of Twitter is that I tend to surround myself with like-mined people. That means I probably miss some of the more important contrary viewpoints, but I have other resources for those – falling short of buddy-boy Rush L ūüôā

    • Neil Lasher 17:41 on November 16, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      I think all your points are great.

      As I said in San Jose, I am the antagonist and I am pleased to have stated this thread.

      You all make very valid points, Mark’s about re-tweeting is very true. There needs to be a best practice on how to use this type of data so that we can educate the masses, by doing this the corporate will eventually embrace social media systems.

      Based on what I learned at DevLearn from networking with others, I am now doing some different research to see if I can argue my own points….

      Keep posting…

      Thanks N

    • Paul Simbeck-Hampson 20:21 on December 6, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Nice blog post, did make me grin.

      I use a nice piece of software for twitter stats called TFF Ratio which calculates your statistics and gives you a rating based on a number of seemingly simple factors…and what’s great about it, you can’t cheat!

      I find it to be quite accurate, in-fact, I think it should be included within every profile allowing users to asses whether they really do want to follow or not.

      I’ve used this tool recently to reconsider my own Twittering strategy (I’m still quite new, but learning quickly!). I’m actually still optimising days later!!! Quality, Integrity, Community and Honesty are now my no.1 concern and are far more important than how many thousands of marketeers are trying to sell you, or worse, your community, something.

      Best regards

    • Darrell Dellajacono 10:29 on March 10, 2010 Permalink | Reply

      Thank you! I definitely desired to indicate in my site.

  • The Technology Guy 09:35 on August 17, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: CSL, , , facebook, , twitter   

    Does Social Learning have a future? 

    In the beginning…… ¬†Genesis Ch1 VS1… ¬†From that moment evolution began.

    Every so often (may have been thousands of years) there has been an invention that has changed the way life evolves.

    The invention of the wheel was such an invention. Up till now, it is still a mystery as to who invented the wheel and when the wheel was invented. According to archaeologists, it was probably invented in around 8,000 B.C. in Asia. The oldest wheel known however, was discovered in Mesopotamia and probably dates back to 3,500 B.C.E.

    Some number of 1000’s of years later the Internet evolved. ¬†The Internet was invented by the US Department of Defence as a means of communication if they were attacked by Russia. That was in 1969. The WWW on the other hand was invented by an Englishman called Tim Berners-Lee in Switzerland in 1989. The Internet dates back to the 1950s and 60s, although few of us knew of it then as it was part of the American defence system.

    Has the internet been as a significant invention as the wheel?  Well both have touched the lives of every living being today. The Internet probably got known faster than the wheel.

    What has this to do with social learning?  You may well ask, you may not be interested right now, but they do have similarities.  In between these huge inventions there have been very many smaller inventions or advancements.  for every 10 or so advancements, one survives the test of time and makes it to the mainstream.

    Take the wheel… ¬†It has no operational flaws, but many have advanced its manufacture and use. From the smallest cog in your wristwatch fitted with teeth to ensure an engineering fit with another, to a wheel fitted with a tyre that can support many hundreds of tonnes of pressure when a plane lands on it. Or even as a carbon fibre disk fitted to a Formula1 car as a brake disk to heat up to 900 degrees C to slow the car from 200 mph to zero in just a few seconds. All take a very different form from the original invention.

    To the web, and to Web 2.0 to be precise.¬†“Web 2.0” refers to the second¬†generation¬†of¬†web development¬†and¬†web design¬†that facilitates¬†information sharing, interoperability,¬†user-centered design¬†and¬†collaboration¬†on the¬†World Wide Web. This was exactly how Berners-Lee imagined it from day one, but the technology was not far enough advanced so it became an information system. Some say it is not really far enough advanced now and Web 2.0 is a little on the cutting edge.

    With this information sharing we are seeing vast changes in the way people handle information, specifically learning. eLearning took on the role for quite some time as information delivery housed in ‘page turner’ style learning. Today for some companies it does not matter what it looks like, the stigma attached to eLearning is such that some will continue to complain that it does not do it’s job, no matter What it looks like. ¬†Too technical, too boring, too gaming, too superficial, too long, too short…. ¬†for some you just can’t provide the right blend or balance. For others who have embraced the technology to their advantage it has become a huge time and money saver. But do we get the best from what we have?

    Then just when you thought it was safe to get back in the training water as eLearning settled into mainstream, along came Twitter and Facebook and a range of social learning sites all allowing the user to play a part in whatever way they want.

    For some corporate entities this was a step too far. IT blocked Facebook and Twitter, then Ning and any other site that looked a tad like them. This without any real thought to the power that lay behind them.

    To begin, I too thought that Twitter was a gimmick. I stated publicly that Twitter was like driving down the road while yelling out of the car window. I stated Facebook was a place for kids who did not have the social abilities to have a conversation face to face.  OK I admit I was wrong on both counts.

    The problem is not what they stand for or how they work, but how we have been unable to find a successful way to harness what they do. Neither have we been able to direct the user from what they see to what they may like or need if shown it. We are not following the users patterns merely letting them use it, or not.  I am not talking about creating private versions of Facebook or Twitter, but tapping into what exists and everyone is already using.  Not trying to reinvent the wheel.

    There is a fine line however between those who read and those who write using these systems. How many tweets do you need to post a day? or, How many hours a day do you need to be logged into Facebook before it  has become a compulsive disorder?

    Putting the possible compulsion to the back of your mind and educating people to use and not misuse these systems is the key to creating powerful links between the social learning the bandwagoneers (real word? who knows but I like it) are trying to peddle now and the formalised learning we have already in our repositories. The question is, how do we make the link? And how do we get the user to read the formalised content that your company has approved rather than the blog I am posting here or the tweet that one of the many I follow post each day.

    The answer started in a conversation I had with Karyn Romeis, Jane Hart and Jay Cross at the Learning and Skills Group in June. Thank you guys for pointing me in the right direction without even realising you did it. ¬†I accused all three of being compulsive. Jay has posted very little since on Twitter, (sure that’s not my doing) ¬†Karyn continues to publish her well written ‘erratic learning journey’ (last on Friday, thanks Karyn, well worth the read) and Jane, well Jane Hart over the weekend posted many tweets and Facebook entries all about work, and it was the weekend. Compulsion? Maybe not, Jane runs a brilliant site but does post at all hours!

    The conversation started me thinking to what was missing in a tweet or Face-book entry that we, the trainer, could tap into, what could we use to our advantage. Then someone said to me ‘maybe it’s not what it contains but how they use it’. How they use what Facebook or the content?

    I looked into how we (including me) use Google, Facebook and Twitter plus other similar social sites.

    The research began into how people look for and find and then use the information they see in informal posts. There was no plan by the user to search and find, as they ‘fell over’ the information they saw. So without a plan to learn or a design to teach, this informal information could hardly be called learning. Could it?

    What I found is that there is an extraordinary pattern that takes place. I started in Twitter, read a couple of Jane’s posts and then found this from Koreen Olbrish.

    KoreenOlbrishTwitter in the classroom: 10 useful resources РSocial Media In Learning http://bit.ly/Frf7a #twine (via @CathyLAnderson)

    The user clicks the link as it looks interesting to them and they are taken to a single blog post on Twine, (I had never heard of Twine, so made a mental note to come back and take a look) and this contained another url to follow.  Do they click this next link? or do they give up and return?  Well the link in this instance caught my interest while writing this blog, it stated :-

    DESCRIPTION Although,¬†according to Gartner’s Hype Cycle , Twitter is about to enter the “Trough of Disillusionment”, …
    So they follow the second link and guess what? I am back at Jane’s site¬†http://janeknight.typepad.com/socialmedia/2009/08/twitter-in-the-classroom-10-useful-resources.html

    What was extraordinary? Actually not the Tweet, not the link, not the return to Jane’s site. But the mental note to go back to Twine. ¬†I found myself now entering a search term in Twine for ‘Social Media in Learning’, found 36500 results, clicked the first, a post from George Somebody and found a Toolkit that had been reposted from where? Yes you guessed it, Jane’s site.

    Now frustrated as all points go to the same place, I started to look for other information, posted from third parties that say the same thing. The ‘Theorist’ in me will not believe what I am told by one person or site unless I can back it up. ¬†So off to Google I went, Twine now in the trash and the first page of Google is all…. ¬†I will let you guess.

    Wikipedia was next, under Social Learning, I found criminology and:-
    Social learning refers to the acquisition of social competence that happens exclusively or primarily in a social group. Social learning depends on group dynamics. Social learning promotes the development of individual emotional and practical competence as well as the perception of oneself and the acceptance of others with their individual competencies and limitations.

    Thread ended, never really learned much, got frustrated, wasted almost 40 minutes of my morning and I am not in a group, I am here by myself.

    So tracking backwards, Wikipedia, Google, Twine, and Twitter never actually answered any question I had. If I had a question in the first place?

    The answer lies in Electronic Performance Support Systems (EPSS).  Started life as the help files you get to in a program when you click F1.

    In Electronic Performance Support Systems, published in 1991, Gloria Gery defined EPSS as:

    an integrated electronic environment that is available to and easily accessible by each employee and is structured to provide immediate, individualized on-line access to the full range of information, software, guidance, advice and assistance, data, images, tools, and assessment and monitoring systems to permit job performance with minimal support and intervention by others.

    Also in 1991, Barry Raybould gave a shorter definition:

    a computer-based system that improves worker productivity by providing on-the-job access to integrated information, advice, and learning experiences.

    An electronic performance support system can also be described as any computer software program or component that improves employee performance by

    1. reducing the complexity or number of steps required to perform a task,
    2. providing the performance information an employee needs to perform a task, or
    3. providing a decision support system that enables an employee to identify the action that is appropriate for a particular set of conditions.

    As an author of an EPSS system (CSL, http://tiny.cc/lHF5d ) I began to consider how to alter our EPSS system Рwhich already watches your screen to provide Context Sensitive Learning links from software and content to learning nuggets stored in a repository Рand add a simple system of keywords based upon your searches in Google or Wikipedia or Twine and keywords found in sites like Twitter and Facebook.

    The thought process is that if you use a social site, find something of interest, follow your nose and search the ‘term’, then the term becomes the driver and the link to learning. If you have a repository of accepted, approved learning, with a keyword attached that matches the search term, or something in the tweet being read, it is at this moment you need to inform the user and with the¬†minimal support and intervention by others to deliver a nugget of learning. In our EPSS system we now do this with a balloon in the task tray, a single click and the approved information is delivered. Contextual Social Learning.


    To take this further it is better to deliver a link to a blog (an internal blog that has further links to learning nuggets), this fits in with the style the user is using at that time and so it will slot into the path they are already following.

    Informal delivery of this type can start with the social event in an online social site or just a search with a search engine. either way the informal and the formal have been delivered as if they are one.

    My original question was Does Social Learning have a future? Had you asked me three months ago as Jay, Karyn and Jane found out my answer was NO, it’s a fad it will fade away… ¬†Now I am not so sure I was right, maybe a little hasty. But with that said, more people need to be convinced and more need to be posting their own views and thoughts. If everything continues to point only at Jane’s site, convincing the Theorists may prove to be an uphill struggle. I am convinced that it is not something to be driven by just a training department, the user is already driving it themselves. We can only assist and provide the tools (like EPSS) to make it feel a little easier.

    It will remain a mystery as to who invented the wheel and when. It is less of a mystery how we can utilise informal learning. Will Social Learning ever really become an integrated part of our lifestyle? Time will tell. ¬†I think it is just another part of eLearning, which I hope before long looses the ‘e’ and just becomes a part of the wider learning we all do each day.

    For more information on how CSL works, drop me a line. I will be happy to give you a copy to play with. Neil@trainer1.com

    follow me on Twitter @neillasher

    • Mark, eLearning Designer 10:47 on October 22, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      What a dramatic introduction to a detailed and lengthy post. You have made some interesting points on social learning and it would be interesting to see more of EPSS.

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