– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Thing 7

The task for Thing 7 of 23Things for research is to investigate Twitter. I’m glad we’ve reached this topic; I’ve been tweeting from work since May 2011 and I still am not clear that it’s worth doing. But 23Things has a list of handy tips for effective tweeting, and reasons it might be useful. Some I already do, some I can add to. I like the possibility for asking and answering questions – the Twitter aspect of International Archives Day (see http://askarchivists.wordpress.com/, @AskArchivists) is a brilliant idea. But this year’s event was a 100% fizzle! Maybe it’s a question of advertising and linking and so on. The downside is, to do all this effectively requires more time spent tweeting, and reading tweets. Which does mean less time spent doing what I think  of as Actual Work. There are ways to organise twit-feeds – I had some lists set up, but then they changed and my lists/saved searches disappeared. Maybe all I need is a bit more perseverance and enthusiasm? I did enjoy hearing more from other participants at the recent CILIP RBSCG conference via Twitter conversations, and received lots of interesting answers to a question I posted. So maybe it’s a case of more used = more useful. 2013 is Balliol 750th anniversary year – at least officially ;). There will be lots of  events going on, so with all the extra publicity coming up anyway, maybe it should be the Year of the Tweet for me. I’m encouraged to at least engage more and see what happens. But I’ll keep track of how much time it takes up…

Update 23 April 2013: still learning about Twitter… . Finally got wise to the Tweetdeck app to schedule tweets through the week, so I only have to use it about once a week but my presence is maintained much more often and regularly. Most scheduled tweets are about new resources available online, new blog posts, or updates on relevant events happening at St Cross. This means I don’t spend time getting distracted by Twitter, but neither are my followers overwhelmed by an irritating torrent of updates once a week. I receive email notices about direct messages or other Interactions, so I can log in and respond to those as and when. I especially appreciate Tweetdeck being online, as this means I can use it on my no-downloads-permitted work computer.

And another thing I’ve only learned today, the difference between starting a Tweet with whatever and including somebody’s @handle and starting the tweet with an @handle. I make a point every Monday to thank all the week’s new followers. Sometimes this ends up as several tweets in a row, which must be annoying. Until today, I formatted these as ‘Thanks for recent follows to @this @that @theother’. This meant that ALL my followers saw all of these tweets. However, if I understand correctly, if I say ‘@tom @dick @harry Thanks for your recent follows!’ then only the people mentioned and anyone who follows BOTH me and one of them will see the one that mentions our mutual friend. This seems like the less spammy option.

It’s hard to evaluate the finer points of Twettiquette – would new followers prefer to be mentioned, even in a list of unrelated others, to all of my other followers? Quite possibly. But that probably irritates all the rest of my followers. I’ll carry on starting follow thanks with @handle until something happens to make me think again. I came across this tip on Nina Badzin’s site – very helpful. There are loads of Twitter primers out there, but their arrangement of basic and subtle manners differs wildly, and sometimes their advice conflicts. And conventions change – constant reevaluation…

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