Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Twitter Recommendations for Astronomy Researchers (from DotAstronomy)

At the recent dotastronomy, @drphilmarhsall and myself ran an unconference session with the aim of collecting the wisdom of dotastronomy attendees on the reasons we like Twitter (all but 3 of the attendees were signed up), why we think it's useful to our research careers and as a tool for communicating about our science.

What follows are the notes I took during that session under various categories.

Twitter 101

Twitter signup now easy and guided to find your interests.
Predictive follow suggestions will be made when you sign up. 

I have an account now what?

(Specifically for people who signed up a while ago but have never done anything with it).

Some of us use tweetdeck to filter - others don’t

Some people follow everyone
Some people follow only selected/few
It’s OK to follow/unfollow as suits your wishes

A lot of us use Twitter for work only (Facebook for friends)

Who you follow depends on your interests

Follow people you know on Twitter and the people they are following

Try things
Go at your own pace

Use conference hashtags #AAS #NAM #dotastro! To find people. 
Search on “astro” in the username to get started

Best Practices for Tweeting

Talk to people (interact)
Don’t just tweet for the sake of it…. Tweet interesting things
Guidelines for tweeting at conferences exist
Tweet things you are happy anyone reading
The press (might) read these, so tweet only things you are happy anyone reading.

I'm too Busy For Twitter

Don’t be frightened/worried
you don’t have to read everything
You don’t have to tweet every day

Using Twitter to Help in Your Research

It's a great tool for self promotion (amongst other Twitter users)
Tweet your papers
You may hearing about jobs early and/or jobs you wouldn't find otherwise
It's good for general networking – drops barrier for networking at conferences (e.g. Tweetups)

BUT – everyone could be reading what you tweet, so only tweet things you are happy anyone (research competitors?) reading.

Ideas for Tweeting about/for Research

Taking notes at seminars/meetings (you can tweet to Evernote as your note taking method)
Boiling topics down to most important 140 characters will help you understand the subject

You will be on top of breaking news in your field (telescopes, funding, politics etc)

You can find quick answers for things…. - the lazy web

Using Twitter to Communicate with the Public

When you have that conversation on the train that starts "Did you hear about….?" – now the answer is more likely to be yes, as you will be on top of trending topics in astronomy.

Conversation will be important here to actually do outreach - you want your tweets retweeted widely to reach people who don't follow you (real outreach).

Join in with popular tags 
e.g. #bbcstargazing on the night of the show was fantastic

The Demographic on Twitter

Probably narrow group of followers for many researchers - so tweeting just to your followers may not be effective outreach. 

Need to get yourself retweeted (by Dara O’Briain etc.) to reach other audiences 

General consensus about retweeting social conduct - don’t ask to be retweeted (except rarely?)

Tweet on popular hashtags to reach wider audience. 

Tools for Tweeting

A lot of us use Tweetdeck, but there were some strong anti-tweetdeck sentiment in the room. 
Tweetdeck pros and cons
  • Not casual/feels like work
  • Processor hog
  • Can look overwhelming
  • Easy to filter
  • Easy to manage multiple accounts (e.g. a personal and a work one, and/or accounts for organizations).
An alternative: 
Twitter app in the corner of your screen - Not what you’re doing, it’s a sidebar

Tweeting using smart phones and/or tablets also popular for in talks etc. 

Tweeting for an Organization

Will be rules sometimes/usually.
Tweet responsibly - tweet things you are happy anyone reading.
Have your own personal account as well. 

What do we want/get out of Twitter?

Stumbling on interesting things
Socially filtered information (instead of RSS?)
Get people to read your blog/website
Virtual office chatter

Convincing People to Tweet

We get things out of it
Any evidence for the benefit of the use of twitter? - Conclusion was nothing convincing, but we keep looking. 

Also since the meeting, we found links to two interesting articles in the Journal for Communication of Astronomy with the Public about the use of Twitter: 

Tweeting Space Craft: Communicating Space Science in the Age of Web 2.0, by Janet Vertesi (Princeton University) in 2010.


Live Casting: Bringing Astronomy to the Masses in Real Time, by Pamela Gay, Phil Plait, Jordan Raddick, Fraiser Cain and Emily Lakdawalla in 2006. 

1 comment:

  1. An important note: Don't be an egg. Put a pic, not necessarily of yourself, but not an egg. People will not follow an egg.