Twitter was discussed on the Radio 4 comedy show 'Heresy' this week. David Mitchell, David Schneider and Matthew Norman were invited to argue against the proposition that 'Twitter is an act of massive collective narcissism'. They sort-of agreed that it isn't, although I'm not sure that David Schneider's enjoyment of the collision of grieving fans and joke-sharers at the time of Michael Jackson's death is an argument for Twitter that will necessarily draw in librarians. And have I been drawn in? Well, yes, sort of...
My first response to signing up for any new service or gadget appears to be to customise its appearance to suit my tastes (or to match my personal brand). So I fiddled around with my profile page until it looked like my blog, and then, because that didn't work too well with the twitter logo, I fiddled around with my blog design until a happy middle ground was found.
Brand image consolidated, I spent quite a while looking at the other #cam23 tweeple*, as well as the #cilipfuture and #cilip1 discussions before actually diving in and tweeting myself. I've signed up to follow quite a few of the Cam23-ers, especially those whose blogs I've been enjoying, as well as a feed from CILIP, Phil Bradley, some librarians who have been making noise with the #cilipfuture tag, and (as recommended by Josh H) ArchiveAtBBC. I took a look at the British Library feed, but decided not to sign up because I'm not sure I'm interested in reading all the BL responses to followers. It's good that they're engaging in that way, but it doesn't draw me in particularly, and I'll stick to their press release RSS feed instead. Should you be interested, you can have a look at the full list of people I'm following. Or take a look at this nifty gadget recommended by Evaluna.
Life moves very quickly on Twitter, and I wqnder if I'll find that quite difficult to take in the longer-term, when the novelty has worn off. I particularly liked evans_above's description of this feeling: "Like everyone is talking [to me] at once, and I'm spinning around wondering what? what? what?". I also wonder if there are ways of saving or bookmarking a tweet you want to come back to later? Maybe this is something that programmes like JournoTwit (as recommended by NPage) can do - I haven't tried it yet.
Several people (e.g. nildesperandum) have been wondering what they're going to say on Twitter. I can't say that this has troubled me too much, though I'm not sure if that's because I like the sound of my own voice, or just because I'm quite happy to be a quiet lurker in the corner. Advice from several quarters has been to be to listen to other people and speak up when you hear something you want to share. At the moment, there is quite a tight circle of cam23-ers following each other, so it probably only takes one of us to say something and the whole group has heard it, but I'm noticing that other people and institutions (even the big, famous ones) that I start to follow seem to follow me back as a matter of course, and I suppose that they do this because having a wide network is the way that interesting information spreads most quickly.
So, if you have a wide circle of followers and followees, Twitter seems to good for spreading information and ideas quickly. And it seems that, unlike with RSS feeds, it's information that you might not know you want to go looking for. This week I have, for example, been reminded about the joys of McSweeneys, and discovered the Awful Library Books Blog. (As I think about it, both from @angefitzpatrick. I loved the typeface flow chart link from her blog last week, too, and #histonroadtoptrumps is a classic - I fear I may be developing a bit of an internet crush...) (Oh, and if you like the Awful Library Books, you might also like the Oddest Book Title of the Year prize.)
The use of hashtags seems to make it possible to create a community of people interested in the same thing, and to widen knowledge about that thing and get a buzz going around it. I'm not sure how often this is something that libraries want or need to do, although I'm thinking of trying to push an #opencambridge tag to boast interest across the summer and up to the open days in September. Sharing general news and info (e.g. opening times, new accessions, new discoveries (for special collections/cataloguing projects)) is certainly possible, and will reach a different audience on Twitter than with just a blog/RSS feeds. Although it seems that many of the people following library feeds are other librarians, and not library users, any library with a feed like this will have to be prepared to devote time and enegry to responding to followers. The BL seems to be doing this, but as Whispers in the Wildnerness notes, it might not be possible for all libraries.
I've been on Twitter for a few days now, and certainly haven't hated it. But I'm not sure that I'm completely hooked, either. Can I really be the exception to the Marmite paradigm used all over Cam23 land this week to describe Twitter experiences? I'm reading some fun and interesting articles that people are tweeting about, and I'm learning a bit about what other librarians are thinking. But you have to work at it to get the most out of it, and I'm not sure I have the time.
*One of the unfortunate things about Twitter is the vocabulary that comes along with it. Tweeple? Twub? Twapper? Twit? I'm quite nervous of trying to say one of the these infelicitous neologisms out loud because I'm quite likely to say by accident a word I wouldn't dream of writing in a blog that shares its 1st, 2nd and 4th letters with twit and quite probably appears in Chaucer. How unfortunate.