Early this morning I got a tweet from @TwBirthday to say it was my 5th Twitter birthday. I’d joined the site on 5th June 2008.
Initially I followed astronomy tweeters, such as the team behind the Mars Phoenix lander. I studied astronomy for two years as part of my science degree at St Andrews in the early 1990s, and would have continued to honours level had the university not just scrapped the joint honours Computer Science and Astronomy degree option (my husband would have too – he ended up choosing the space side, I went for the CS route). Then over time I followed others: fellow Call of Cthulhu gamers and enthusiasts, archivists and historians, professional writers (I find the writing process fascinating), and later computer scientists.
It’s been an interesting 5 years. I tweet a lot now myself, but mainly use Twitter as a source of finding out interesting new things. For example I often learn of relevant academic conferences through it, or interesting new archival resources. I also find it a good medium for chatting to people. For example I’ve been able to contact quite a few of my favourite authors with queries or comments, and get tweets back quickly from them: something that would have been impossible in the pre-Internet era.
I’m currently in the middle of analysing the 1000 or so tweet streams that I follow on Twitter, to see how they break down in terms of numbers of historians, archivists, gamers, astronomy, etc. I’m curious about this myself, and was able to extract the list of Tweeters I follow using BirdSong. Now I have a big spreadsheet that I’m slowly categorising, as the mood grabs me, to work out the numbers. It’s very similar to what I did during my PhD for books: having a big spreadsheet of titles, and categorising roughly by subject, then looking at the overall statistics.
Meanwhile I will close with some words I wrote here on 23rd May, in a blog post reflecting on the pros and cons of various social networks:
The most useful social network I find for following academics is Twitter. This only works for academics who tweet regularly, but I follow a lot of historians, and archivists, and many of them tweet about their research in progress, interesting conferences, and new publications. On the downside following these tweets takes time, regularly. I follow nearly 1000 people on Twitter (not just academics), and given how knocked out I am I can’t see all their tweets. But I put a bit of time in each day to follow them, using Flipboard on my iPad to browse hours of recent tweets in a nice way. And I find the time put in is well rewarded with the info I get back. I also tweet myself. I describe myself on Twitter as an “Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan”, which pretty much sums up the subject pattern of my tweets. But I find tweeting rewarding, and often make good contacts, and have good discussions on Twitter, with fellow academics and researchers.