May-20-2008

Twitter and productivity…really???

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter 3 comments

image Ok, I don’t know about you but after hearing so much about it, I finally jumped into the Twitter pool.  Only problem is, I’m not sure if I really feel like swimming.  In case you don’t know what Twitter is, here’s the lowdown.  Some call it microblogging, others a social network of sorts.  Essentially, you can say whatever you want in 140 characters or less…and people can follow what you have to say via Twitter clients, RSS, SMS, etc.  Here’s some of the captivating content folks were providing today on Twitter:

srdny76 I just learned I was steps away from a vegan ice cream parlor yesterday! Yay! There’s a vegan ice cream parlor!

caseypatton ate some sweet, sweet moe’s bbq tonight.

CheesecakeBree Tired… but I have a few things I need to do before bed. (It’s not late enough for me to fall asleep anyway.)

girliegeek if your friends won’t tell ya you got spinach in your teeth, WHO WILL?

Truly scintillating, I know.  But, I’m trying to figure out how useful Twitter can be beyond reporting the mundane details of your life for all the world to see.  At first I thought, maybe this is a good replacement for instant messaging.  You can type something in and instantly message, well…everyone else on Twitter (or at least those who want to follow your life).  Is this effective communication?  Not sure.  Maybe, just maybe Twitter can be put to good use after all.  Good meaning: productive, useful, not wasting your time, not tying you to technology when you can be doing something else with your time (work or dare I say, even fun stuff like going outdoors!).  Here’s my list of potentially good uses for Twitter:

  1. Emergency response: People can use the relatively low bandwidth messaging of Twitter to send messages to entire response teams instantaneously.  No mixed messages.  No dropped calls. Everyone on the team gets the Tweets (it’s what Twitter posts are called).  Very effective, and they can be tagged with locations as well.
  2. Conference back-channels: OK, so maybe not super productive, but if you’re at a conference, you can provide live commentary about the speakers, their lame PowerPoints, their incorrect statements, bad haircuts…you name it.  Not only are you sharing with other conference attendees, you’re sharing your commentary on the conference with others who may not have been able to attend.  Plus, it’s great for adding some fun and excitement during really bad PowerPoints (it worked really well at Where 2.0 recently).
  3. Task tracking: OK, not exciting, but useful…use it track your daily work tasks.  “Started working on foo functionality”…”Finished working on foo functionality”. Boring to the world, useful to you.  Plus, if you’re team is all following, it provides instant status updates on your tasks…and you thought daily stand ups gave good visibility into task status!!!
  4. IN/OUT of office: OK, another not real sexy use, but it’s good for in/out of office status with location info.  Especially good when you’re on the road.
  5. Promoting you blog posts: Slightly self serving, but effective.  You can let people know when you have a new blog post up.  Hopefully, you’re blog is compelling enough to have established a good subscriber base and you don’t need to resort to this tactic…but worth a try if you’re trying to build your blog base.  Probably good for directing traffic to a website too. I’ll test this out and let you know how many people visit this blog and our website after posting the addresses on Twitter.
  6. News Reader: Some online news sources now issue Tweets.  Good for those people who like their news items short and sweet…can you say Short Attention Span Theater? Check out CNN, BBC and many others.
  7. Quick feedback: On project teams, use it to do voting.  Post an idea and ask your followers or team members to vote on it or comment on it.  Really good for geographically dispersed teams.
  8. Live coverage: For real time events or for folks who do field work, provide live coverage of what’s going on to your followers (OK, a lot like #2, but I’m trying to get to 10 here to make this whole argument worthwhile).
  9. Release/Build notifications: Notify team members or customers/clients of current software releases or builds.
  10. Job candidate backgrounds: Alright, this one may be borderline, but if someone is interviewing with you for a job, check to see if they Twitter.  If they do, check their Twitter feed to find out a little bit more about them.  You may not want to know that they are part of the Society for Creative Anachronism…but hey, it could be useful.

Whew, made it to 10…didn’t think I’d get there.  I’m sure there are plenty of other good uses for Twitter and I’d like to hear them if you have some ideas.  Hopefully, Twitter works out better than instant messaging.  When I think about IM’ing, I think about people taking longer to say less (just pick up the phone and talk to me).  I think Twitter is potentially more useful than IM but we’ll have to see where it all goes.  However, if I have to constantly wade through Tweets like these:

PhilippaJane trim milk hot chocolate and marshmellows- helps me through today

I might be more inclined to spend my time checking out I Can Has Cheezburger…it’s much more entertaining.  BTW, if you want to follow me on Twitter, check me out at http://twitter.com/ChrisSpagnuolo…but I’m not promising anything!!!

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  1. cspag (Chris Spagnuolo ?) said,

    I wrote this 5 days after joining Twitter. How my views have changed after 1000 Tweets and 2500 followers: http://is.gd/f1RO

  2. NicoleSimon (Nicole Simon) said,

    RT @cspag I wrote this 5 days after joining Twitter. How my views have changed after 1000 Tweets and 2500 followers: http://is.gd/f1RO

  3. Tools for Distributed Teams | Chris Spagnuolo's EdgeHopper said,

    [...] already written about how you can use Twitter to increase your productivity and there are tips in that post about how distributed teams can use Twitter to stay up to date on [...]

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