Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Yet another introduction to microblogging..

You either love it, hate it or haven’t heard about it - yet. In the last year Microblogging has suddenly become incredibly popular. Microblogging is a form of blogging (which is keeping an on-line journal) where every post is limited to a single sentence (usually restricted to 140 characters). It is used for posting thoughts, ideas, questions, answers, statements and links on what you are working on, where you are or simply a way to express yourself. Social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, MySpace, Xing and Orkut have their own microblogging features, commonly known as "status updates". However, some of the most commonly used microblogging tools are Twitter, Yammer and Jaiku.

The main advantage of microblogging is that it’s quick to create posts and can potentially reach a massive audience. Email on the other hand, is slow and lengthy to compose and the audience size is limited. Unlike email and voice calls, it is up to each person to participate, read or ignore microblogging posts. However, remember that whatever you publish on Twitter, and on the Internet, Google will remember it!

We recently did a training on microblogging and its use for use within my organization. The training was co-organised by @neoluk, @mariagraziab, @RomoloTassone, @mongkolroek, @TheRoadTo and myself (@gaurisalokhe) with live interventions from @rsamii, @aidworkerdaily and @ictkm.

The session started off with @neoluk explaining Twitter. So, what is Twitter, you ask? ;-)

Twitter is a microblogging tool that allows one to send "tweets" or messages of140 characters. These can be sent or received via the Twitter Web site by using one of the numerous desktop applications (TweetDeck, Twhirl, etc.) and with your mobile telephone (short message service -SMS, which is not free).

This was followed by a quick intro of Yammer by @mariagraziab.

Unlike Twitter, Yammer is limited to online networking and information sharing within organizations. Not only can you send messages longer than 140 characters, you can also create groups and send attachments. For example, if you have an @yourcompany.org email address, sign-up to join the growing YOURCOMPANY network on Yammer. Messages can be sent or received via the Yammer site, by using a desktop application, SMSs and email. Yammer is a free service but organizations can pay a monthly per user fee to claim and administer their own network.

Finally, @TheRoadTo showed identi.ca.

Identi.ca is an open-source microblogging platform similar to Twitter. It is based on Laconi.ca, which organizations/individuals can install and use to control their own data and services.

By looking at how microblogging has been used effectively, there are many ways to utilise these microblogging tools:
  • Promotion - Twitter is often used to promote articles, blog posts, Web sites. See FAONews, Rome Permanent Representative, WFP Logistics, Friends of WFP.
  • Internal/External Communication - Yammer can be used for communicating with a team when members are working in decentralised offices. Twitter, on the other hand, provides the possibility to connect to and engage with like-minded colleagues from other organizations. See E-Agriculture, CGIAR ICT-KM Program.
  • Discovery - Twitter and Yammer are excellent ways for discovering upcoming events, new happenings, interesting sites/links and tools, etc. See recent blog posts on Bio fuels, Avian Influenza, Organic Agriculture.
  • Quick group problem solving and discussions - with Twitter and Yammer, you can distribute questions to a large group of people. Of course, getting an answer back depends on how many followers you have, that is, people who have subscribed to your posts. See #AgChat.
  • Live reporting from events or emerging situations - tools such as Twitter and Yammer have been used to capture unfolding events or situations. A crowd tag is usually created so that people can follow the event in real time. The tag "sharefair09" was created (and publicised) for the Shair Fair at FAO in January. Microblogging has been used in emergency situations and for citizen journalism, such as the current Swine Flu outbreak. It could be used to report locust or avian influenza outbreaks. See Share Fair 2009, Earthquakes.
  • Informal research - tools such as TwitterPolls are used to get instant feedback about issues common to your twitter network. See the poll Do you use Twitter? What age group do you fall in? or Are we using confusing terminology when referring to communities?
The discussion during the session ranged from issues such as the time needed to monitor and actively take part in microblogging to how partner organizations such as WFP were using them to keep abreast of what was happening in the field where most of their staff are based. One of the questions that was asked during the session was: "What is the difference between emails and microblogs?". To answer/illlustrate this, I created the following table:

[click to enlarge]

Are there any issues here that I missed or mis-interpreted?

You can find more information about microblogging at: http://www.kstoolkit.org/Microblogging/.

Finally, special thanks to @RomoloTassone for his help with some parts of this post!

1 comment:

Nitin Reddy Katkam said...

You can also micro-blog with WordPress - some themes such as the P2 make it fairly simple.