On March 9 all of the PR focused hashtag communities got together under the banner of one common hashtag (#chatmixer) to discuss PR. While there is value in each different hashtag, there is also a lot of value in occassionally merging.
Kudos to them for their leadership. In this post I am talking about the general concept that they pioneered of blending hashtags.
One of the greatest advantages of a Twitter Chat is that there are no community walls. In fact, I think about it like a town square of old. Its always open for anyone to wander through on their way somewhere else or to explicitly go to for an event. Throughout the week people may see each other and share a few platitudes. One person or another may even bring a soapbox and share their ideas. Still others will post notes for people to find. All these behaviors are replicated in a Twitter Hashtag Community.
Once a week a crowd will gather to converse, debate, share info, etc…. With Twitter, each one of those who gather also have a direct line back to their block (followers) communicating just a portion of the conversation. A follower, whose interest is piqued by this flurry of posts on a single topic, may come and listen. Any time THEY start sharing, they develop a direct line back to their block…and so on.
A #chatmixer takes this concept a step further and starts to blend crowds that may have a lot in common. While twitter naturally breaks down walls between communities anyway, the #chatmixer can explicitly bring two or more together.
There are lots of different ways to make it happen. You can create a new hashtag like the PR folks did, but I prefer a different approach.
For chats that take place weekly, you set up one chat on each of the hashtags that are participating.
Each topic can be the same or different, but it should be of interest to the intersection of the communities. Eg. for #KMers and #innochat we did “How does KM support innovation“
If each community has a website (Ning, blog, wiki, etc..), you post the other group’s chat day/time for your community to see.
For the pre-event promotional tweets you encourage multi-hashtags to bring members from one community to the others’ chat.
There are lots of overlaps among the Twitter hashtag communities. Click here for a spreadsheet list. I hope we will see more of them getting together. If your twitter use has not evolved to the point of community involvement, jump in right away. Everyone is very friendly.
Twitter chats are simply pre-organized times to tweet on pre-organized hashtags. They use applications like twebevent or TweetChat to corral just those tweets together and to auto-tag any new tweets with the right hashtag.
The Chat Schedule was inspired by Meryl Evans, who started a blog post with a collection of all the chats she knew about. The new spreadsheet version began as a quick solution so that no one person had to track and manage the information about all the Twitter Chats. There were only about 25 chats back then. It has since grown into a list of hundreds of chats with several new ones added each week.
Everyone from journalists to moms to finance people to Knowledge Management professionals are finding each other and banding together via Twitter chats. See more info about the Twitter Chat Experience
I fully expected that someone would write a little database driven web app that would replace the public Google Doc, but perhaps simpler is better in this case.
Thanks to all who run the chats, all who have posted information about chats, and all who tweet the link to the list so that more potential chatters can find one that’s right for them.
Back in the days of the Grateful Dead, there was a “Dead Culture” that thrived on peace, love, and sharing. While some of that was drug induced, there is no doubt that it was a tribe who felt connected and therefore more open to random acts of kindness between members.
Enter Social Media…and a similar culture. One of my blog posts from a while back discussed the possibility and danger of hashtag spam. Yet, unlike email spam, this type of intrusion has not increased in the time I have been on twitter.
While spam is useful to some brands as a tool to increase awareness, social media participants are very quick to jump on bad behaviour and place the messenger in a very negative light. Community members are vigilant protectors of collectively set guidelines. This is probably necessary as described in the “fixing broken windows” approach to crime.
Twitter seems to have the most idealistic culture of all the social media. In fact, I have often thought to myself that being a Twitter user is teaching me to be a nicer person. While I still see value in criticism, it is often more helpful to see the good in something than to point out its flaws.
Clearly the culture works in this way because the whole eco-system is reputation based. The concept of “whuffie” is constantly bandied about. Because views of a person and their content will only become more transparent over time (both what we write and what people write about us), I do not expect the incentive for “good” to go away.
Perhaps some of that quality online behavior will bleed into our in-person persona even when those deeds and comments are less publicly viewable. Wouldn’t that make the world a better place?
A few posts ago I talked about “Wave Chats“. Today I experienced my first wave used as a substitute for a real time Twitter chat.
It came about because the Twitter Search API was being finicky. This happens way too often and when it does, it takes out all the Twitter applications that rely on it: TweetDeck, TweetGrid, TweetChat, etc…. The only thing that will work in that situation is Twitter’s own search page. For some reason, they don’t use their own Search API for their searches. Hmmmm, I wonder why. Maybe because it is not stable.
Back to our story…… I was on a chat earlier in the day that was also having trouble so I thought about Wave as a backup plan. In order to make that work, I needed:
Step 1: a wave that anyone could get to. The way you accomplish that is by inviting email@example.com to your Wave. I created it as a contact in my Google Contacts and then invited to the Wave.
Once we were in the wave, we very quickly found that some of the Google features are not necessarily strengths for real time chats. Allowing for threads to pop-up anywhere makes it impossible to follow the multi-threads that naturally occur in a real time Chat without scrolling all over the place to find what you are missing. So, we created a guideline that we would only comment at the bottom of the wave thereby making it a single one dimensional stream of information (just like Twitter).
It took some getting used to the fact that you could see all the simultaneous typing. If one was able to avoid distraction, the speed was actually much faster than Twitter Chatting due to no delay between post and appearance and also getting the gist of a post even before it was finished.
At the end of the wave period, several of us felt that it was an interesting experiment and there were definitely some nice elements to Wave chating, but that Twitter Chats’ ability to inherently promote the chat outside of the participants and to cross-post to other community hashtags was superior to Wave.
Anybody else experienced Wave in real time and want to compare it to a Twitter Chat?
Today on #smchat one of the chatters, who always has great ideas (@hacool), chimed in that she had been on a Wave that included a chat gadget. For those who are not as experienced with Wave, a gadget is just a mini app that runs inside the wave. It is similar to the way you can watch a video which is embedded within a blog.
Online communities of practice (CoP’s) are VERY challenging to keep vibrant over a long period of time. The ones with staying power always have active management and multiple channels for members to collaborate.
Many personal and professional associations have learned this. They send out information and invite people to collaborate online throughout the year. Then they run one or more in-person events/conferences that help keep everyone connected to the group. Not many of these associations are using Twitter Chats.
You don’t have to have an in-person element in order to remain successful with an online community. Stan Garfield runs a fantastic community for KM professionals called SIKMleaders. He runs it through a Yahoo Group, but it is energized monthly by a phone call that anyone can join.
In my opinion Twitter Chats are currently the best method for online community invigoration. Here are a few reasons why.
If there are 10 or more people on a chat, the experience is very fast/furious and therefore invigorating. The experience will keep people coming back.
Every time anyone tweets during your chat, the existence of your community is being pushed out to all the chatters’ followers. This brings in fresh members
The ability for chatters to cross-post with other related hashtags helps related communities connect to each other sharing ideas/members/etc…
The chat hashtag can be used between chat events for people to interact asynchronously.
Even non-Twitter users can watch and learn from the chat just by going to the right web page
Some examples of Twitter driven chat communities are
Each platform has its pros and cons for supporting a Twitter Chat driven community. To my knowledge, the only chat supported by a site built from the ground-up is KMers. It is custom-built using the Drupal framework and can be modified to fit unique needs of a Twitter driven community.
If you are part of a community that you believe could use a platform like KMers.org has, contact me via one of the channels available in the top right of the blog page. We can help you (free) with a version that works for your community.
The fact that Twitter, Twitter Lists and Google Wave exist warms my heart. They are tools that generate their own innovation buzz eco-system and drive what this blog is all about: Future Business. Foundational tools like these, along with open source projects, are the essence of the web2.0 innovation renaissance. Think about how fast tools and processes can iterate today to match widescale and niche user needs compared to where we were 10 years ago.
At the moment it is the wild west for these innovation eco-systems. Everyone thinks they have a good idea and they are running full-speed either with a little bit of money or completely bootstrapped. Over time, we will start to settle on some valuable use cases and the real money will head in that direction.
As an innovator interested in new ways that business can operate, both tools’ potential fascinates me. While Twitter lists is pretty much what I expected it would be, Wave did not live up to my initial expectations. I’ll give both a fair shake over a period of time because, like Twitter itself, there is likely a path of use evolution. The truly valuable use cases might not show themselves until 3rd party apps have been written that run on top.
For Twitter Lists I am starting to see
Lists that you are in can be a crowd-sourced social descriptor of what you tweet about
Curating a popular list gives you credibility as a networker in the space that list covers
For Wave I think we are going to need tools and agreed conventions which
Help us collectively “garden” (manage) waves. Waves have structure and are objects intended to grow over time. Because they become more complex over time, they need constant management in order that they are accessible to newcomers and previous visitors/contributors alike.
Help us find portions of waves that are relevant to our needs and re-use those elements in our own content spaces: other waves, blogs, etc…
Long live the companies that are thinking about how to start the next innovation eco-system.
There is already a meta-discussion on Twitter called #assnchat where association leaders collaborate. How many of those associations are using a Twitter Chat (overview, tools) to create an additional collaboration avenue for THEIR members? Judging from the Twitter Chat Schedule, the answer seems to be, “very few”.
On the recent Oct 6 #assnchat (transcript), I moderated a discussion of how and whether associations should be creating Twitter Chats for their membership. The chat included some good reasons for an association to run a Twitter Chat
It provides another avenue for collaboration
It’s free so it can be added as a benefit without driving up costs
Content tends to be very good on chats
Less intimidating than a conference call for those who are shy to speak out
Chat attracts attention from members and prospects due to its nature of tweets going out publicly
and some reasons why an association may not want to run a Twitter Chat
Discussion is 100% open. There might be a privacy issues which necessitates more of a walled-garden
Participation may be low until more people are on twitter
Yet another channel might spread the activity even more so that it is hard to gain a tipping point of activity in any one channel
members may want a non-computer based collaboration since they are already on computer all day
In my personal opinion
#1 – Certainly a good reason that you should watch out for
#2 – Even with only 3 people in a Twitter Chat, you can learn a lot. Get started. Once word gets out, more will join
#3 – when done well, channels feed each other rather than take away. Tout your website during the chat and talk about the chat on your website. Mention the chat during your f2f meeting and gain registrations for f2f from the chat
#4 – I have found that most people who spend a lot of time on a computer, prefer additional means of communication that use the same device. email, IM, and even Skype are often preferred over the telephone by heavy computer users.
A chat session is never going to replace face2face collaboration. Due to human nature, we develop a significantly deeper/quicker bond when we can see and touch each other. But, we should not consider the choice an either/or. Chats can increase the demand for f2f and they can help with the hype.
There is a very different set of opinions based on the same chat session over on Memberclicks. I hope you will chime in with some of your thoughts either here or there.
Disclaimer: I am not saying that everyone evolves in the way described in this post. However, I do believe it is a trend.
Here are the steps I believe many people go through
Stage 1: What the heck is this thing? What a waste of time. Most of the people on here are talking about nothing (or at least nothing of interest to me)
Stage 2: Why does everyone keep raving about Twitter? Maybe I should take another look. Hmm, I am starting to find some interesting people. I will login periodically to check out what they have to say.
Stage 3: I am finding more and more interesting people to follow. People are starting to follow me, too! I find myself checking Twitter more and more often now. I am using ________ (Fill in the blank with TweetDeck, Seesmic, TweetGrid, etc…) and it makes everything so much easier.
Stage 4: What fun it is to track how many people are starting to follow me. I am now thinking about things I can Twitter throughout the day. I check it and post several times a day and I am finding it hard to keep up with the flow of information. I have found TwitterGrader to keep track of my progress.
Stage 5: This is getting to be too much of a drain. I am going to have to be OK with the fact that some things will get posted that I will not see. I have found hashtags. They make it so much easier to just track topics of interest. I am starting to use Twitter for my business and have found some tools like hootsuite that are very helpful.
Stage 6: Some of my hashtags are actually communities. They have Twitter chats which take place weekly and all the members support each other. TweetChat and twebevent are two apps that I use to take place in these community discussions.
Stage 7: I don’t watch my main Twitter stream at all now. I am using _______ (TweetDeck etc..) to create saved searches and groups. I have a few Tweeple subsets that I check their streams as a group. Otherwise I just check hashtags and participate in Twitter Chats. I am getting to be friends with several of the Tweeple in the Chats. I have even phoned a few of them to share ideas. They are all so knowledgeable and helpful.
Stage 8: You tell me. What happens next?
Thanks to @samueljsmith for the recommendation to add a poll. Here it is. Share your Twitter Stage
On 8/26 at 6:30pm we went live with the first online simulcast for the Knowledge Management Institute. We did it even with a few last minute challenges: one of our 3 speakers dropped out on the day of and our A/V expert also dropped out on the day of (both due to illness).
We soldiered on. This post is both the story of what happened and the lessons we learned from the experience. I hope it will serve as some sort of a guide for other associations. If you have experience in this regard, please share as a comment.
Marketing: we promoted the free event on some KM mailing lists, our own mailing list, KM LinkedIn groups, and Twitter.
Preparation: we tested as much as we could (hardware, software, bandwidth) days before the event. We arrived to the event 2 hours early to set-up equipment and run tests. We could not get our video camera to stream (remember, no A/V expert) so we went with a back-up webcam.
Event: we went live within a few minutes of on-time. We started and stopped the live event after each session because we wanted it to be broken into separate files. We were running a Buzz format session which means 3 speakers for 10 minutes each and then 20 mins of discussion in-between. We had ~15 person online audience for just about the whole event. We hope for more ongoing, but felt that was good for our first event.
Here is a description of the software that we used (all free):
We kept the camera on the speaker and we used procaster.com (free download) to merge in the speaker’s slides from the streaming computer. An on-site producer selects between speaker-only, slides-only, and smaller speaker together w/smaller slides at each point in time for what goes into the stream.
Procaster.com automatically streams to an account on livestream.com (free account if you are willing to allow some ads into your video stream). You can pay money if you want the ads removed.
We took the embed code from livestream.com (it shows up right on the widget) and pasted it into the “Embed” field in twebevent.com. This combined our live video with a Twitter Chat and placed it in the twebevent schedule for additional exposure.
To accomplish the above software configuration I recommend someone who is at least intermediate with using web applications.
Other important items:
you will need upload bandwidth of at least 500kbps (.5Mbps). You can test that with speedtest.net from the location where you will be streaming.
It is best to outfit the speaker with a wireless mic that draws the sound into the streaming computer. If the speaker is not mic’ed, you may get variable sound online as they walk around.
Camera with tripod and zoom allows speakers more mobility
If you are at a hotel with a conference code to get on their wireless, make sure that it allows you several connections. This will allow some flexibility with testing (one streaming, one watching) as well as the ability for some on-site people to be tweeting to the event while another is running the livestream.
If your event is structured like the Buzz where there are periods of time that the audience is discussing something at individual tables, point the camera at the crowd so that the online audience at least knows what is going on. Also keep them posted on timing via Twitter
If there is on-site Q&A, draw some of the questions from the online environment. After the on-site session is over have the presenter answer more online questions on camera just for the online audience.
If you have an extra projector, project the tweets that are coming in during the presentations. If you have a very large audience, you may want to moderate that Twitter stream. There are a few applications that will help with moderation. Twubs.com is one.
Upload the presentations somewhere that they can be accessed via URL (if you don’t have this, you can do it with Google Docs, remember to make the docs shared as “public”) Link the uploaded docs into the twebevent so that people can download if they like.
Open the presentations on the streaming laptop in “Normal View”. Then use the procaster “Zoom” function to frame the slide. This will allow you to do other things on the screen like: changing from one presentation to another, use the procaster producer, and use the slide picker on the left to jump to any slide without flipping around the slides
All in all it was a great experience. You can view some of the videos that we captured at
http://twebevent.com/KMIevent . We will be running another simulcast on Oct 7. Join the KMI mailing list or just follow the #KMers hashtag for more information as we get closer.