365 tweets: how to stop Twitter driving you insane

455 days ago (according to MetricSpot.com), I started tweeting a maximum once a day (an average of 0.80 tweets/day). When I reached 100 tweets, I lost a small bet to Kate, and have now lost a second by failing to get to 365 within 450 days ("Damn it", as Jack Bauer would say!).

Twitter activity

I am, however,  on Twitter several times a day, and recommend it as one of my favourite tools for teachers. When I did so the other day, someone said Twitter drives her "completely potty" so, for what it's worth, here are 10 newbie tips for using Twitter and retaining your sanity.

  1. Follow something important to you Find some subject or issue that really interests or concerns you and "follow" and engage with that — whatever it is. Two of my big interests outside work are photography and street art and it was when I started following various people on those subjects, ones that mattered to me, that I first thought, "Wow! Twitter is great!"
  2. Twitter is great for images For class, I detest seeing trainees and colleagues using Google-is-Evil Images, as the results — the pictures they take from there — are rarely worth their time, in terms of how much language they are going to get from the images. But following people like @500px or @HistoryInPics or @Life or even @TelegraphPics will bring you brilliant photographs for creative writing, apart from anything else, from which you're going to get so much more language.
  3. It's good for jobs alerts A significant percentage of the people on teacher training courses here at IH Barcelona are taking CELTA courses (or the Spanish teacher training equivalent) and are going to be looking for ELT jobs: if that's your case, even if you followed no one else, following @tefldotcom or @ESLjobfeed, among others, would make it worth your while to be on Twitter.
  4. Favourite things I tend to go on to Twitter on my phone, over breakfast, over a coffee, on the Metro, occasionally at traffic lights; I "favourite" a lot stuff to come back to and read at length, when I have more time…
  5. … and unfavourite things And then I go back and skim-read the articles and so on linked to, unfavouriting if it disappointed, but keeping the really interesting, useful things, so that my favourites are, to some extent, a bank of materials I can turn to for class.
  6. Who follows who Who other people follow is interesting (often who they follow are way more interesting!). It sometimes repays to, for example, go and check out the author (A) of a really interesting tweet that someone you already follow (B) has retweeted — as Person A sometimes turns out to be much more interesting than Person B. You want to "follow" B, you want to follow interesting people!
  7. Who you unfollow is as, if not more, important as who you follow, and you want to start to unfollow people if they start to irritate you, quite possibly with the sheer volume of their tweets and/or the fact that none of what they post ever interests you. Ditch them!
  8. Create your own "unfollow" rules It's actually quite fun to create "unfollow" rules: mine include instantly unfollowing anyone who ever mentions politics, posts a photo of a cat or of coffee, or boasts where they are in the world — whoever they are, including friends and family. With the referendum in Scotland yesterday and another coming up in Barcelona, I've been able to slash the number of people I follow dramatically!
  9. You need to learn to tweet There's a certain amount of "learning to tweet" involved but fortunately Twitter itself is a good place to learn things — like the (unofficial!) rules of engagement.
  10. 365 is a great idea If you're learning something, anything, but it applies particular to using technology, you want to use it regularly, and obliging yourself to use it once a day — whether it's a new camera, or an interactive whiteboard, Google Drive or a piece of new software — is a great way to go about it. I've learnt so much from 365 photography, sketching and writing projects I've been involved in and am happy to say that it got me hooked on Twitter, while my other 9 tips helped me retain at least a degree of sanity!

Coming next, my 10 favourite tweets, of which this is one:

Who's the captain of that ship? I've got so much in class by starting with that image, and that question!

On Twitter (@Tom_IHBCN), I post no more than one thing a day, always and exclusively things that I think will interest language teachers and/or their learners.

Google Reader to be ditched, July 1

My thoughts entirely…!

As of July 1, Google is pulling the plug on Google Reader, in my view absolutely its best tool (with the possible exception of Google Drive), says The Guardian and the BBC, and Lifehacker, and Mashable, and 100s of other sites in my Reader feeds.

Currently in a state of shock, I just don't know what I'm going to do without all the amazing material for classes, all the amazing new technology, all the great ideas that all come to me daily in one conveniently crap-free space, the last not something that can be said of garbage collection points like Twitter and Google+.

Having swept aside Bloglines, Google is now just going to trash Reader in order to force on us whatever of its products it deems is going to make it most millions…?

See also
Lifehacker has a number of suggested alternatives

The end of the free Picnik

Unless you happen to be OK with throwing all your eggs into the Google basket, this is bad news: Picnik, the fabulous online image-editing software is shortly (April 19) to become only accessible via Google+.

That's bad news because it was a great tool for getting students to edit the digital images that they'd taken, which was great for project work.

Now, they'll either have to head over to Google+ or else just steal someone else's images from Google-is-Evil… which doesn't make for good project work.

In such cases, I'm always glad of alternativeto.net, which is a great site for finding alternatives to Picnik and other software of all sorts.

I really like the look of Pixlr as an alternative to Picnik, and will be trying that out rather than surrendering further to the Evil Empire.

Argh! Bloglines to close, October 1

Bloglines, a popular RSS reader [definition] is to close October 1, as it says "being locked in an RSS reader makes less and less sense to people as Twitter and Facebook dominate real-time information flow".

Thanks to Twitter and the like, people don't read use RSS readers any more, in other words (though over 70% of Mashable's readers do — or at least they did, a year ago).

To follow lots of blogs (and a huge etcetera), however, an RSS reader is indispensable — and has at least one huge advantage over Twitter and Facebook: you choose who or what you want to follow, and you don't finish up swamped by garbage.

Switching over to a different RSS reader is simply a question of exporting your feeds from Bloglines and importing them into a new one… but which one? The new, social media version of Google Reader was the obvious choice (though I much prefer Bloglines) — but further dependence on the Evil Empire aka Google, that's bad news, too.

Google Squared

teaching-methods-g2-758547This came from a recent TechLearning newsletter [post], which is well worth subscribing to (free).

Google Squared is still under development and I'm not quite sure if I can see an actual worthwhile classroom application of it but it's at least a different way to search and does allow you to add and take away results.

Disappointing that "Google Squared couldn't automatically build a Square about classroom technology", though it did rather better on "teaching methods" (see screen capture, above).

With or without learners, maybe it would be better anyway just to brainstorm such things, rather than let Google-is-Evil do all the thinking for you?