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TweetChat: Twitter for meetings – but it’s a tossed salad

by on Apr.09, 2009, under Communicating, Learning and eLearning, Social tools

TweetChatSuddenly this afternoon at 5pm I started receiving a bunch of tweets (Twitter messages) from friends. That’s not unusual, but these tweets didn’t make much sense.  Obviously a couple of my friends were chatting back and forth using Twitter, but of course all of their followers, even those who weren’t in on the conversation, were receiving the messages – which made no sense because they/I had no context for these tweets. They seemed to be random answers to some unseen question. And they weren’t exchanging direct messages, which would have been private, not public. What had I missed?

Then I noticed the hashtag #lrnchat on the tweets and I investigated.
What was going on was that Marcia Connor (Twitter @marciamarcia), who is a learning maven and blogs for Fast Company, had arranged a “TweetChat” which is a Twitter-based discussion that is glued together by hashtags (#lrnchat in this case).  Clark Quinn obliged with the details in his blog. TweetChat.com lets you log in to Twitter (through TweetChat’s website) and then displays (in real time) every public tweet that contains the hashtag you specify. It basically stitches together a “conversation” from hashtagged tweets. In addition, if you write your messages using the TweetChat web site, the correct hashtag is automatically applied to each message, saving you some effort and probably a lot of frustration.

To the user of TweetChat, the exchange looks like a conversation among a bunch of people in a chatroom (some of whom you follow on Twitter and some of whom you don’t follow).

But, the problem is that all of your followers (and followers of others in the chat as well) get spammed with your out-of-context tweets that are intended for the group chat. And the non-TweetChat users only see your messages, not those of their non-friends participating in the chat. They see odd snippets from a conversation, not a coherent whole.

In my case, I knew several of the participants in the chat so I was seeing tweets from 3 or 4 out of the maybe dozen participants, and the chat was about something I know about, so it was reasonable for me to participate, but what about my followers?  What did they think?  They have different interests, and most of them would/were be uninterested in this particular chat.

Well it turned out to be entirely an interesting experience – not just the content of the chat but the way it all worked out over time. I moderated my participation a bit, and tried to always add messages that would make sense out of context, so my followers could benefit even if they weren’t getting all of the participants’ messages. And also, at least one of my followers was interested, figured out what was going on, and joined the chat late in its two-hour run. (Yuck, the word “follower” does sound kind of odd in this context, doesn’t it? – are these my disciples? Not.) I think this tool has a long way to go, and a connection on Skype or any other IM-chat tool would have been much easier and less annoying to those who follow us on Twitter, but overall it turned out to be not only an interesting two-hour experience for me, but beneficial for one of my friends as well.


View the TweetChat in its entirety.

Search Twitter for the #lrnchat hashtag (a different way of finding the same thread of messages).

Near the end of the chat (after about 700 messages were exchanged), we were noticed and picked up as a trend by WTHashtag.com. This was fun because at this point a couple of strangers joined the chat – at least they looked like strangers to me – seemed that they wanted to be noticed, so they joined the conversation and added additional hashtags in their tweets so they could benefit from spinoff traffic from our chat. (Reminds me of the early comment spam in blogs, where people would post a comment on your blog post just to pick up traffic for their own site…Viagra and medications cheap from Canada, etc.)

Here’s Marcia’s description of how she got enmeshed in Twitter and some of her observations on how Twitter can change the type of interactions people have with each other.

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9 comments for this entry:
  1. marciamarcia

    Thanks for joining us and weighing in, Jim. To address at least one of the issues you raise, I send a tweet at the beginning of chats like these to the people who follow me that says, basically:

    #learnchat 2nite 8-10pET means I update status more than usual. It’s chat 4ppl w/ passion 4learning. Always educational. http://sn.im/lrnin

    And then I practice writing my tweets so they make sense to any reader even if they didn’t hear the question. I see these as an opportunity for us to improve our 140ch communications and also widen the circle, and it seems we met that goal last night.

    I hope you’ll join us again next week.

    – Marcia

    twitter.com/marciamarcia
    http://www.marciaconner.com

  2. Brooks Bennett

    Thanks for the writeup! I am the developer of TweetChat, you can follow me @brooksbennett. By the way, my middle name is Sky.

  3. Sky

    Brooks, thank you for checking in. Tweetchat is an example of how one can build a new capability on top of an old one that has the appropriate “hooks” (API). TweetChat functions perfectly, and provides a “moving window” into a hashtagged conversation or thread within Twitter. My critique, of course, is focused on the fringe areas where the functionality of TweetChat kinda bumps up against the functionality of Twitter like an iceberg bumping up against the Titanic. But, I hope you can think of something that will mitigate the bumpiness.

    I will hear more from my “followers” today about whether they were bothered by the “spray” from my tweetchat yesterday.

  4. Learnlets » Chatting

    [...] what my colleague Sky (Jim Schuyler) noticed was that all those tweets were flooding the twitterverse.  In fact,  he found out about #lrnchat [...]

  5. Sky

    Talk about weird. Turns out that if you put @someone at THE BEGINNING of a tweet, then only that person and his/her followers will see your tweet. It is called a REPLY. This reduces the “splatter” that I mentioned in the article.

    But it only works this way if your followers have chosen this behavior. (It didn’t exist when I first signed up for Twitter, so I was unaware of it.)

    It does look to me like if you put @someone in “the middle” of a tweet, then it probably goes to everyone.

    This makes tweets quite context-sensitive. I’m not sure I like this…

  6. Twitter is like shouting at a dinner party - Sky’s Blog

    [...] closed. Related to my earlier article about TweetChat as a Twitter-based mechanism for chats or meetings, here is more conversation on similar [...]

  7. long

    Hi, How could I find the developer of tweetchat? I have some question about it.

    Could you help me to get his email or twitter account?

  8. Sky

    I tried @tweetchat, but there are very few followers and no information. There is no information on the TweetChat site to speak of. Sorry.

  9. long

    hi,sky,
    Thanks!

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