Suddenly 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.