28 Oct 2009

On Twitter, speaking, and listening

This topic came up while discussing Twitter, and I’m going to crosspost chunks of that reply. I’m still figuring out what this site is going to be — it’s professional but also personal — and as you can see below, the general feedback I get is that people seem to be willing to listen when I yack. I’m not sure why, but I’ll yack as long as someone is willing to sit and listen.

When someone speaks, what control do they relinquish?
I’ll start with my conclusion: to my way of thinking, it’s not up to the speaker to determine the value-to-others of the speaking they do in public.

The subject started this way… a fellow professional, someone who gives presentations at conferences, doesn’t want to upload their Powerpoint slides to the web for people to access after their speaking engagement. Why? The slides don’t tell the whole story. No one who wasn’t there will understand. Anyone who was there won’t need them. It isn’t a “green” solution because people will waste paper printing it out repeatedly.

It is that person’s decision not to upload their Powerpoint if they want to control their message — okay, I can grok that. I think it’s wrong because I think someone might find it more valuable than they recognize, but I’m enough of an intellectual property person to accept it.

You can’t imagine the value to me
What’s wrong-headed with their view (which I find arrogant) is my certainty that I personally have gotten great value of reading people’s PPTs for events I’ve never attended. The blogpost on Library Journal I put up recently, talking about Liz Lawley’s talk at LITA and Picture the Impossible? I had only her uploaded PPT to look at since I didn’t attend LITA. Still, it gave me points to make in my own post, and grounds to open a discussion with her via email. This isn’t the only example I could trot out: I’ve read PPTs from Jenny Levine and Beth Gallaway that were deeply influential long before I met either of them in person. And I haven’t printed out a single copy.

You can speak or not-speak. Some people like Twitter with its endless updates, some don’t. Some people freeze up to speak in public; others hold court on a moment’s notice. Some people listen when others speak… some don’t.

Are you listening?
I have discovered that people seem to want to hear things I say, whether on Twitter or at conferences, on panels or when I’m shooting the breeze in a circle of friends. My “Mad Skillz in WoW” preconference at AzLA has enough advance signups, it won’t get cancelled — which wasn’t a given (and they’re paying extra money to hear me, besides!). I’ve been asked to be part of a panel at next year’s Computers in Libraries conference, if the organizer’s proposal is accepted. I have hundreds of followers on Twitter and in Facebook, though I haven’t set out to balloon those numbers (and I regularly block suspect followers on Twitter and ignore strangers on Facebook).

Evidently, some people do want to hear about things I’m saying — whether it’s about WoW, or libraries, or game politics, or weird links… or whatever. And that’s why i choose to bloggify this site instead of making it a static gallery like my old Oakheart site.

Am I really able to keep up with the 391 people I’m technically following on Twitter? Hell no. But the fact is, most of them don’t tweet often. And I miss some tweets — well, okay, that’s life. I miss seeing my real life friends daily too, but we’re still friends.

Ask the right question
To bring the subject full circle: if you’re going to speak — or tweet — then asking “who would want to know about this or that mundane topic” is the wrong question. It’s the wrong assertion to believe I don’t want to know you love the cat sitting in your lap, or that I don’t want to look at your Powerpoint slides. On Twitter, I unfollow people I’m not interested in; they do the same to me. (At one point I had over 700 followers; I presently have 628. Maybe they left when I was tweeting vociferously during Blizzcon). I don’t follow-back people automatically — that’s not rudeness, that’s common sense. But I assume most of those who follow are interested in what I’m saying.

And in my last word on this (for now): I see a direct correlation between my mentioning a new Library Journal post on Facebook and Twitter, and the hits I receive at the Library Journal website. That alone will keep me tweeting til the cows come home. Next up — finding out if people come read here on this site when I do so!

(By the way, I tweet as @LizDanforth.)

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2 Responses to On Twitter, speaking, and listening

  1. I completelyl agree with you, Liz, and this point of view. Offer what you have, and let those who browse the tweeting get what they can out of it. That said, I wish less people felt the need to tell me they’re having coffee or eating supper. Twitpics are especially good for insight into character–worth more than 1000 words, imho.

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