Sep 252009

Dear XXX,

Having trouble with your boss?  Wish you had a few more organizational options?  Try this:

  • Send your boss to the first name in the list below.
  • Make six copies, leaving off the first name and putting your own name and address in sixth place.
  • Send the copies to six friends or colleagues.
  • Within four weeks, you should receive 46,656 new bosses.  Some of them will be keepers.

“Some of them will be keepers” could be the motto for #lrnchat, a Twitter-based discussion held each Thursday from 8:30 pm – 10:00 pm Eastern time.  (Here’s how #lrnchat works.)  You participate by including #lrnchat (a Twitter hashtag) in any Tweet you send.  Following the conversation is easier if you use a tool like Tweetchat.

Last night’s topic was working with subject-matter experts (SMEs, which I insist is read as S.M.E. and not a rhyme for “twee”).  If that’s a topic of interest, you can find quite a few keepers in the transcript on the #lrnchat blog.

I decided to take a look at what happens at #lrnchat, using that transcript:

  • In 90 minutes there were 671 contributions.
    That’s 7.45 a minute, or one every 8 seconds.
  • 69 individuals posted at least one contribution.
    • The 5 most frequent contributors accounted for 27.9% of the total.
      (I was flabbergasted to see I wasn’t one of them.)
    • The next 5 accounted for 17.4%.
      (Ah, there I am, tied for sixth place.)
    • The top 14 contributors (20% of the group) accounted for 55% (take that, Pareto principle).
    • 26 contributors, or 37.7%, chimed in more than 10 times.

So what?

Clearly, you can’t get too deep when you’re talking with 68 other people and have a 140-character limit.  Within that context, though, I think the transcript shows:

  • Little hierarchy. The topic’s open, and if you have something to say, you toss it in.  No talking stick, no mike, no facilitator’s blessing.
  • Little guru-hood. The conversation ping-pongs, often but not always crossing the general topic.  No pontificating–your miter falls off because of the speed of the tweets.
  • Open doors. You can mark an individual item a favorite (to find it more easily later).  You can send a direct message (private tweet) to someone.  You can just plan to contact later.

I was surprised to find so few hyperlinks–I counted only 13.  Maybe that had to do with the topic.  I feel as though I’ve seen more in other #lrnchats, though this is the first time I’ve done detailed counting.

#lrnchat for me is like the bar at a face-to-face conference.  Or maybe the lounge area, outside the bar.  People are relaxed, have the conference topic in common; you can slide into or out of the flow.  You can, as the social media consultant Lawrence Berra said, observe a lot just by watching.  It’s not a seminar, it’s not an internship, but it’s certainly a network.

Are all the contributions worth noticing?  Of course not–but that’s a very context-specific answer.  What *I* find worthwhile is going to differ from what you find worthwhile, which is the whole point.  There’s lots of stuff in the #lrnchat stream. Which ones are keepers?  That depends on what you like to keep.

  17 Responses to “What happens on #lrnchat doesn’t stay on #lrnchat”

  1. Great comments, Dave. This is a great reference for those who say they don’t ‘get’ Twitter.

    #lrnchat is the best 90 minutes of my week and is the first conversation-collaboration-type-thing I have ever encountered in my whole life that moves at the Speed of Jane. See you next week!

  2. Jane, as you know, and as I’ve said to Marcia Connor and Clark Quinn, I was dubious about the idea. And it’s actually not the best time slot for me.

    For about 10 years, I was a subscriber to David Passmore’s TRDEV-L listserv and its successor Yahoo group. Time and again, I said that 90% of TRDEV-L was useless, but that I never knew where the 90% would come.

    Likewise with #lrnchat. The hashtag and the topic are initial filters. The flow itself is just that, a stream with high variability.

    I do think that over time, you come to know something about the other contributors. As with murder, not only will pomposity out, so too will generosity, wisdom, and collegiality.

  3. Dave,

    Though not all of the topics discussed on #lrnchat captivate me, I never fail to glean something valuable from the interchange with others in our field. There really aren’t that many of us and it difficult to connect with ‘like minds,’ that share similar work and concerns.

    Like Jane, I believe that #lrnchat is an excellent example of a professionally productive use of Twitter. Heck I even enjoy the “fun” of it all.

  4. Yes, definitely a keeper. One of the best professional development tools in my kit. Reason you may not find yourself as one of most frequent contributors? It’s going so fast and contributors so interesting, hard to pull your eyes off screen to type a message. When I miss a lrnchat, I go back to review but it’s not the same. You have the be there, caught in the flow, riding the wave.

  5. Kay: I agree with the ‘not that many of us’ comment. People worked to design or develop learning, however it gets delivered, often value the viewpoints and experience of those doing similar things. The formal organization / local chapter model can help, though I think that for many it’s not enough.

    Colleen: No, the transcript’s not quite the same, but especially if you have prior experience with #lrnchat, neither is the transcript a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.

    My analysis here has given me some ideas about digging through a transcript to find value. And dig you must: I’m still working on cleaning up the Word document I created. I figure it’ll be about 25 pages, single spaced, 10-point type.

  6. Dave,

    Very cool. Love that you did some stats on this.

    Personally, I don’t enjoy #lrnchat all that much and don’t get enough out of it. For 90 minutes of effort, I think I should feel less lost, less frustrated in being able to follow the flow of conversation, and get more benefit.

    Okay, there was one time I really enjoyed it, but I was out drinking with lots of other learning-technology drinkers. Now that was fun!!

    My prediction: This kind of un-flowing cacophony will be used occasionally in the future, but mostly laughed at as completely ridiculous.

    Here’s an experiment you might do: Give a transcript of one #lrnchat session to a graduate student and ask them to create a document in paragraph form with the main themes in it from the #lrnchat. Validate from some of the #lrnchat members that the graduate student’s composite is ideationally correct. Then randomly assign individuals to three groups.

    Group 1: They read the synopsis until they don’t want to read anymore.

    Group 2: They read the #lrnchat transcript until they don’t want to read anymore.

    Group 3: They participate in the #lrnchat session (they see the items from the #lrnchat session as if they are in a real session, but they can add their own responses).

    Group 4: Same as Group 3 but a confederate or two actually responds to the subjects as well.

    Group 5: Same as Group 3 but several subjects are giving input and so can respond to each other.

    My bet: Group 1 will crush the other groups in terms of remembering the key points and in making decisions consistent with the key points discussed. Groups 2-5 will see no significant differences (because while there may be some benefits to creating your own posts, there is a decrement as well from being distracted from other points that are being made.

  7. Will, not sure I get the validity of the experiment you propose. Those of us who enjoy #lrnchat aren’t there to produce a transcript. (If that was the point, then I’m sure I wouldn’t enjoy it.) Also, to one of your early points: There’s no such thing as learning ‘styles’, as you know, but perhaps there is a difference in those who are linear thinkers v. some other type. I have never felt frustrated or lost. And I like hanging out with folks like Clark Quinn and Marcia Conner and Mark Oehlert and Jay Cross and Ray Jimenez and Brent Schlenker and… Is there a body of research on “different strokes”? JB

  8. Dave, cool stats!

    I enjoy lrnchat as a social activity, and I often use the transcripts later to glean links. That’s pretty much it… reading the transcript is not particularly the same experience as being there. And the experience is like being at a bar in more than one way… :)

    I get concerned at times that using Twitter for this purpose will seem silly to others; as you’ve pointed out, our lrnchat tweets go far beyond Tweetchat. But I’m not particularly concerned about spamming people, seeing as how some people that I follow seem to tweet every 5 minutes ALL DAY LONG.

    I’m with you on the timing… I find it difficult to participate regularly because of it, but that’s always going to be the case for someone, I guess. I’m glad we both made it last night and got in touch!

  9. Will:

    I checked the basement and the closet, but there aren’t any grad students to spare here at Whiteboard Central. Nor high-paying offers to put me in front of any, though if you know of any, send ’em my way.

    I’m sure many people get nothing out of #lrnchat. I get nothing out of the NFL, NBA, NHL, and both major leagues combined, which take up a lot more Twitter bandwidth than #lrnchat ever will. Is a tweet about Michael Jackson “ideational?”

    I have anecdotes suggesting that learning professionals accustomed to being at the mike or on the stage don’t enjoy Twitter much. (Yes, I know the plural of “anecdote” is not “data.”)

    I figure people who don’t find something worth their time will not spend their time on that something. I don’t see that proposition worth testing, though. Counter-evidence is ample, from professional conferences to entire cable TV networks.

  10. Yeah, I’m wasting time listening to my Red Sox get clobbered by those evil Yankees. SMILE.

    Of course, since I’m washing dishes at the same time, not a bad use of my aural bandwidth…

    I guess I should revise my commentary above to recognize that it all depends upon your goal. My thought experiment above assumed the goal was learning, edification, or some such. If it’s to hang out, be social, tickle the innovative gray space, then one’s goal could easily be met.

    Go Red Sox !!
    Go Gray Matter !!

  11. Just to clarify, for anyone dropping by: I’ve met Will Thalheimer in person. We’ve exchanged a few emails. When Will says, “I don’t enjoy #lrnchat all that much and don’t get enough out of it,” I take that to mean he doesn’t enjoy it and doesn’t get much out of it.

    I don’t think he meant the thought experiment any more seriously than I took it.

    As for what will be thought of in the future as ridiculous, that’s an awfully big sample. I offer you Rod McKuen, all of disco, your haircut at age 16, and the third web page (or CBT lesson, or podcast) you created.


    On the Whiteboard you’ll find stuff about Bonnie Prince Charlie (not the current Prince of Wales), a video of Charles Aznavour, a mock horoscope, a reprise of Tom Paxton’s I’m Changing My Name to Chrysler, and musings on Scottish Gaelic (no word for “yes” and no word for “no”).

    I may worry that I will seem silly to others, but the worry doesn’t seem to change much.

  12. Good philosophy, Dave. I find myself adopting it more and more.

  13. Dave,

    I forwarded this post onto our Yammer network at the day job because you do a really good job of breaking down the activity into terms that outsiders of learning professionals can understand, and to Jane’s earlier comment, it really helps to have something to point out the WIIFM for Twitter, if someone’s not already on Twitter.

    Now about the site… To me, it’s critically important in a knowledge community (macro, being the internet, micro being #lrnchat regulars) that we know whom each other are. I’ll be honest, once I met people like Craig, Wendy, Koreen and Mark in-person, I became very invested in keeping up with what they write on their blogs, regardless of whether it’s immediately relevant to me. Clark, especially so, because my first encounter with Mr. Quinn was through his book, so being able to connect through Twitter and then offline — there’s a wealth of context it brings because I know these people as people — not as (in-topic) SMEs.

    Because I can now relate to them as people and friends, not as some abstract I don’t have a *relationship* with, I am much more open to receiving their ideas and applying them in the way in which they’re intended — because I can understand the intent.

    So, Dave… you keep posting about what’s playing in your car stereo (I love “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”), because knowing that about you colors your tweets, and that fills in the colors of 140 characters.

    I can’t say that I’ve had the experience of working with a SME that was my friend, but I would expect that it would be such richer learning produced from the experience.

  14. Aaron,

    Thanks very much for your comment. If any of your Yammer colleagues make it this far into this post, they might want to glance at an August recap and update on how I started and how my use has changed. Or another on my opinion about whether you should tweet (answer: how should I know?).

    Your experience with online contacts is similar to mine. Years ago I’d meet interesting people in my field mainly through face-to-face events like professional society meetings (local chapters or national organizations), seminars, and workshops. Kind of focused-random.

    In the past few years, that’s been supplemented by contact through blogs, then Facebook, then Twitter. And paying attention when Harold Jarche or Janey Clarey mentions someone else does the kind of thing you’re talking about: it tells me more about that other person, and more about Harold or Janet as well.

    I got to meet several people this past May; they were attending the ASTD shindig here in DC, and I went into town one evening. (Quality verification for Guinness is a never-ending responsibility.) That was my first meeting with a dozen people I’d been getting to know through their virtual presence.

    I’d always liked Lightfoot’s song; I learned only a year or two ago that the launching I attended back in 1958 (because a family friend worked at Great Lakes Steel) was the birth of the Edmund Fitzgerald.

  15. […] received the following comment to my last post about #lrnchat: Personally I think that #lrnchat, in twitter, is more akin to spam. I don’t follow #lrnchat and […]

  16. […] What happens on #lrnchat doesn’t stay on #lrnchat, September 25, 2009 […]

  17. Great post – sorry I didn’t read it until after your sent in the great eLearn Magazine article,

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