Ever wondered why people put a dot at the start of their tweets?

 

It's for a good reason.

The most common Twitter mistake...

The most common Twitter mistake...

Years ago I wrote a thing on TinyWrite (which sadly doesn't exist anymore) about using a character at the start of a tweet to ensure everyone sees it - when that's appropriate. Later I saw the slide-deck below, on the same subject.

I saw those slides again today, and I feel the same way about the presentation now as I did when it first came out - it is very good (and very popular), but it is also a 44-slide way of making what is quite a simple point! So I made the image above, because it occurred to me that a Venn Diagram could explain it fairly succinctly... I LOVE Venn Diagrams. Any excuse to use one. (Here's my favourite one ever.)

Anyhow here's the deck for a fuller explanation:

You see this problem on Twitter all the time, still. Even experienced Twitter users fluent in everything else on the platform make the error. The reason this matters is that sometimes you want all of your followers to see a tweet with, as I say, sharing content and live-tweeting events being the two main examples. Fairly often people will tweet a link to one of my blog posts with @ned_potter at the start of the tweet - so basically only people following both the tweeter and me will see that tweet, and my followers may already have seen it when I tweeted it anyway...

So it is a basic part of the way Twitter works - Twitter filters conversations so you only see those between people you follow, otherwise it would be completely unusable and overwhelming. (Incidentally, one of the side effects of this system is sometimes you can be tweeting as an organisation, and having a dispute with a user, and it feels like the whole world can see your conversation, which is embarrassing. In actual fact, only people who follow both you and the user will see it, so it's not nearly as problematic as it feels at the time...)

So if you want all your followers to see a tweet, make sure there's a character of some kind before an @username. It's not the end of the world if people get this wrong - but you may as well get it right!


Edit: A brief follow up on over-sharing via the dot

As part of the conversation that followed me tweeting about this post earlier, Matt Shaw pointed this out:

If you click on the date in that tweet you'll see all the tweets which followed in reply - but essentially it comes down to some people overusing the dot to ensure everyone sees their tweets. There are three main reasons people use the dot apart from the live-tweeting and post-sharing described above.

  1. Because someone asks a question to which the answer has value to everyone (this is, in my view, completely acceptable - as long as you're a good judge of what constitutes value to everyone, and I'm not always confident I am a good judge of that...)
  2. Because your tweet is so hilarious / insightful / clever that everyone simply must see it (this is sometimes okay, I am guilty of doing it on occasion, but when people do it all the time it makes me wince)
  3. Because they want everyone to see the praise they're responding to (this one I have the most problem with - you see people responding to thanks for their talk, as in this example from Chuck G in an article raging against the dot. You also see people saying thank you for people nominating them for a #FollowFriday in this fashion. Why do people do this? Or worse still, ReTweet their FollowFriday nominations?! Everyone who sees the tweet already follows them! Desist!)

So, use the dot with caution! Use it to share blog posts and presentations from other Twitter users - or better still, put a word in there to make it a proper sentence. And as Chuck says, if you're tweeting a conference lead with the hashtag (that's a far better solution than my example in the image at the top of this post). But otherwise, think carefully.

ALL THAT SAID, as I've mentioned before, my number 1 piece of advice to tweeters is to ignore advice to tweeters - unless you're tweeting as an organisation, just do it how you want to...

 

Creating quick and easy videos with Adobe Voice

 

I saw this tweet earlier in the week, and had a look at the list. It's a good list, and the thing which really caught my eye was Adobe Voice. It allows you to create an animated video which sits somewhere between a normal video or screen-capture, and a slidedeck on autoplay. I decided to sign up and have a go, and it took only about half an hour to create this video with it.

It's a very new product, coming out in May of this year. Hopefully the video above shows you how it works and what it can do - the reason I feel like it could be so useful for libraries is that it allows you to explain fairly dry and complex information in a visual and engaging way. Some types of video, particularly stuff about databases and online things, really don't lend themselves to the 'person talking either to or off camera' school of video-creation - and screen capture can sometimes be a little dull too. I feel like this is a nice hybrid - the 'animation' element keeps things moving, and you can use screengrabs if you like too. You need neither a micrphone nor a video camera to create an effective video. You don't have to master complicated software (and even Camtasia, which I think is ace and very easy to use, feels complex compared to Voice).

Like a lot of new tools coming out these days, it makes things look very smart without the user having to know about anything except providing useful content. There are lots of different templates - here's the same video as above, using a different theme. Notice how it recolours the icons to fit the new theme.

Transient
Transient

You can also choose different layouts - I chose a side-by-side theme but there are four other options.

So have a look and see if it could be useful to your library. In summary:

(The Cons list looks really big when they're side-by-side but that's only because the cons take more explanation!)

Pros

  1. Solves an existing problem! I love tools which do this
  2. Free
  3. It's an all-in-one solution. When I create slides I have to go to iconfinder for icons, flickr for images and PPT to actually make it - Voice does all these things from one place
  4. Looks great
  5. Extremely quick to create something useful
  6. Conveys information well - it's not just pretty, it's effective in what we need it for

Cons

  1. iOS only
  2. You can't, at the time of writing, have more than one layout (or theme) per video, which would be nice
  3. In fact there's very little flexibility in how you layout each slide, once your theme and layout are selected - but this is also its strength. It's idiot proof. You'd have to go out of your way to make something bad with this tool
  4. At the moment there's no option to upload to YouTube - they have to be hosted on Adobe's own site and embedded elsewhere. That's fine, but having a video which isn't on YouTube always seems like a massive waste of an opportunity...

10 Tiny Tips for Trainers & Teachers

 

I do a whole load of training these days, both as part of my day-job and my freelance work, so have picked up a few small tricks along the way. There's nothing earth-shattering here - but if you run training or teach infolit classes, you may find some of these useful.  

Here's the short, visual version - then I go into each one in a bit more detail below.

Session structure

1. Start with something practical. Sometimes there is, unavoidably, a bunch of theory or conceptual stuff you have to get through. But if that's the case, if at all possible make this second on your itinerary for the day / hour - and start off with something practical. Diving in with something for people to DO wakes everyone up, and grounds the whole workshop in something tangible rather than abstract. It also makes everyone into active participants early on.

2. Allow time to recharge. A full-day workshop should have coffee-breaks etc built-in, but even a 1hr workshop can be quite overwhelming. Just building in a 3 minute gap for participants to switch-off, chat to each other, relax, will help them focus for the second half of the session and raise the energy level all round. A break 10 minutes in to a 1hr session works brilliantly - surprisingly better then, than half-way through the session or later.

3. Sum up via a Random Slide Challenge (also known as Battle Decks). I love a random slide challenge. Here's how it works:

  1. You create a short simple slide-deck which summarises the session you've just run (I normally create two decks of 5 slides each)
  2. You get participants to deliver the presentation (so in my case, two volunteers)
  3. The volunteers have never seen the slides before, which is part of the fun - so they see each slide for the first time at the same moment the audience does, and have to improvise their presentation based on that
  4. You move the slides along after 15 seconds per slide, so the whole thing takes only just over a minute per presentation

You have to give them the best possible chance of knowing which part of the session each slide is getting at! If you look at slide 41 onwards of the deck embedded here, you'll see an example of a random-slide challenge set of slides.

This works well for two reasons - firstly it is often hilarious. People in the audience shout-out if they pick up on what the slide is about before the presenters, and basically it leaves everyone on a high at the end of the session. Feedback forms at both the British Library, where I've done this on training courses, and for my infolit classes at York, often point towards this as being one of the delegates' favourite parts. The other reason it works is it's often a surpisingly great summary of the session. People say the exact kinds of things I would have said if I was summarising myself, but it has more impact because it's another voice (and, with students, it's one of their peers). Try it! The only thing is, you need a plan B for if you get no volunteers, which once happened to me. Prizes help ensure this doesn't happen...

4. Close after the questions. It's good to end any training or teaching session with a call to action - a clear message as to where participants can go from here. This can be somewhat muddied by a Q&A session (which can of course throw up anything), so build in time for questions just before the end, and leave yourself the last 5 minutes to close the session with something direct and meaningful.

 

Tablet as teaching assistant

5. Use Padlet on your tablet to remember who's who. Padlet is a great tool that can be used in all sorts of ways. You create an online wall, onto which you and anyone else who has the URL can post notes. Anyone can double-click anywhere to add a sort of virtual post-it. Then they can put in their name as the title, and a note, or a URL - links to pics or videos become embedded objects on the wall. I use it to crowd-source people's ideas in training sessions - like you'd use a flipchart, except everyone can go back and look at the URL after the session, and it becomes a sort of archive for everyone to learn from oneanother.

Anyway, depending on the session I'll go round at the start and ask people to introduce themselves, and say what they want to get out of the day / hour. This is very useful in and of itself, as you can tailor things accordingly. I'll type it into Padlet on the big presenting screen as I go, so we can all refer back to it later in the day and see if we did what we said we'd do! But the really useful thing is, you can choose exactly where your notes go on the screen - so I put the notes in a way which corresponds to the physical layout in the room and where people are sitting, like in the example below. Then when I take it off the big-screen to put my slides up, I put the Padlet wall on my ipad screen - this means I've got everyone's names in the right place for easy reference so I can remember who's who!

(I feel like I didn't explain that very well. Does that make sense? The example below should clear it up.)

A Padlet wall example

A Padlet wall example

 

6. Skip ahead in the presentation, on your tablet. I like to have my slides or prezi open on my ipad so I can see what's coming. This is particularly handy if you're joint-teaching with somone - while they're speaking, you can recap what you're supposed to be saying next. A massive part of successful teaching and presenting, for me, is feeling in control - and this helps.

 

Handouts

7. Hand out the handouts. It's tempting to feel more organised by distributing the handouts, if you use them, before people arrive. Placing one by each PC or on every table. But if the group is of 20 or less, hand them round yourself; it's a great opportunity to meet each person individually and make eye-contact which, however brief, makes the communication easier and fuller for the session proper.

8. Use screengrabs to make exercises easy to find. It's amazing how often people lose their place in a handout. When you get to an excercise in the handout, put a screengrab of the slide that's on the big-screen at the time you're introducing the excercise - it makes it quick and easy for people to know exactly where they should be.

 

Materials

9. Use a free PBworks wiki to store materials for delegates. For all sorts of reasons, it's good to have materials online. Particularly if your session is link-heavy, store a digital copy of the hand-out on a free wiki (PBworks for example) so delegates can access them that way and just click on URLs rather than typing them in. Put the PowerPoint on there too - this means you’ll have a copy of your presentation and hand-outs even if your USB stick falls out of your pocket and your printer breaks…

10. Send the presentation round afterwards with an email. A follow-up email is useful for reinforcing key messages, and making sure people have access to the presentation materials. Don’t rely on people (students especially) tracking it down for themselves; follow up directly, ensuring they have a copy of the presentation AND your contact details. If there are issues around attachment filesizes, upload your slides to Slideshare and your hand-out to Scribd, and include links instead.


As always, I'd welcome comments - add your own tips below and help make this post more useful!

I just mocked up a @buzzfeeduk Libraries edition

 

I spent my whole lunchtime doing this, a mock up of what Buzzfeed might look like if it was aimed solely at information professionals.

In other news, I need to take a long, hard look at my life.

Click through to view the original on Flickr, in all its utterly pointless, Creative Commons so feel free to use it, glory.

A friendly reminder: revoke access to any Twitter apps you no longer need!

 

If you tweet, this is just a friendly reminder to periodically go to Twitter.com's Settings, choose Apps (if you're already logged into Twitter, this link'll take you right there), and revoke access to anything you don't still actively need.

I made this - click to view the original on Flickr.

I made this - click to view the original on Flickr.

Often when Twitter accounts are hacked, it's not because a hacker has magically guessed your password, but because a third-party app which has access to your account (and probably thousands of others) has been compromised. Every time you sign into something with Twitter, you're slightly increasing the risk of being hacked.

The sites which only ask for read-only permissions aren't likely to cause any trouble, but any that can read and write tweets - and loads can, even if they don't ever actually write tweets on your behalf under normal circumstances - should only be allowed access to your account if you're using them on an ongoing basis. This particularly important with institutional accounts, obviously, where a hacked account can lead to some reputational harm - but for peace of mind apply it your own personal account too.

I just did this for the first time in a while, and honestly there were apps in there I have no recollection of even existing, let alone being something I've actively taken the decision to link with my Twitter account...

Incidentally, if you ever do find your account has been compromised, here's the Twitter Support page you need.