In a couple of recent tweets, comments, and blog posts I’ve hinted at my feeling that Twitter and other social networks used for informal learning, may be collapsing under their own success. During the PLN Backlash conversation last week, there was a tweet which implied that Twitter as a PLN is becoming somewhat of an “exclusive club”. I wanted to hash out a few thoughts I’ve had that don’t entirely fit into solid post format:
- It’s already hard to stick with Twitter…from the Nielson study in April 2009, we learned that 60% of Twitter users quit within the first 30 days. That means, most of those who have a cursory introduction to PLNs will likely struggle with Twitter before adding any of the things below into the mix.
- Twitter restructuring has caused problems…Initially, when you followed someone on Twitter, you could see their tweets to users you did not already follow. This meant you could see half a conversation, which allowed you to find other half and follow that user if they interested you enough. Now, you can only see conversations between those parties where you follow both (or all) users. This severely limits the visibility of those within the community of educators. Someone starting out small (as I’ve suggested frequently) will struggle to see who else to follow.
- Increase in network size makes it hard to get started…As we build larger and larger groups from which to learn, it becomes harder for new users to wade through hundreds that someone is following. For example, I started building my learning network through Twitter after a session (like many) with Will Richardson. Will has kept the number of users he is following relatively small at ~150. That is a reasonable number to wade through. As many of our networks grow into the 400 – 2000 range, it becomes entirely impossible for a new user to wade through and find the users with the most relevance to themselves. This leads to…
- Lists as the starting point…hey, look there’s a dead horse, let me beat it…seriously, digging through a small list (<50) and finding the most relevant from there is great, just don’t follow a list en masse because it’s easy.
- Plurk isn’t easy either…This is not a problem inherent in Twitter. From my own recent experience, Plurk is a different environment, but with many of the same issues. It’s been stated that Plurk is a more tight-knit community. If Twitter is becoming an exclusive club, Plurk is a different “club” if you will, but it’s still hard to get a foot in the door. Despite having been an active participant on Twitter for nearly two years, an active del.icio.us user, blogger, and general PLN/NIHCTTAR supporter, I’m struggling to find folks to follow on Plurk, and am having very few response to my attempts to engage the community. Time will tell, but it seems to be the same song, different verse for new users to either service.
- When everyone knows everyone it’s hard for the new folks to get their voices heard…going back to the analogy in my previous post: When everyone at the party knows everyone else, it’s hard for someone new to come in and join the conversation. This is where it becomes imperative that we, as a community, work to embrace new members. We can’t just hand them a network and say “go to town”.
- Strange occurrence…for the first year I was on Twitter, I maxed out at being able to follow tweets from 100 users. Beyond that, I began to get lost in the stream. In the last 6 months, my time “reading” Twitter has drastically decreased. During that time, I’ve ballooned from following approximately 100 users, to following 400 users…May never get comfortable with 2,000+ but it seems to me, that the less I focus on reading everything the more conversations I can get involved in.