One of the very cool things at #NLS5 (and there were many) was the “socialbook” which was a big whiteboard where attendees could write what the conference was meaning to them. In many ways it was like the back of a toilet stall door, where anonymous grafitti sprawled across the expanse. But instead of declarations of love, arguments about politics and crude drawings, the topic of discussion seemed to focus on keeping your conference mojo, the use of twitter for professional development and the resulting awesomeness of PLNs (personal learning networks).
To me, these three are interlinked. I manage to stay professionally engaged (most) of the time, and it has really been through the use of twitter in the last 18months plus that has really helped that. However, before I was on twitter, I was professionally involved in other ways. I was really active on an ALIA committee which involved a monthly teleconference with my peers, I regularly went to ALIA events to meet new people and network with those I already knew, I volunteered for ALIA coordinating a column where I got to know new graduates through their writing, I read and wrote to elists constantly, I read inCite every month, almost from cover to cover. I am still contributing to ALIA through the research I have been doing, but currently there are no regular meetings to attend, minutes to keep, or proposals to write.
Before twitter, I was professionally engaged. But I was also incredibly busy with the administrivia that all of the above entailed. I had deadlines, competing priorities, and networking meant going out on cold windy Melbourne nights when I would have preferred to snuggle under the covers in front of Doctor Who with my cat. I was on my laptop all the time, spending so much of my “free” time actually doing “work-type” stuff. And that didn’t change just because of twitter. But it has certainly had a huge impact on how I engage professionally.
Twitter can be a double edged sword. You can be obsessed with the stream. I would click refresh and wait desperately for responses. But at other times I felt completely bombarded by the stream, this anxious feeling that I had to keep up, and was missing vitally important conversations if I wasn’t plugged in 24/7. This says a lot more about me than it does about twitter, but it has been through my PLN, both on twitter and when I have met them IRL (in real life, if anyone reading this isn’t a web geek), that the real change in my attitude to my professional involvement has evolved, and this has led to benefits in my personal development.
Meeting the people I have interacted with on twitter through events like conferences has been invaluable – it has helped me to cement established relationships and flesh out skeletons of friendships. Discussions at NLS5 have also helped me to draw a line in the sand between my personal and professional twitter handles, and start to more actively manage these accounts. Twitter has helped me to keep my conference mojo going. Because even though it’s taken me almost three weeks to write my reflections on my latest conference experience, I can dive into the twitter pool and find inspiration that’s as fresh as it was during those frantic days. I can reflect on the reflections of members of my PLN, and add my own spin to them.
I have now come to a kind of acceptance that my interaction with twitter is mercurial – just like I am told I can be. I may be obsessed with reading every link possible on a Tuesday morning, ignore it completely for weeks on end, start a 4sq war with a friend while travelling, read commentaries on a conversation I had hours ago that someone who was in the same room was tweeting (that still feels weird! Intraverts, they’re a mystery to me…), tweet every word I hear at a conference to the point where twitter thinks I’m a spammer, rant via my private account about something that is driving me mental, or professionally network while under the covers watching Doctor Who and cuddling my cat.