Twitter University Night Classes

Senior man sitting on a chair and using a laptop Model Release: Yes Property Release: NAEver notice how Twitter chats are a lot like night classes in college?  Night classes happen once a week and often begin with small talk.  We even show up early to catch each other up on the current events since last week.  Twitter chats are very similar.  We tune in once a week and make introductions detailing where we work, and perhaps a random fact just for fun.  For example, “Hey #chat, I’m Stina from NYC and work as a travel publicist.  Oh, and I’ve kissed Ricky Martin!”  Okay sure I may not use that fact (yes, it is true, take a look at my bio) but you get the point.  It’s meant to be fun.  Chats are meant to be informative and laid back.  But what happens when having fun simply becomes noise?

I’ve noticed in a lot of chats the witty banter, especially in the beginning, “Hey John, haven’t seen you in a while.  How ya been? How are the kids? #chat”.

Please explain to me why the chat hashtag is used?  Does this benefit anyone trying to participate in the chat?  I’m all for making small talk with the simple “How are you and glad you made it!”  but when you start asking about personal stuff or throwing in inside jokes and using the hashtag, it becomes noise.  Simply remove the hashtag and continue the conversation on Twitter without clogging up the stream.

My other pet peeve: cursing.  Now my family’s from NYC and I grew up around friends/family members that would fit right in at a party of drunken sailors or perhaps the Real House Wives of New Jersey.  That doesn’t mean I curse all the time.  There’s just a time and place for such language and a chat is not one of them.  It simply takes away from the point you’re trying to make.  If you’re trash talking about the upcoming football game, go right ahead and bring out your potty mouth! (Go Jets!)

So here’s my question, do you agree or disagree?  Am I just being nit-picky?  And to all my friends that do moderate chats, how do you make sure that chats are lighthearted and beneficial to all parties?  Are there rules that you set prior to beginning the chat?  Chats should be fun but sometimes having fun can just be noise.

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  • Valid points, and good for many folks to pay attention to. I have been guilty of the “hey, how are you doing” line several times, but in my defense I truly am interested and have made a SM connection with some of those folks. It is sincere, but, yes, I can see how it lends itself to inside banter possibly better left outside the chat. Anyway, I liked the post.

    • Thanks for comment Darrel! I’m all for making connections on Twitter that are deeper than the typical hello and goodbye. In fact, that’s how PRBC came about. However in a chat, it just reminded me of the people in the back of the class that would chit chat and take away from the discussion at hand. Sure, I’m guilty of it too but I wanted to see if anyone else thought the same way.

  • JasMollica

    Hi Christina,

    I haven’t noticed too much “coffee klotch” talk in the chats I take part in. But, my rule of thumb is if I have something “personal” to say (How’s things, etc.) I never put the hashtag on. I think it’s up to the moderator, whether it be a Twitter chat or actual live, in person chat, to keep things in check.

    Oh and nice work out of the Jets on Monday Night (notice there’s no hashtag. ;-} )!

  • HI Christina–

    I moderate #Collegechat twice a month and since this chat is only 1 hour we keep the opening pleasantries to 5 minutes. At the 5 minute point I ask the first question. Since my chat uses a guest format I have to keep things moving. I do find though everyone likes to be greeted and acknowledged. As far as “potty mouths” go, that’s between them and the Library of Congress.
    I use the hashtag so people can easily follow the chat in tweetchat or tweetgrid or Hootsuite–whatever my participants use. And then afterwards I am able to send out a transcript whihc everyone seems to like.

    Theresa Smith

    • Theresa, thanks for sharing your info! Everyone definitely likes to be greeted and acknowledged. We are a “me” generation after all. However I think keeping it short to five minutes is perfect.

      I’m curious if any moderators have separately DM’d an individual who was being rude in a chat or cursing. Debating is a perfect way to learn as long as its respectful of course.

  • I wonder where the idea that Twitter would be a good interface for extended multi-person chats came from, in the first place. Twitter is at its best when used for short messages; that’s why we _link_ to news stories and blog posts, rather than breaking the stories up into chunks of 140 characters and telling them right in the Twitter stream.

    There must be dozens of sites and technologies that are better suited to lengthy group chats — some dating all the way back to IRC (I know, I know, too technical), some as recent as Google Wave (I know, I know, low adoption). Meebo? TinyChat? Why not use Twitter to _link_ to one of those, and hold the chat in an interface where 140 characters of noise wouldn’t seem so intrusive?

    • Hrm, that’s a good question. To be honest, I’m not sure. I personally like the have chats on Twitter, especially because we are limited to only *140* characters. That means whatever is being said has to be direct and informational or else it’s not going to fit in the tweet. IMHO, it’s only noise when its not benefiting anybody or is irrelevant to the current topic.

      Also, I’ve seen people warn their followers to “snooze” them for the evening as they are going to be participating in a chat. This at least gives others the option to organize their home stream.

      • Anonymous

        I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but #journchat was the first “industry chat” and #GNO (girls night out) was the first “twitter party” (meaning not industry specific). I think they both started informally out of random conversations taking place and grew from there …

  • Hey Christina –

    Great post. I have too inadvertently sent out a non-chat message with a hashtag. For me it’s usually a simple human error issue — while actively participating in a chat I use tweetgrid or similar site with realtime updates. Frequently I’ll see a message in my general stream or a non-chat related @ message to me. Unfortunately I’ll forget to move to my normal twitter client to reply and just reply within the system which adds the hashtag automatically.

    It’s definitely been the source of some laughs and confusion, but most definitely all my doing.

  • Anonymous

    I co-moderate #pr20chat, which starts every Tuesday at 8p ET. We leave the first few minutes for introductions simply because it’s a way to get to know who’s in the chat and a bit more than just their Twitter handle. During that time, we’ll see some people engage in “hey, how’s it going …” banter, but once the questions begin, those conversations die down.

    Justin (my co-mod, @jgoldsborough) and I really focus on creating a community where people aren’t afraid to ask questions, challenge the wisdom of the crowd, or just offer a different perspective. I think some “long time, no tweet” pleasantries can help people feel a bit more comfortable. That’s also why when someone tweets that they’re participating in their first chat, we try to welcome them to the group. I love it even more when other chat participants go out of their way to extend the welcome. That tells me that we’re doing something right … 🙂

    While the industry-specific chats are like “Twitter University” (which I’ve never heard before — love the comparison!), we should also recognize that most people who are participating are doing so after office hours, on their own time. If they want to add a bit of “social” to the conversation, I don’t think it’s a problem (within reason, of course!).


    • Hi Heather!

      Thanks for adding the post. I definitely agree that adding a social aspect in the beginning makes it much easier to feel more comfortable about joining the chat. I love #pr20chat and feel it offers a good balance to between social and informational.

      I do have another question, although I don’t think I’ve seen this often, what happens when a participant becomes disrespectful or uses language that we wouldn’t necessarily use in a business setting? Do you and Justin ever address it? Have you ever had to address it?