Hacking Rhetoric

Learning in public, and the ‘grammar’ of Twitter

1 Comment

Since I’m asking you guys to be ‘out there’ in writing on this blog, it seems only fair that I should be, too.

Learning in Public!

So first off, thanks for leaping into the social media-based research exercise today. Y’all dug up some really cool resources, hopefully started some interesting discussions (with each other and with folks in the wider hacking community), and learnt some stuff about the benefits and drawbacks of this one approach to research. I was also excited to see you stepping up to help each other with your technical problems — very much in the spirit of collaboration we discussed earlier in the class meeting. Nice work! I understand that some of you are nervous about ‘learning in public’ in this way, participating in public discussions and writing on this publicly available blog, but I want to commend you on taking the risk — and assure you that you’ll reap rewards, too. (Plus, honestly, we are building in a very tiny corner of the internet here. It’s mostly just us.)

Twitter tutorial & citation management software link behind the jump …


I realised, though, that I maybe haven’t given you all the information you need to be comfortable working with Twitter as a research or communication tool. Let me attempt to remedy that with a few quick pointers and examples!

Twitter handles — Direct address & General broadcast

You’ve all selected your Twitter handles already and you’ll have seen that, on Twitter, when they’re included in tweets, handles are preceded with an @ symbol — for example, @profbeckwise. They’ll always appear as links (different colour to body text) in a tweet; if they’re not coloured in, chances are you have a typo.

When you START a tweet with someone’s Twitter handle — i.e., the first character of the tweet is that @ — the tweet is semi-private; it’ll only appear in your timeline, the timeline of the person mentioned, and that of anyone who follows both of you. It’s basically direct address. Anyone can track it down by going directly to your Twitter homepage (www.twitter.com/yourusername) and it will appear in searches, but it won’t flow into strangers’ timelines.

You can see an example of this happening here — Sammy posted a tweet, and then Cayla, Hayley and Tania all responded directly to her, starting their tweets with her username. Because they each hit ‘reply’, the tweets are linked together into a conversation.

If you want to respond to someone but make the tweet more broadly public (basically general broadcast), you can put a period immediately before the @ symbol at the beginning of your tweet; for example: .@profbeckwise Did you notice the period at the start of the tweet?” You can also put the username elsewhere in the tweet — at the beginning or end.

I did this here, responding to Meagan’s post (to link the conversation), but adding a period to ensure my tweet was visible to all.

RT, MT & via

Twitter is designed to facilitate conversations and it has some built-in functionality for giving people credit for things they’ve said.

RT = “retweet” … You can “retweet” a tweet either by hitting the button that looks like a recycling symbol under the tweet or by manually copying-and-pasting it. If you hit the button, it will reproduce the tweet in your own timeline, including the original author’s information. If you copy and paste it, it’s polite to include RT followed by the original author’s username, so they get credit. Here’s an example from Lara. She retweeted a link from @TransClothesRck and added our class hashtag — something you can’t do if you use the retweeting button.

MT = “modified tweet” … This is like RT above, used when you manually copy and paste a tweet. However, you’ll often find you don’t have room for the whole thing (since you have to add two characters for “MT” and then the username …), so people often cut links or extra words, or change full words to abbreviations, or otherwise change the tweet to fit it in your measly 140 characters. When you do this, it’s polite to use MT so folks know that the tweet has been changed from its original form, and can go find the full text if they want.

via … Actually, this is pretty self-explanatory. If someone tells you about something and you post about it, you might want to give them credit — adding “via @theirusername” is the accepted way of doing that. Here’s one I prepared earlier — my friend Trev (a computer science professor I was in undergrad with in Australia) emailed me a link which he thought would be relevant to our class, so I posted it and gave him the credit for finding it.


Actually, I think you guys have this one sorted out — but we can take requests for help and help each other in the comments section of this post. Note that you can ‘save’ searches — this lets you come back to see what’s been added since your last search and saves you typing the search terms out again (or remembering what they were!).

Following people

When you first log into Twitter, you’ll be presented with your ‘timeline’, a constantly updating list of tweets from people you ‘follow’. You should be following everyone in our class, which you can do from this handy-dandy list I created. (If you’re not on there, email me and I’ll fix it!) This is also linked from the blog sidebar over there ————>

Clicking on that link will bring up all the tweets from everyone on the list; click on ‘members’ to see everyone’s individual profiles and follow them. You can also ‘subscribe’ to the list.

If you want a more curated list of tweets from class members — for example, if you’re a week behind on Breaking Bad and don’t want to read people’s spoilers — you can also search for the class hashtag, #hackrhet. This SHOULD be just tweets related to the class and, like the list, it is linked from the blog sidebar at right.

You might also want to follow news outlets (I love @WiredOpinion, for example), interesting people (researching hacktivism this semester? Maybe you should follow @YourAnonNews) and fun things (@CuteEmergency, anyone?). As we learnt today in class, Twitter searches can help you find very current, very interesting news, as well as let you jump into discussions as an active participant. But you can also use it to kind of automate your research process — by following the right people, stories will come to you instead of you searching for them! I’ve found out about some really interesting things — including #transh4ck — because they’ve drifted through my Twitter timeline.

Citing Your Sources

Tim asked at the end of class about citation software and I showed you the comparison tool on the library website. Here’s the direct link. This isn’t an exhaustive list (other options include Sente, Papers — both paid Mac options — and Mendeley, an open-source project that science folks tend to love … plus various web citation generators), but using stuff the library supports is just a sensible option.

I’d personally recommend Zotero over NoodleBib, since it’s free and you’ll retain access to the database you build after you graduate — plus it’s super user-friendly. It’s also open-source and they encourage you to join the developer community — i.e., hack it and make it better!

One thought on “Learning in public, and the ‘grammar’ of Twitter

  1. Thank you so much for this. I’m only 25 but I feel like my parents when I have to explain to them about the internet when it first came out as dial up.

Leave a Reply to t3tank Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s