The Twitter Chat Conundrum (Part One)

twitter chat conundrum

My name is Shannon and I used to be a twitter chat addict.

Seriously, it was nothing to participate on some level in no less than three twitter chats a week. All usually, “learning” related.

However, there is something happening with the state of twitter chats that is making me less engaged than in years past, and has put me in a bit of a conundrum. In this two-part post, I am going to tackle the biggest issues I feel are affecting twitter chats today. First, the organization of chats and secondarily addressing the topic of participation. I hope you will share your thoughts on this post in the comments below – you never know, you may see your name in “Part Two”!

The concept of chats.

Today as I glance over to my phone – activity abounds, I’m getting the notifications and pings from my twitter network. Then it occurs to me that I am not really seeing anything new pop up. Nothing that makes me think I am missing out. What’s happening in the world of twitter chats today? (If you are new to the concept of a twitter chat check out my slideshare on “Travel Guide to Twitter Chats.)

To me this sheds light on a bigger question. (Now bear with me, the context of this post can be applied to all manner of group chats, not just twitter – so read on.)

Bigger questions.

I follow several chats, but what purpose do they serve? Are they for debate? For learning? For the patting of one’s own back to validate our intelligence? To prove how evolved our thoughts have become?

Do we use chats for increased knowledge? For increased personal awareness? For increased personal or professional branding? To remind people we are relevant, and therefore what we say is important?

All of the above, none of the above, some of the above? I’d like to propose an idea for those of you are also wondering about the state of twitter chats (or chats in general).

Perhaps it’s me, getting older and more cynical (or perhaps not enough caffeine today); but a few twitter chats that I used to participate in, now bore me. Chats for better or worse, have become like late-night shows filled with actors looking to plug their latest work or thought piece without regard to the real conversation. It is time to evolve the community around the chats and I am starting with myself. How do I interact with the chats? Am I thoughtful? Do I add value? Hmmm. More on this later.

Adding Value.

Now before everyone starts getting all protective of their favorite chat, let me say this first. I hear you. My point of view is coming from a place of thinking there is an opportunity to take chats to the next level. To create more value, where an hour after the chat I’m still thinking about the topic and what I learned. I participated in two chats and “lurked” in another last week. For one of them, I had to do a twitter search to remind me of the topic. Unfortunately, this is not an abnormal occurrence.

I am not saying to “throw the baby out with the bath water”. What I am advocating is to stop being so predictable in our L&D conversations. Twitter chats used to make me think. They made me look at the industry in a different light. Made me want to be a better professional and set fire to my curiosity. [ctt tweet=”I can say with 100% certainty, without the twitter chats of the past, I would not be the professional I am today.” coverup=”cY98a”] That being said, I make no excuses when I tell you, that showing up for some L&D twitter chats is no longer a priority.


Sure, it’s great connecting with your peers in chats, it’s my favorite thing. However, #SpoilerAlert twitter is open 24/7. Beyond “talking” with my peers, I’m finding chat groups to be repetitious. Redundancy is becoming the norm. Have we run out of interesting topics? On any given day there is an L&D twitter chat where you can have a great drinking game built on the same answers to tired questions. I am seeing the same conversations and the same tweets day in and day out, in most of the L&D related chat groups.  Don’t get me wrong, chats are very important to growth of learning and development and in no way am I saying the conversation needs to stop. It’s this writers opinion that chats require a new paint job.

If we want deep thought, ask deep questions. #JustSaying. Now, there may be some of you who want to tell me to put my money where my mouth is. My response (for now) is the world doesn’t need another L&D related twitter chat. There are several from which to choose during any given week, all moderated by brilliant people. I am suggesting we need to revamp our thinking.

Content planning

Here’s one thought – (for any group or chat regardless if it’s twitter based). Build an occasional theme. Chats lately have felt very random, so therefore are not very deep. Perhaps the very nature of twitter is in it’s randomness – or in the moment feel, but I like to connect my learning too. We could learn from social media managers and build an events calendar. I can look at the calendar and perhaps actually black out dates for a specific chat – the one I do not want to miss! I would also know when one is not scheduled at all for some reason and so on.  Included are call backs to previous chats creating connections in the learning, and would then allow for deepening questions.  We have forgotten the one thing on which we all agree, in order to learn, one must be allowed to reflect and think. Granted, a twitter chat is fast and furious, but that doesn’t mean the questions should be shallow. Perhaps you start with 8 questions but because the topic is being debated you adjust to 5 or the other way around – we may want deeper questions but we don’t want lag time. Which leads me to…

Moderator Role

It has become a trend where the moderator is also part of the audience. While this is not terrible, I think if a moderator is trying to come up with an answer to his own question he may be missing other activity (or lack thereof).   I would like to see the moderator do more at guiding conversations and creating debate.  The moderator should be responsible for pointing out great comments and providing redirection. “Hey, @Foodcoloring what do you think of @AuntSally response to how the color green makes people hungry?” When chats are fast and furious (and focused on the “regulars”) we lose track of new brilliance. A good moderator sees this and addresses the issue. Not unlike a teacher always calling on Billy because he has his hand up first. Moderators know how to spread the wealth and help make learning connections. This is especially important for the bigger more populated chats which can be hijacked by regulars who are always ready with the “right” answers, the troll, the squeaky wheel or promoter. As an aside – One should not be allowed to link to their own work during a chat. Party foul.

Your Turn. Share your thoughts.

What are the responsibilities of the participant? This goes beyond the normal chat etiquette, but as self-directed, socially minded gatherers of knowledge, what is our role? How can we make chats be an even more important part of our knowledge man

Now I throw this back to you. Put on your rose-colored glasses and let’s not be media specific. If you were going to improve on a chat, twitter or otherwise – what would you do? Share your comments below.

Have a think on that, and I’ll see you next week.

If you want to further share your thoughts on twitter chats, here is a post and video for you check out on the topic of “A Chat on Twitter Chats” for #Ozlearn

Part 2 is live! See how your comments came to life! 


Dump the smile sheet

Join “the Rebellion”! Start by downloading my whitepaper on “Dumping the Smilesheet” creating evaluations that give you information you REALLY need to know!




Shannon Tipton

Shannon Tipton

As Owner of Learning Rebels, Shannon Tipton is a skilled learning strategist, content developer and International speaker. Shannon has over 20 years of leadership experience developing successful learning strategies and infrastructures for training departments within organizations in North America, Europe and Korea.

Shannon works with people and organizations to develop learning solutions that brings actual business results. Recognized as bringing real-world expertise into the learning field, Shannon integrates technologies and social learning tools to strengthen workplace alignment, enhance collaboration and increase learning connectivity.

As author of “Disruptive Learning” Shannon frequently speaking at conferences across North America and Europe and ranks as one of the top 100 L&D influencers on Twitter (@stipton).

36 thoughts on “The Twitter Chat Conundrum (Part One)”

  1. Great post, Shannon. I agree with you 100%. Like you, I am bored with them as well.

    I believe that too many of our peers are loving ‘hearing’ themselves on these chats and appears to be more of a self-aggrandizing opportunity for some (and trust me, I can think of a few).

    It goes back to my point that the learning community is not learning themselves. Learning is about pushing the boundaries of what we don’t know; explore where we have not been before. If the collective ‘we’ in learning don’t do this then who will.

    I see the same topics and ‘propaganda’ spun over and over again by ‘experts’ that are worn or really have no business preaching expertise in these areas. I will not excuse myself from this pack as I may be at fault at times for doing the same.

    That said, I also try to challenge myself and, by extension, those around me to do the same.

    Thank you Shannon for stating what many of us are thinking or feeling.

    Your friend/colleague


    • Ajay – you get today’s prize for the fastest comment. I’m glad this struck a note with you and thank you for putting yourself out there. I think there are strong chats out in the twitterverse, with good intentions – and perhaps it is “us” as Tom stated. We’ve bored ourselves. I find I can fall into the routine of spouting the same rhetoric, maybe because it was the easy thing to do. Maybe I didn’t feel like taking a deeper dive, not enough caffeine, who knows. As you point out it is about awareness, fixing the “problem” means acknowledging there is one. Even within ourselves.

  2. A timely contribution, Shannon, especially in light of a number of new technologies, platforms, and services that may change the way in which our communities of practice will interact.

    I believe that the days of Moderated chats are upon us. While that concept may be anathema to the “establishment”, I feel there is a value in encouraging new voices to join the conversation while encouraging the more experienced participants to take on new roles. Their voices are “loud” in comparison to the newcomer and we risk not hearing what those new voices have to say.

    In other words, there’s nothing wrong with a seasoned veteran asking a valid question, but once asked, they learn through listening.

    I look forward to Part 2. Lets hear some new voices here, there, and everywhere!

    • Hi Mark, thanks for dropping by! You bring up an excellent point. Twitter itself as evolved, has the way we used it evolved too? I don’t know. I feel like I use it differently than I did when I first jumped on back in 2008 (Yeesh). I suppose it was going to effect how chats are organized, delivered and ultimately participated in. Especially when used in conjunction with other technologies, periscope & blab to name a couple. So perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift?

  3. Hi, Shannon.

    To some extent, I do think it’s, “You,” just as I think it’s, “Me.” Work and life take a lot of creative effort and I consciously (after non-consciously) backed away from many chats. Choosing whether to give my time to learning something from a chat over engaging with colleagues on Skype or starting up a good conversation with someone in my workplace, I often choose the latter.

    This became more the case as I began running into a very few of the same faces (okay, Twitter handles) in chats and these few brought a negative rhetoric to each chat. There’s only so much of, “The learning industry is broken,” one can take when it doesn’t come with a workable solution. These same few also brought what I considered a myopic viewpoint, not seeing that others’ situations and context may be very different from their own. It gets old and tiring to try to debate with someone with a closed mind.

    Learning about these perspectives – notably that people in large orgs, consultants, sole practitioners, contractors, and those in small orgs all have different challenges – was actually one of the most important things I got out of engaging in Twitter chats. It’s hard to recapture that level of excitement once the lesson is learned.

    That said, you have a strong point about moderators’ participation in chats. Some of the most interesting chats I took part in had expert guests who asked questions following responses rather than answering their own questions.

    There is still one chat I enjoy and happens to be the first chat I ever joined. It’s in the evening, and maybe that’s why it has a more casual feel than others. Sadly it’s at a time when I usually can’t join due to family commitments, but it often makes me think, even on topics we’ve discussed before.

    Thanks for provoking thought –


    • Hi Tom

      I love the comment in your post:
      “These same few also brought what I considered a myopic viewpoint, not seeing that others’ situations and context may be very different from their own. It gets old and tiring to try to debate with someone with a closed mind. ”

      I fully agree with this and why I need to discover new venues to learn and share learning…it seems that the LD space is not the welcoming place I thought it would be.

      While there are many great ‘thinkers’ in our space there are also many more with the ‘closed minds’ you mention.


  4. Insightful stuff, Shannon. I’m not bored with chats so much as I am questioning their use. Particularly when the opportunity cost is writing or reading or doing some programming practice. I also agree that sometimes chat topics feel irrelevant, but I suppose that’s likely to happen anywhere. I think one of the things I’d like to see is less conceptual stuff and more on deployment and solutions; more about the context of work that affects decision making; more on making; more on critique.

    What do you think?

  5. Hmm . . . “Let’s hear some new voices here, there, and everywhere!” says Mark . . . am I one of those? Your thoughts Shannon are very clear as you only state something that has gone on in my mind as well for weeks now.

    For me as well, I used to eagerly look forward to about 2 chats every week (some months ago) because I learnt quite a lot. I must agree that the ‘expert’ voices helped me, they shaped my thinking, I looked forward to hearing what they felt on those subjects, I learnt quite a lot from several of them. Of course, they also helped re-echo our ‘little voices’ though I wasn’t really saying much!

    Anyway, so I don’t repeat all that has been said, way forward for me? Now, I’m doing more of thinking before I respond to any question. I am trying to make it a process rather than just the spur of the moment response, that way I don’t say much but I know what I said and why I said it! Yes, I’m not waiting till we finish before I engage and reflect, I’m doing that right as the chat progresses.

    Another thought (as I read through the post and the comments) is maybe the questions for 1 hour are too much. It may not give space for that needed conversation and engaging that we are looking for. Maybe moderators are looking to make up the 6 questions (or sometimes more) and so some questions feel out of sync with the discussion. Am I alone on this?

    A silent thought on new voices. Can they be sought for? Can they be gently pulled in? Can they be engaged even outside the twitter chats?

    Finally, as touching roles. I think this is part of the effort that will make those roles evolve. Maybe not only moderators should take new roles, maybe some of the “expert” voices as Ajay put it should also begin to take on new roles. This to me does not mean silence or lurking in a chat, it means consciously shaping the discussion, engaging new voices and pulling in new thoughts for discussions. Please don’t abscond, your presence in those chats sometimes validate the chat and make new voices stay. What do you think?

    Thanks Shannon for raising this. I also look forward to part 2!

    • Daniel, Thank you for your comment and I’m glad the post connected with you. You hit upon a few items that will be in next weeks post. Great lead-in! (Your $20 bucks is in the mail). I think each point you bring up is a good one and I do think those who “own” the chat’s should take more of moderation perspective, as you say “consciously shaping the discussion”. This is where deeper thinking can occur. So watch this page, more to come. 🙂

    • Kristin – Thank you for taking the time to comment! I agree with you, and that very thought ran through my head recently as I was on a chat watching the same people, post the answers and all I wanted was the next question to appear hoping for it to be a thoughtful one. To Daniel’s point earlier – I know it must be hard to write questions that are broad enough to be engaging but not so broad as to loose track of the topic. A delicate balance. But I would also like for the chat to be purposeful. I like your idea of the chats being more contextual. A favorite chat of mine is #BlogChat. What they will do there (on a semi-regular basis) is take a blog that has been submitted by a participant and the chat centers around peer critique. Win, win if you ask me. So, I’m with you – more of that kind of stuff would be great.

    • Hi Tom! Good to see your comment here. I do agree, we are responsible for what we bring to the table. As I said in the post, everyone will have a chat they favor over another for a variety of reasons. My question is the same as yours, are we being challenged? You are on target with regard about learning how “Learning” is handled in other sectors or segments of business. I find that to be fascinating as well. I think this is why I tend to gravitate towrd smaller chats – the action may not be a fast paced, but I feel I have a better handle on who is in the “audience” and I really like that. Chats that aren’t too big for their britches just yet. 😉

  6. I love this post Shannon. As someone who is relatively new to the twitter world (about a year), I have always found chats a bit intimidating because I can’t think that fast. Where I find value is in what they make me think about or question once they are done. I normally try to follow up with a blog post or stofiy when I have the time to participate in one.

    On a side note – they did help me way more when I was first starting out in social media as this was how I found people I wanted to follow and learn from/with.

    The chats I do enjoy the most are the ones that have “pre-reading” and post the questions before hand as this gives me time to think and pull together resources to share that can help drive the conversation – not that I always have time to do this but it’s nice to at least know the questions ; )

    I agree that moderators defiantly help encourage the chat. This is actually how I first started participating. A moderator noticed that I wasn’t and included me in a conversation. It really encouraged me to jump in.

    • Kate –

      THIS – “The chats I do enjoy the most are the ones that have “pre-reading” and post the questions before hand as this gives me time to think and pull together resources to share that can help drive the conversation – not that I always have time to do this but it’s nice to at least know the questions. I agree that moderators definitely help encourage the chat. This is actually how I first started participating. A moderator noticed that I wasn’t and included me in a conversation. It really encouraged me to jump in.”

      I cannot agree more, and bravo to the moderator! Chats, to me, are about learning something, or expanding my learning on a topic. I’m with you – I get the most out of the chats that post pre-reading and questions. Sometimes I’m good on my feet and sometimes not. Sometimes I want to process my thought, and then try to put it into 140 characters. So by posting the questions ahead of time this allows for exploration of the thought. I enjoy this, and I find it’s missing more and more. This is the issue with automated questions. You have JUST gotten into the heart of a question and BAM in comes another question. So, I’m on team Kate – let’s see the debate explored more. Thanks for commenting!

  7. This is an interesting post and takes me in a slightly different direction of thought. I think we all agree that at a certain point we ALL max out on our learning. For each of us the point at which we become “bored” is different. The technology speeds up this process significantly.

    Before the internet you had to “take class” or hire an instructor to teach a certain amount of content. What I learned on the piano as a kid over many years can now be experienced and consumed in months or even weeks via online content and experiences.

    So, I think it’s only normal that with social media we reach our max much sooner. Where else can you have a dozen+ experts on a topic all banging on it until it becomes the proverbial dead horse. Pre-internet it just wasn’t even possible.

    I don’t think what you are experiencing is unique to twitter chats. In general, boredom strikes when your learning is complete. We need to be okay with moving on, or become okay with being a mentor to some of the new people joining the chats. Teaching is an incredibly powerful learning tool, so when boredom strikes change your role.

    The tools are changing as well. I would encouraging everyone who feels like twitter chats move too fast to engage in a #blab at Your online life doesn’t have to be boring. Let go of twitter chats if they bore you, and I’ll show you the future.

    • Brent – Nail.Head.

      You bring up an exceptional point. You know me, I’m all in with trying new technologies and I can very much see the potential in periscope and blab. (Y’all can find both Brent and I on – jump on in.) especially when you can combine it with a twitter chat. Then you have a multi-media experience. In order for that to happen, you have to change the game, chats become every other week but more robust? Do I think I’m maxed out with my learning? No, but I think certain chats have become a tad lackadaisical in topic selection. I want to learn from these chats, I want to “hear” new voices, I want to walk away with something new. I don’t want to have to go cold turkey with my addiction. You bring up mentorship, which is another very solid point, (we need more of those) one that I save for part 2. 😉

  8. I’m the outsider here and I wear several hats in the TwitterChat sphere, but I’m not an L&D person.

    Among other’s I’m the proud host of #PKMChat which happens to have la majority of participants from L&D. One could say it belongs to the list, I’m not going to say it’s not when precious feedback is pouring in.

    Chat becomes boring. I admit it’s kind of true. There are new options to activating chats like we activate learning. Blab, periscope, google hangouts, Agora mode should all be explored together, separately if only because a community is there to try and do experiments. This has been talked on the #PKMChat group and is the goal for this year. I can’t answer for others, but I’m open to share emergent practices. OK #PKMChat has the advantage is to have some early adopters tweeps.

    Topics calendar is a must. I admit I’m late for #PKMChat. Participants have to understand it’s a real challenge to find interesting topics in advance and accommodate with guests plannings. It’s often the last minutes deals that work the best (Simon Terry for before last #PKMchat is an example). However, there could be a lineup and changes could apply. It would help other chats hosts to avoid collisions or repetitions. Strange enough I have more feedbacks and comments on future topics from chats hosts of #HBRogue or #SBizHeroes then L&D chats. There is like a competition going on.

    Topics should be discussed in the open. For PKMChat, not like some older more reputed chats the discussion is open and transparent. It must be a collective effort from every participant to come and suggest topics. It’s the role of the host to give a fair and open minded look at each submission. Having suggested topics to others chats I know it’s not true for some. There are topics very L&D oriented that don’t fit on #PKMchat, I thought why not discussing them on elsewhere?

    Role of moderator: Here I can’t really follow the post’s view. For one in one of the chats the person who prepared the chat is anonymous. Of course some insiders know who is who, not me. I’m myself using the @pkmchat handle occasionally. The chat runs automatically using a combination of Kneaver for chat hosting and Buffer. I’m using my handle on a different window and usually participate to the convo normally. I have sometimes a few answers prepared, often I forget to use them or they just don’t fit in the way the convo is going. Every now and them I switch to @pkmchat on web-based Twitter and check what’s going on. Someone forgot his hashtag, I QT the tweet and add the hashtag, I welcome people at the beginning. I learned from attending and studying a vast quantity of chats. from my opinion practices are basically similar across all chats.

    I joined my first chats to learn about Social Media Marketing. I discovered it was very stimulating, very energizing for me. It was also a way to tweet intelligently and escape the food porn or cat pictures.

    Now let’s face it: for most of us Twitter is a way to promote our work. It could be a new book, a conference, a post. Some tweeps are doing it with elegance and apropos, others are less tactful. There is no way to control Twitter. Let’s not feed the trolls and be good players, even with those we don’t agree with or dislike the manners.

    Pardon my long comment and my English spelling 🙂

    • BRUNO! (I always have to say your name that way. Don’t why, I just do.) Thank you very much for jumping in and giving a chat host point of view. It is much appreciated. The way you describe using twitter as the host is perfect. Sometimes you have to jump in to seed the conversation, or redirect and make adjustments. Exactly what I would expect the host to do and to be honest having participated in #PKMChat I do not find your technique to be obtrusive. There are some chats where the moderator acts like the teacher and the student. The teacher asks the question and them jumps to the front seat and gives the answer, not waiting for others to think about composing an answer. This is where I think moderators have to show some restraint. I know a colleague or two who have experimented with having a live Google hangout or blab at the same time as a chat session. I think that is stellar idea, a chat within a chat. you have the ability to reach a wider audience, which I know is what Mark was alluding to in his response. I’ve been on #SBizHeroes and I like their style too. In part 2 we will discuss cross-over, I’m all for food porn, maybe not cat pictures but certainly dog pictures.

      I can image it is difficult to schedule out chats. As you mention it is beneficial to ensure we are not cannibalizing each other. Why not share and be transparent? There are enough topics and people to go around. You’re right, there is no way to control twitter. Don’t even want to try it, the best we can do is evolve with it. Keep adapting, right? Again, thank you Bruno for jumping into the conversation. Stick around for part 2!

  9. Hi Shannon, great post and, although not specific to tweet chats, I’ve been finding myself spending less time on Twitter lately. Partly a ‘management of my own time’ thing. Partly a ‘ready for something more’ thing. I have a need to switch my relationships with people on there to something bigger and deeper. Twitter’s fun for some lighthearted banter with a bunch of folk, and sharing some content, but like you I’m not having my thinking challenged so much anymore. As always with learning, you’ve reached a plateau and you need a new challenge now. And there will be people who still need to feel the benefit of the learning road you’ve already travelled.

    I wonder if this is partly because there have been some big shifts in thinking in recent years and we’ve got it, but most of the world haven’t, so until we can embed some of this new thinking into organisations the majority of the world will be talking about that same stuff. We need repetition for change to stick.

    Final thoughts – love the idea of linking learning between chats, having a plan of content coming up and having facilitative moderators.

    Looking forward to reading more next week 🙂

  10. Agree 100% and I think it’s been this way for a while. The Old Voices in edchats, the ones who started them and continue to flog CONNECTED as the be all and end all of education are also the ones holding chats back. #edchat, the biggest chat, has such an audience, such a wide swing, that if the moderators wanted to they could affect real change and spark real conversations. Instead they pitch the same topics again and again and shrug off responsibility with, “We let the audience decide.” Yeah, but who gave them the choices?
    Too much it feels like we’re having a chat because we’re on twitter and that’s what we’re supposed to do. But the moderators aren’t putting time into hard or new questions or topics. Or looking at topics from new angles. #Educolor does this great. Boundary pushing chats. #LGBTeach used to. #TotallyRossome goes out of the way to be creative every week. (And so does #WeirdEd, if I can toot my own horn. I work crazy hard on the chat every week). Mods should feel a responsibility and an urgency. People are coming to hang out with me for an hour. An HOUR of their free time. I owe them a lot. I owe them the best possible chat and the most open environment. I almost never answer my own questions. That’s not the moderator’s job. I wrote the questions. When I answer it sounds like this is the Right Answer, and those questions are just as bad.
    Excellent post. We need to continue to push moderators to evolve and push teachers who are involved in chats to not put up with Same Old Same Old every week.

  11. I agree with everything you’ve said. I have participated in chats that seem too predictable. I want to be pushed. Sometimes I want the chat to be risky. Like a year ago after Ferguson, we were talking about something mundane. Why not Ferguson!?! I noticed after few peel off the main discussion to address it and I took a risk and joined in. Not like I said anything worth retweeting, but at least my tweets were relevant. And I love Twitter. It has been a godsend for me. Let’s just take to the next level. Well said.

  12. Well that’s a big pile of comments … from a big pile of people I know thanks to Twitter nonetheless.

    Hi! My name is JD, and I’m moderately obsessed with Twitter chats. At my peak about a year ago, I was up to 6 per week – 3 I seriously engaged with and 3 that I popped in/out of. As I’m sure someone above has mentioned, Twitter chats are inherently limiting based on the platform and speed of engagement. You can only say so much with 140 characters and 5 minutes between questions. As is true of many other forms of social exchange, chats can also get stale based on the engagement level of participants, lack of newcomers/fresh perspectives, poor moderation, etc. I have found myself bored plenty of times and taken a break or disengaged from a particular chat as a result.

    That said … I owe a considerable amount of my professional growth in the past 5 years to Twitter chats. No, I didn’t actually learn everything in the chat, but it pushed me down valuable paths. I found new people to connect with and exchange information. I formed new ideas and reformed opinions based on answers/perspectives from respected peers. I found validation through my own comments based on reactions from learning pros from around the world. Chats helped me break out of my organizational/experience bubble and enter the industry without having to leave my desk. From there, I expanded my reach …

    For the, the value of the Twitter chat has evolved as I have evolved in my work. Day 1, I didn’t know what user X would say in response to a question. Now, I can predict the stance most regulars will take. At the same time, I’m not necessarily there to see what they will say. I may be on to connect with friends/peers in shared conversation. I may be seeking feedback based on my perspectives. I may be looking for new connections. It varies all the time.

    I have also come to appreciate more free form chats over time as well. While I still enjoy the scheduled question/response format, opening a topic for rapid, random conversation is sometimes more stimulating, especially for those who can keep up.

    Thanks for exploring this topic, Shannon! I’m always for exploring the norms to find ways to evolve! JD

    • JD – Thank you for the thoughtful comment and I agree, I’m enjoying seeing what people have to say.

      I can particularly relate to what you say about how we personally and professionally have evolved and we can predict certain answers from certain people, it’s an excellent point. Have we as participants gotten stale? This drives home the message of trying to bring in fresh voices and perspectives. Does our role as experienced chat participants or “regulars” if you will, have to change for certain chats? This is why I really like your idea of a “free form” chat. I believe this would make an interesting experiment.

      • I’ve seen a few more free-form Twitter chats in our field – can’t remember hashtags/names top of mind. Rather than the prompted questions, a general topic is introduced and participants go wherever they’d like. This makes replies more important – but it’s also more difficult to keep up with for those with less experience.

        I don’t think predictability makes someone stale – unless they literally repeat themselves regardless of topic. Once you get to know someone, you expect them to take a certain position based on their experience/beliefs. Of course, they may evolve over time as well – which is also interesting to watch. However, for those who become the regulars in a chat, I do believe we must take on a certain ownership of the experience to push the conversation and engage with individuals in more meaningful ways.

    • Thank you for your comment Joanne. I think you bring up an important point. If you are not interested with the discussion, find one you are interested in. Just as you did. I’m with you sometimes the sidebar conversations are fascinating, nothing against the current topic but I found one that has me more engaged. As you say, making thoughts feel more relevant. Thank you for bringing up this point.

    • Doug – great thoughts, and thank you for sharing from a moderators point of view. I know the work you (and others) do is hard, and is a BIG time suck. As I said, and JD said in his comment, I wouldn’t be the professional I am without them helping me to form thoughts and points of view. In order for that growth to continue I appreciate your comment about pushing the chats to be even more relevant, exploring the ever fluid edges of our profession. We all have a responsibility to explore that edge. It’s not unlike when we stop going to a store because of the service. If we don’t tell the manager how can they fix the issues? Also, thank you for sharing the work of others. They sound very interesting and may have to pop on over and see what all the fuss is about.

    • Helen – a great thought. Perhaps we have outgrown this particular tool? Every person has a different goal be it Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. What are your expectations? If your expectations are being met…? Ultimately it is up to the participants to decide if the chat is taking them where they want to do be. I do agree that the shift in the thinking has changed, so perhaps it “been there done that, bought the tee-shirt”. This is where I think linking between chats would be a benefit. How about linking not only between chat topics, but between chat groups? Would it be cool to have chat topic make it way around a few chat groups gathering thought and momentum? Helen – I think we may have stumbled upon something. 🙂

      • Love the idea of linking chats, or at least of planning for the same topic to be addressed at a similar time amongst various chat groups. Would be fun to cross reference other groups and see different points of view.

  13. I’ve been participating in a small number of Twitter chats regularly for about 18 months. I’m not bored with them and still find them valuable for connecting with others, discovering new ideas and resources, and honing my thinking. I have become more discerning regarding topic and won’t simply ‘turn up’ for a chat because it’s on the schedule – I have to see the relevance and potential value in the topic to me. I’m also at the point of seeking some new chats, and shall investigate some of the ones that other people noted in their replies to your post.

    I am conscious that in many instances the moderator is performing the role in addition to their ‘day job’ and that it takes a lot of effort and thought to come up with calendar of events, find guests and so on. It’s a big commitment, especially if the chats are weekly. Beyond the moderator I see in some chats the community pitches in – other regulars who can help out. Maybe there are more roles to be filled, or the moderator role can be divided up or spread around. Some roles I see adopted informally – like the ‘greeter’ who is the one who welcomes new people or those who have not joined in for some time.

    I did see you role modelling aspects of being a ‘mindful moderator’ in last nights #ozlearn chat. I know you were not there in that role officially, however I could see you drawing people out with your follow-on questions and probing, genuinely curious and wanting to take the conversation deeper. I enjoyed this a lot, so thank you.

    I think giving new people a voice is vital in chats, so welcoming them and inviting them to join in is essential. It helps keep things fresh. I wonder if there is a role for core chat ‘community’ members to do some follow on with new people after the chat to encourage connection, offer support and get feedback.

    We can place too high an expectation on the moderator too. Those of us who join specific chats regularly are part of the community that surrounds that chat and help create the tone and value to be derived from the community. This is regardless of the platform/tool/space used for the chat. There is a shared responsibility.

  14. I enjoy my Twitter chats. I enjoy the people, ideas, perspectives, humour, and exchanges. I also enjoy the hour of power that compels me to put aside all my excuses and commit to an interest I’ve been meaning to get to. I do love how asynchronous communication within the Twitter universe can coalesce temporarily for a moment of synchronous, world-shaking dialogue. It’s a rosy period that I’m well aware will fade just like the newness of a Le Creuset cast-iron oven (ok, bad example; I /still/ love my Le Creuset). In the meantime however, I’m happy to bask in the magic.

    I’m increasingly aware of repetitive chats and sweeping generalisations that are Fav’d and RT’d but not probed -at least to my knowledge- for specificity and deeper discussion alongside or outside the chat session. I did have an exchange about this very thing with @JeremyDBond in #lrnchat. All the affirmations and insight within the hour lead to…what? What transformation has occurred post chat session? What progress has been made, personally and collectively? Why am I participating? Why are the same questions being asked? (Loved your invocation of the word, “lackadaisical”; have not heard this for a long, long time). Why am I giving the same answers? While these are questions seemingly directed at the individual to ponder and act on, it does gather in a variety of considerations that are applicable to individual and group when evaluating the phenomena that is the Twitter Chat.

    Many of these considerations are captured by great comments above, and they more or less convey my sentiments. I’ll comment on these whilst weaving in my own thoughts on your post:

    Boredom (aka Learning Plateau) resting on participant subjectivity – Agree. Brent Schlenker makes some good points on this, and how to move forward. My only contribution would be to amend “boredom strikes when your learning is complete” to “boredom strikes when you *think* your learning is complete”. I’ve inserted *think* because I see problem that arises from time to time in Twitter Chat where participants skim over concepts/definitions that really haven’t been fully fleshed out, use them in further discussions and assume full understanding of the concept – sometimes to the detriment of making any real progress. There’s a variety of reasons contributing this, ranging from moderator involvement, question structure, 140 characters, unhealthy concordancy, and group affirmation (“if everyone echoes my tweet, then I must understand ____ in its entirety”). It’s a little difficult to identify, obviously because of the complexity surrounding the actuality of learning and the perception of learning, and the degrees that separate one from the other (Ooo, actuality vs reality?).

    Using other social media – What is blab? Nevermind, I’ll go take a look right after I post this. I agree with sentiments expressed by you, Brent and Bruno about exploring other social media tools for deeper conversation. Personally, I’m preoccupied with the limitations of Twitter. Twitter has a lot of things going for it, and is probably best known for popularising tags via the hashtag. Sure, the hashtag is helpful in compartmentalising and identifying specific tweet topics, but it is not an effective tool for in-depth dialogue. I feel that the character limit and timing of the session contributes significantly towards the sweeping generalisations and repetitiveness that are prone to happen in Twitter Chats. In my undertaking to be succinct, I feel that my phrase-answers are in essence, ‘slogans’, as I try to avoid breaking my answer into 1 of 30 tweets for a single answer (this is not what Twitter was designed for!). It doesn’t happen all the time (“but it will happen”), and in part depends on how the Twitter Chat is structured and what questions have been prepared.

    In the world of board-games, there are arbitrary selections of board-games called “Gateway Games” which supposedly induct the everyday Monopoly/Scrabble/GuessWho player to a wide world of rich and diverse board games unbeknownst to the general public (e.g. Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride). I see Twitter in this fashion, especially for L&D chats. It’s a conduit for inductees. It could, with the guidance of effective moderators, expose inductees to ideas, concepts, questions, and guide them to other social media networks that operate in tandem. And this is where linked learning (or ‘mutually imbricated’ Twitter Chats) comes in.

    Hmm. I think I have a lot more I could say, but I’m going to wrap this up on account of sleep deprivation, but moreso out of interest in what you have to say in part 2 of your blog entry. Some final thoughts….

    Pre-reading – I absolutely love pre-reading. I think it mitigates the propensity for participants to tweet slogan responses. It also gives time for participants to ponder on the content, do their own research, and come better prepared to give truly succinct answers (and links to other curated content!)

    Twitter Chat design –Event/Topic planning is a win for all, and agenda is a must. What is the purpose of the Twitter Chat? Newbies or experienced professionals or both? Question-Answer style format? Etc.

    Expectations – Each Tweet Chat session should be clearly communicated at the commencement (or prior to) of each session. E.g. #lrnchat. What is it? What is this week’s topic? How can I best participate? (Interestingly, I learned that Tweetdeck best facilitated my learning and contribution. I was able to watch everyone’s responses to the lrnchat hashtag, as well as notifications for when people interacted with me directly – prompting a response from me!)

    And that’s it from me. Truly appreciate your post, Shannon. It really got me thinking!

    • Kim:

      This is such a rich insight into the ills and pitfalls of our current chat paradigm. I admit that I have offered similar sentiments to my PLN privately, so I applaud you for taking the step to share your concerns and findings in the open.

      You raise the issue of “what happens post-chat”, so I am interested to learn more about what you do to probe things deeper and find the learning from the chat (e.g. what are you trying to do that makes the learning “stick”?)


      • Hi Mark!

        Having just experienced another Chat, this time I went about engaging more than I usually do with participant responses and questions asked. The foci for the chat was values (and its relation to learning). Trying to define and explore the parameters of values is maddeningly complex, and I loved it.

        There were some notable responses in the Chat that solicited further questions and research. I’ve appointed myself some homework projects that I can share for next session based on those responses. I’m not sure how this will manifest, as I don’t have a blog or site to share my endeavours (google docs perhaps?). I do know that repetition, real life application, and having to explain ____ to others, are techniques that work best for me in making learning ‘stick’. In the meantime, I’m still searching for best-practice methods to help bridge the post/inbetween Chats. Aside from Shannon’s blog entry, if you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them 🙂

    • Kim – Wow, you are the comment KING! Thank you so much for this well articulated and thoughtful comment.

      It’s great that you are looking inward toward how to improve your chat experience. This is what I will address in part two. It’s easy to point fingers, but at what point are we responsible for taking the chats to the level of real learning and knowledge exchange? In particular I enjoyed the part about group affirmation. So smart, you smarty pants you! I truly hadn’t pondered that reality before, but you are correct. I think we all have fallen into that trap – not unlike someone “believing their own press”. Good point. To this I would direct people back to “The Curious Learner”. Maybe we all need start back there, myself included. I also find your take on chats as a learning “gateway” to be very intriguing. I think that’s true to a certain extent. For example #NT2T is a chat for “New Teachers to Twitter”. I know exactly what this chat is going to be able, and most importantly what it’s not. Not to say that they won’t be talking advanced knowledge, but I know where the baseline is. In this regard chats that have pre-reading really helps. We know certain topics may bore us, or excite us and we can play accordingly.

      Thank you again for taking the time to write such a thorough and thought provoking response!

      • Hi Shannon,

        It definitely is easy to point fingers, and I don’t find it productive to play the blame game. I certainly hope my comment didn’t come across that way. I like mapping out all the contributing factors to our perceived problems, and then using our hypothesises derived from our observations to guide us on quandaries such determining responsibility for taking chats to level of real learning and knowledge exchange. Easier said than done, right? All too easy to get lost in the minutiae of language. I’ve found in my experience that textual critiques of practices e.t.c. are often prone to misinterpretation and paralysis of saying the wrong thing *puts up hand, guiltily*

        Looking at my comment on Twitter Chat as a gateway, I somehow worked myself into a blinkered description of the gateway by referring to inductees only. I do know it’s a great meeting point for professionals to congregate and catch-up. Theirs is not necessarily an intention to take the discussion further elsewhere, but to revisit some existing concepts or approaches to ____. Also a good opportunity to share learning with one another.

        Thanks for the The Curious Learner Link. I shall explore! Just experienced another Chat session in the midst of writing this reply. Tried interacting more with other participants. Good lord it was hectic while keeping tabs on the overall conversation! It was a good one, though. Looking forward to the next. Should make mention that I appreciated your efforts in moderating the OzLearn chat. Great to tease out discussion from participant answers.

    • I agree Laura. The concept would work like a travel blog, only a travel chat. You have a chance to see thoughts/ideas grow and develop. That would be very exciting.

    • Michelle – I agree with you regarding becoming more discerning of chat topics. Seeing the potential for a learning moment is key. Now, we find a lot of serendipitous learning by just “popping in” but if I’m going to take away from family time in the evening, I’d like to have a bit more to go on. Stack the odds if you will. Love the idea of a greeter! In research for this post, I’ve lurked on a lot of chats, and I find those that have a unique opening managed to hook me in. Not just the same opening question – “What have you learned this week?” or “What have you practiced?” I was in one, where one week the greeter question was “What is your favorite thing in the back to school aisle?” Brilliant! Immediately a flood of tweets and virtual memories and laughter. Best chat opening ever. Not intimidating at all, even the newbie can join in there. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  15. As a regular participant in at least three Twitter chats a week (and sometimes it’s five or six), I can’t stress enough how important they are to me. I am in a team environment but am a standalone role, so I NEED the community I have found on Twitter. I believe I should be branching out into other forms of media, but Twitter is easy and it’s allowed (somewhat) at work. My director cautiously encourages me to participate in chats because he knows I don’t have access to peers within the organization. I am careful not to overuse the privilege so he will remain supportive.

    Within the context of each chat, I believe participants’ responsibilities vary. Some chats seem designed to be a bit more free and there is a lot of side chatter. Some are more structured, and I think in those the participants should try to keep their responses more to the point of the chat and avoid unnecessary side conversations. I also think that, given the usual one-hour time frame, participants should try to help keep things moving by encouraging others through responses and questions. I think it’s helpful to have a fellow chatter comment on something I’ve said, especially when he or she is clearly trying to be thoughtful in his or her answer, so I try to do the same. I have often been pointed in a new direction or found great new resources through the responses others have made to my comments.

    I’m not terribly fond of strong debate or argument, and I have stopped commenting on chats where such things are taking place. I believe the moderator should step in when people are being a bit too forceful or offensive, but I don’t often see that happening. Given the pace of many chats, however, it would be easy for a moderator to miss comments, especially if they are taking place on a side chat–yet another reason for people to keep those conversations to a minimum. Keeping people on-topic can be difficult, and I think there are times when a wise moderator will allow a side chat to become the main discussion if it seems to be a hot topic or the majority of participants seem to be invested in it.

    I’m usually not able to do pre-work for a chat, so I have started off at quite a loss on a couple of recent ones because I didn’t understand what was being discussed. I don’t fault anyone for this, and it wasn’t too difficult to catch up, but it made for a very stressful first 15 minutes trying to do some quick research while still keeping up with a very busy chat. That said, I sure did learn a lot in a short time about a couple of topics that are very relevant to my work, and I spent a good portion of the day (between tasks) really thinking about what was said and how it applied to my own situation!

    I haven’t been around this community for long and I have very little context for recommending improvements, but have been and L&D person at heart for years in various peripheral roles, and I find the chat exposure to be exhilarating and sometimes frustrating. It reminds me that I’m both a greenhorn and an old hat, depending on the topic, and it usually spurs me on to learn more. The hardest part is returning to the reality of the day’s work after an hour of sharing with my peers all over the world.


Leave a Comment

Table of Contents

    Join the Rebellion!


    Cool tools for cool people! 😎

    After we confirm your email, you'll get our
    "Creative Problem-Solving Primer" #WhosYourBuddy

    (By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Learning Rebels, and while it would make us sad, you can opt-out at any time.)

    AWESOME! Welcome to the Rebellion. Now you will begin to receive great stuff from the mother ship. IMPORTANT! Be sure you have the address added to your contacts or moved to your primary folder so you don't miss a thing. It would be a tragedy for your Rebellion to end up in your spam folder, never to see the light of day.