Sunday, February 20, 2011

Using Twitter for virtual meetings

Twitter is rapidly emerging as a real-time new source. In nations where dictators have attempted total news blackouts, people are producing their own news feeds by posting to Twitter. The concept can also be used for business and other forums, discussions and meetings. You just need to be familiar with Search and Hash Tags.

The search feature works like any other. You simply type in a subject, i.e. Egypt, and recent and popular tweets containing the word "Egypt" will appear. To see the latest, refresh the page or click on the "recent tweets" link (it will say something like "20 new tweets")

The hash tag identifies a common search term for a thread or topic. For instance if you post a comment about grapefruits, but your sentence or phrase doesn't actually contain the word "grapefruit" you add a Hash Tag, which is just the # sign in front of the term. i.e. #grapefruit. now your tweet will appear in a search for the word "grapefruit".

To use this as a meeting venue, participants need only agree on a date/time for having the discusstion, then select a unique hash tag. If you want to discuss Project X, you might use #projectx. First do a quick search to ensure nobody else is using it at the moment. Participants then log in to Twitter at the appropriate time and begin each post on the topic with #projectx. Then do a search for projectx to see all the recent and continuing tweets.

A Twitter meeting or "Tweet-up" offers convenience in that participants need only a free Twitter account and access to the Internet via computer, smart phone, tablet, netbook, or most any device with Internet access. Posts are limited to 140 words each, so input has to be concise, which could mean a more efficient and productive conversation.

On the downside, meetings are not private or secure. You're posting your conversation on a global forum. It's not a place to discuss anything you wouldn't mind the whole world seeing. Of course, anyone who knows the time and the hash tag could "crash" your meeting, but if you know who you're supposed to be talking to and have a firm grasp of the subject matter, it's not too hard to spot and ignore unproductive intruders.

The bottom line is that Tweet-ups are yet another tool to foster greater communication and cooperation. The fact that it is so transparent may actually cause people to think for another second or two before they express what's on their minds. That certainly couldn't hurt.

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