Friday, 8 July 2011

CPD23 - Thing 4 - Current Awareness: Twitter, RSS Feeds and Pushnote

I am writing this on the day that it has been announced that the 'News of the World' newspaper is closing after 168 years - stunning the media and political world and in the face of over whelming pressure in the week of the hacking scandal.

In many ways, the demise of the News of the World is in no small part due to campaigners on Twitter such as @the_z_factor, @profanityswan, @thegreatgonzo and @eroticpuffin. Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC Technology Correspondent, highlights these bloggers and the vast spread of their messages in his blog post Social Media vs the News of the World.


Today's news is a great and topical example, following on from other recent news stories including the saga of injunctions and the Arab Spring that have been fuelled by use of social media sites such as Twitter.

It is hard to believe but true that it is only 5 years since Twitter was first set up. But it is now very much part of our society - especially in media, cultural and information led industries.

Yes it's true that Twitter is fueled by celebrity tittle tattle and that the concept of the Twitter name is derived in part from the Oxford English dictionary: "a short inconsequential burst of information, chirps from birds." (See more on the history of Twitter's first 5 years at Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday) but it is also more than this. Twitter has gained popularity worldwide and is estimated to have 225 million users, generating 65 million tweets a day and handling over 800,000 search queries per day. (30 Terrific Twitter Facts and Figures - Jeff Bullas),

Twitter is evolved into its own world or 'eco-system' being used by:

  • Journalists and the public to monitor politicians and celebrities

  • Companies and Government Organisation to promote news

  • Marketers to create branding buzz

  • Bloggers to promote their blogs

  • Personally I've warmed to using Twitter and use it in a work capacity as an extension of my organisations' email notification service - Notices to Exporters (see @eco_notices. Using Twitter has the potential for increased reach to individuals, consultants and companies that might not be aware of our 'traditional' notifications medium of email. For instance one recent Tweet about export licence amendments has been retweated to over 600 other people - which is great for informing. Via my work account, I am subscribed to a range of official organisations such as the United Nations, World Trade Organisation, Foreign and Commonwealth Organisation who are all finding new ways to make use of social media to communicate messages.

    I also have a separate personal account @ozzywon, which I use to keep updated and connect with areas of personal and professional interest. My personal network includes library groups such as UKEIG, CILIP, Government Libraries Group, other information professionals and personal bloggers and organisations of personal interest. Up until now, I've tended to flow more tweets rather than posting myself.

    The downside of tweeting is that unless you have endless time it is almost impossible to keep on top of all tweeting trends.

    Did you know that would take 31 years to read all the 'tweets' posted on Twitter? Did you also know that in 2011 there are over 200 million tweets per day (compared to 65 million per day in 2010 and two million in 2009). (See: Twitter users post 200 million tweets per day).

    This is where aggregating sites like Huddle come into play and also where RSS feeds are also helpful.

    RSS Feeds

    I also use RSS feeds, but like my use of Twitter and other social media sites, I do feel at risk of information overload and feel at a disadvantage because I don't have access to a multimedia phone with apps. Like other CPD23 participants (eg Librarytwopointzero) have commented already, you aren't really able to use these social media sites to their full advantage if you only dip in and out on an occasional basis.

    I currently only subscribe to a handful of RSS feeds but will now add the RSS feed of all CPD23 Thing participants. I use a number of ways to access RSS feeds, both via individual browser based feed readers and also via Google Reader. One exercise that I will do as a result of Thing 4 is to rationalise the reader service I ultimately use on a permanent basis.

    The great thing about RSS feeds (and Twitter and social media tools) is that they can be issued and incorporated into other websites and on social media phones via great little applications called 'widgets' thus saving time and effort. I've currently been exploring setting up a widget to enable notifications to be quickly uploaded between our websites.

    To be honest, I was not aware of this tool. Given my experiences of commenting on previous blogs in previous CPD23 Weeks 1 to 3, I can see the advanage of this type of tool which allows you to rate and comment on any website. However, given that it is only available on Firefox, Chrome or Safari browsers means that I won't be using it in a hurry as I tend to use the browser on the dark side....

    Final thoughts on current awareness tools

    Looking into online current awareness tools has made me realise how much the landscape of awareness provision has changed (eg witness the demise of corporate and government library provision). Twitter and RSS feeds are so easy to use that they are now a 'must have' rather than a 'nice to have' for the broad mass of individuals across all organisations and as a result there might seem to be less need for information units delivering targeted current awareness activities.

    I'd be interested to know what alternatives there are to the ubiqutous RSS feeds and Twitter and whether other alternatives do realistically still exist - such as Listservs and News Groups, Message Boards and Forums - in specialised areas of expertise. And where do information professionals fit into the need to manage new forms of current awareness provision.

    For what its worth, based on my experience of working with non-information professionals, I think that there is still a need for information professionals to offer these types of services, given that there is a lack of awareness of even tools such as Twitter and RSS amongst colleagues doing their day jobs.


    Revelation23 said...

    Interesting statistics about Twitter. Sounds like life sentence!

    Red Corolla said...

    Interesting post, thanks. Looks to me like you get more value out of Twitter? I fully agree that info professionals are needed to help colleagues/clients get value from these tools. These tools are awesome, but I think you have to have that basic interest and fascination for information as a thing in itself - otherwise you don't get past that being overwhelmed stage. Lots of my colleagues are practical types who just wanna know what they need to know for their job. So I see my role as a mediator as still very crucial.