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Twitter: Use it Productively

Twitter: Use it Productively
twitter public timeline

    Have you heard of Twitter [twitter.com]?

    It’s the funniest thing. It allows people to answer, in brief, the question no one was asking: What are you doing, right now?

    Hundreds of random people keeping other random people up to date on their random day-to-day business. Twitter is the no frills, no hassle mini-blogging tool that’s really catching on. But why?

    Two minutes ago someone posted “waking up, showering, looking for socks”. Before I question how it was possible for this person to write such an update, I ask why he feels compelled to share? Well, like almost all the current Twitters out there, I’m still figuring out what it’s good for.

    How can we use Twitter productively?

    First, let’s look at what makes Twitter different from, say, a blog or a chat room.

    1. It’s simple.

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    I don’t need to spend time figuring out how to use it. Set up is quick and so is the ability to update.

    2. It’s social.

    We’re adding friends, and keeping track of other people’s updates as ‘followers’. When you visit Twitter, your friends’ updates are shown along with yours, in chronological order [with avatars].

    3. You can update from your cell phone.

    OK. This is interesting now. I can send updates, as well as receive updates, as text messages on my mobile. Instant Messenger and Gtalk included.

    4. RSS Feed Enabled!!

    Now we have a product.

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    Those are the elements that make up Twitter. It’s easy, fun and versatile. How do we use it for good and not wasteful evil?

    Twitter as a ToDo List. Particularly useful while I’m away from the computer. I can send Twitter an SMS of something to do when I get back home. Or just something to remind myself of something; a song to download or an an email to write.

    It’s basic but requires a few extra functions. One being tagging. At the moment it’s very linear with the most recent tasks starting at the top and working back. There’s no room for prioritizing, or sorting – with tags.

    Also I can’t cross a task off after completion. I can, however, Trash the item, or mark it with a star as a favorite – which is the closest I’ll come to tagging.

    That said, now I have a ToDo list where I can delete completed tasks, and ‘star’ important ones that need to be done soon. I can’t ‘star’ anything from my mobile, but it’s a start. Also I can’t use Twitter for reminders from my mobile because there is no future TimeStamp feature. If I can schedule an update to appear at a certain time, I could have reminders come up on my mobile when I need them.

    Keep in mind that I am able to subscribe to my updates via an RSS Feed. In my feed reader I can have a ‘ToDo list’ from Twitter. Handy? How about we expand on that…

    Twitter for People Management. This idea is a little more out of the box but focuses on the social aspect. I can keep track of my friends, family or housemates from one feed so everyone is up to date.

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    RSS feeds are social. Let’s share them. Not only can I subscribe to my own updates, I can subscribe to a feed that aggregates all my friends’ updates. So when I post it appears in the feed, when Bill posts it appears in the feed. This is most useful when we’re dealing with 3 or more people.

    We can be organising a night out while at work, or keeping everyone in one house up to date with everything. “Out of milk”, “I won’t be home tonight”. I could send a group text message, but this way I only need to send it to one place. Twitter makes sure everyone gets the message, whether they are on the computer or out and about.

    Twitter for Business Management. This is very similar to people management but we can focus on the versatility of Twitter. Because we are now able to carry out a group conversation over the internet and mobiles simultaneously, managing a group of people can be a little easier.

    My business partner, who is scouting locations for a photo shoot, can keep me and my photographer up to date with his progress. While he is shooting off updates from his mobile about good and bad locations, me and the photographer can share our thoughts online, while my partner stays in the loop.

    Twitter also allows you to send Direct Messages to a particular user. So if my business partner needs to run an idea past me, personally, without our employees reading in, we can do it.

    Then after all is done, we can head back home and look over the updates. Choose what’s working and discuss everyone’s Twittered ideas.

    Twitter as a Newsletter. Say you run a video store. You don’t blog because it takes up too much time and you don’t really have much to say. Maybe you don’t even have a website. What you would like to do is keep your client el informed on a few things without all the hassle.

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    Twitter allows you to post directly to a feed. Without a website, you can have a feed your customers subscribe to and receive updates from. For instance, new videos that have just come in, or day-only sales, closed on the holiday etc. Plus, you don’t even need your computer to do it, SMS! Now you’re communicating with all of your video rental members while you’re in the store, or out for dinner!

    Although you can’t tag updates or friends, you can turn on and off your IM or Mobile notifications person to person. If you like adding friends but only want to receive SMS updates from only certain people, you can do that.

    twitter header

      Twitter is an interesting application, and it’s making some waves. It seems like the idea is there, and it’s working well, but the purpose isn’t yet established.

      These are the guys that brought you Odeo, probably the best option for podcasts on the web right now. Twitter is a remarkably simple idea that is executed perfectly. However, to really be able to stretch it’s usefulness, some extra features could be added.

      Tagging, for instance, would expand this application greatly. Why is it on the web if you can’t tag it with something! I can subscribe to certain users’ feeds but I can’t subscribe to certain groups of users’ feeds. Plus I can’t sort my own updates.

      Mobile phone updates are feature thin too. This is, to me, a stand out feature of Twitter. Without this I may as well be in a chat room or on MSN – or emailing with attachments and no word limit! However, if I could tag [if only as a favourite] updates from my phone, or send a certain ‘group’ of friends messages specifically, we are looking at something more than glorified group texting.

      twitter update

        I think Twitter is an exciting move towards a universal publishing platform. There’s no learning curve or intimidation. We don’t need to be twittering away, updating the web with our most mundane of activities, “I am writing on Twitter about writing on Twitter…”

        Use it productively!

        What Are You Doing? [Twitter]

        More by this author

        Craig Childs

        Craig is an editor and web developer who writes about happiness and motivation at Lifehack

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        Last Updated on July 17, 2019

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

        What happens in our heads when we set goals?

        Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

        Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

        According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

        Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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        Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

        Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

        The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

        Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

        So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

        Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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        One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

        Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

        Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

        The Neurology of Ownership

        Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

        In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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        But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

        This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

        Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

        The Upshot for Goal-Setters

        So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

        On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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        It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

        On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

        But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

        More About Goals Setting

        Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

        Reference

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