Advertising
Advertising

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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

        How To Start a Conversation with Anyone 8 Steps to Continuous Self Motivation Even During the Difficult Times How Not To Suck At Socializing – Do’s & Don’ts Ten Ways to Improve Your Quality of Life Storage Ideas For Small Spaces

        Trending in Featured

        1 How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques 2 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 3 How to Break Out of Your Comfort Zone 4 Back to Basics: Capture Your Ideas 5 How to Motivate Yourself: 13 Simple Ways to Try Now

        Read Next

        Advertising
        Advertising
        Advertising

        Last Updated on March 25, 2020

        How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

        How to Take Notes: 3 Effective Note-Taking Techniques

        Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes effectively.

        I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

        One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

        Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

        The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

        And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

        What to Write Down

        Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

        Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

        Advertising

        1. Dates of Events

        Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

        For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

        2. Names of People

        Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

        3. Theories or Frameworks

        Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

        4. Definitions

        Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

        Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

        5. Arguments and Debates

        Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

        This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

        Advertising

        6. Images

        Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

        Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

        7. Other Stuff

        Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

        I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

        8. Your Own Questions

        Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

        3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

        You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

        1. Outlining

        Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

        Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

        Advertising

        For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

        2. Mind-Mapping

        For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

        Here’s the idea:

        In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

        The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

        If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

        You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

        3. The Cornell System

        The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

        Advertising

        About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

        You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

        In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

        You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

        The Bottom Line

        I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

        I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

        More Note-Taking Tips

        Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

        Read Next