Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I'm into Recycling

Hopefully my blog has gathered a few new followers since June 8, 2010 when I posted an article " Methinks some people tweet too much" in which I outlined some points that genea-tweeters should keep in mind when using Twitter. As I haven't seen any other post on this subject I am recycling this post with a few alterations and additions:

Twitter is a wonderful resource for learning about current news and new resources. My problem is how to use Twitter for family history responsibly.

I don't want to clog up the tweet streams of my followers with useless tweets so I don't retweet items that a number of my followers who have the same follower base have already retweeted.

Neal Chambers says that "The most important thing about your Twitter account is your username. This will be used to identify you in the Twitter stream and how people will find your account ( It's best to choose something easy to remember/spell. A perfect example of this is your real name (gasp!)." I chose Geniaus as I wanted something short and easy to remember that indicated my interest in genealogy (Geni) and my location and interest in Australia (Aus). If you do not want to use your own name think of a short username that somehow describes you. I particularly like @infolass, @geneabloggers, @genebrarian and @geneaphile. This username can be used across a number of social networking sites to give you a brand name.

The nine essentials of Twitter etiquette includes the advice "Don't feel compelled to tweet regularly. I promise that if you take a personal tweet-free day, your audience will understand." One does not need to tweet every day, interesting news does not arrive at regular intervals but in waves, one's pattern of tweeting can reflect these peaks and troughs. Less is more.

Some Twitterers with a commercial affiliation use Twitter as a marketing tool and seem to retweet endlessly; I am tempted to unfollow them but I might miss some of the original snippets they post. The Search Marketing Spin Blog warns against being "Re-tweeting Machines: If all you do is re-tweet, that can get annoying as well. I definitely encourage re-tweeting articles and thoughts that are deemed important, but keep that as part of the overall mix." I wish Twitter had a facility where one could select individual settings for those one follows ie so one could select to see just a user's original tweets, retweets, replies or any combination of these.

"Don’t RT Yourself  If you have multiple Twitter accounts, for example one for personal stuff and another for work, please do not Retweet what you said on another account. If people want to follow both, they will.  
There’s a reason you have two accounts: not everyone cares about both of your online personalities." This advice from "Online etiquette: Tweet with care" should be heeded by some genealogy Tweeters.

In Mind your twitter manners Jacqueline Whitmore says: "Don’t spam. If people are following you, they are going to want real content that matches their interests or teaches them something new. If you are sending out numerous tweets that are trying to sell your products, you will quickly lose your following. People have enough spam through e-mail and don’t want this to be another source of excess clutter."

I sometimes unfollow and refollow some people while they are at events and conferences if I don't have an interest in the event they are attending (of course major genealogy conferences are an exception).

A PCWorld article "Twitter Etiquette: How to Tweet Politely" states "Reconsider the running commentary. Live-tweeting sporting events or conference speeches may seem like a public service, but who's listening? If you normally use Twitter to post once-a-week status updates but then abruptly let fly with 80 tweets in a day, you'll aggravate followers who aren't expecting their account to be inundated by your sudden outpouring. Consider composing a blog post instead, or offer a single succinct observation each hour".

"Don't bother re-tweeting the big dogs" is more sage advice from The nine essentials of Twitter etiquette  includes the advice "Most people interested in genealogy will follow Ancestry and FamilySearch and other major organisations in their countries, don't retweet what most of your followers will have already read."

Recently I have received a few tweets containing a link to a website that  requires a  usernmame and password to access the information being recommended. It is extremely frustrating to follow a link and then be thwarted by such a request. I suspect that sometimes people tweet without actually checking out the site they are tweeting. Always check a link before tweeting or retweeting it.

Hashtags (#) are an important element of Twitter use. As well as giving readers an idea of the relevance of tweets to their interests they can be important for marketing and promotion. I would suggest using between one and three descriptive hashtags with each tweet.  Additionally these descriptors are help people conducting searches on Twitter to find relevant information. If you are tweeting about genealogy add the #genealogy hashtag. If you are at an event use the hashtag assigned to that event eg #rootstech2011.

One of my pet peeves is the Follow Friday (#FF) post where one thanks followers. These posts seem impersonal to me and clog up tweet streams. If a thank you is warranted one can send a private thankyou via a direct message. It is important to build relationships on Twitter; this can be done by sending public individual thankyous, using the reply function and retweeting followers' posts. Following the lead of @JudyQld a number of other genealogists embraced a policy of one #FF per week. This sensible policy makes one think very carefully about who will receive that one precious follow. I have relished tose follws I have had from the people following this policy.

Like Audrey Collins I too was taken with the badge Thomas MacEntee gave me at the Rootstech Conference earlier this year. (You can buy one here). That little red badge simply says "Keep Calm and Cite your Sources".

I don't mind what method one uses to cites one's sources but it should be done whenever one quotes another's words in any form of media. With the 140 character limit on Twitter this may be difficult but, as I used to say to my students, "plagiarism is stealing."  Taking the words of another and passing them off as your own is unethical and should not be done even on Twitter.

When I wrote my post, "I'm into recycling" yesterday about Twitter etiquette I did not mention plagiarism. This morning I saw a thoughtful sentence posted on Twitter that did not sound like the language normally used by that tweeter. I put the sentence into Google and within a few seconds found that sentence on a genealogy blog post written yesterday. The tweeter in question was obviously also captivted by the sentence and shared it without attribution. It has been retweeted a couple of times with kudos going to the tweeter not the blogger who appears to be the original creator of this piece of text. I am now wondering about the credibility of the tweeter and the organisation this person represents.

Plagiarism does not belong on Twitter.  It may be difficult to cite a source in 140 characters but it must be done. Plagiarism is akin to stealing; using the words of another without attribution is unethical, whenever one publishes in any format one must give attribution to an original author. Plagiarism is easy to detect. Tweeps who are found to have plagiarised lose credibility for themselves and the organisations they represent.

Remember that your Tweets are in the public domain. If you say something on Twitter you are potentially telling the world. Your tweets can be read by everyone.

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