Friday, December 11, 2009

Group Twitter?

There have been various times in past year or so when a current or recent member of my research group had some excellent and/or interesting professional news -- e.g., a job offer, a grant, a paper accepted/published -- and I have thought "Wouldn't it be great to tell everyone about this?"

Usually I end up mentioning it in an email if I happen to be corresponding with someone no longer in the department, or I tell the good news to current group members when I encounter them in the department.

This is a bit unsatisfying. So, should I set up a group on Facebook or use Twitter?

What are the pros and cons of each? I'd like various members of the group to be able to post their own news, so perhaps Facebook is more versatile that way?

32 comments:

The History Enthusiast said...

Twitter is super easy, but I think most people are on Facebook and not that many are on Twitter. You'd probably reach more people on FB. Just my two cents!

P.S. If you are on twitter, let me know your handle; I'm @hist_enthusiast. I enjoy reading about scientists' experiences in academia, even though my expertise lies elsewhere :)

Anonymous said...

Facebook requires signing up; twitter is publicly viewable.

Using facebook is "wrong" therefore.

Plus twitter does rss and you can use some sort of # tagging.

Anonymous said...

Why not just send out a mass e-mail with the news or annoucement?

everyone in the group has the group e-mail list (if not they can just search out one of your previous mass e-mails and just hit "reply all").

it seems this problem has already been solved, for ages, so it should be a non-issue...or is there something else that I'm missing??

Anonymous said...

I've seen this type of news shared different ways: some profs have a 'news' section of their lab website and post it there (although that's usually only current lab member news, and probably not primarily for the benefit of telling that group...), others send it to the lab-wide email alias. I've never seen twitter or facebook used this way. Both could work (and most of your students probably have a facebook account already)

The people working on a large (software) project in my division have set themselves up twitter accounts to keep each other informed about what each person is doing every day (ie "fixed bug #23232", "implemented the blue gadgets"), they then have a list with all of their accounts on it, so anyone can go to one URL and see what's being accomplished (in almost real time!)

Not totally use of the utility/applicability of that one though.

Rebecca said...

A facebook group will be your best option. Items in the twitter stream disappear quickly if you're not online every day, so you'd want to use the @ or # functions a lot, which takes up a valuable number of your 140 characters. Also, on twitter, multiple people can only share one account by using the same username and password to log in.

In contrast, on facebook, you can create a group with multiple administrators able to post to the entire group, and items seem to stay current longer.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Don't fucking do it!!!!!! Have some fucking dignity, for fuck's sake!!!!

Amy said...

I like Facebook because it lets me stay in touch with my pals from around the globe. I update my status at least once a day and post pictures and videos of my daughter pretty often. I like that I can choose who gets to see what. I have a Twitter account but have used it *maybe* three times. Facebook just has much more to offer, imho. I suppose Twitter is a stripped-down version, just the status updates and nothing else, so I suppose it depends on what you want to use it for.

Virginia said...

I'm in a group using http://cotweet.com/ to create tweets for http://twitter.com/waspinteract. It works very well to allow several people to share a Twitter account.

Physicow said...

I've set up facebook groups and things. An important detail is that, last time I looked, instant message services reserved the right to snoop on your conversations. So in response, I also set up a group Jabber server. It may or may not be well-participated, but if there are those who want it, it's a nice resource.

drdrA said...

Facebook, twitter, maybe- but there is a third option and that is google groups. Lots of people have gmail accounts so that makes setting a group to distribute information easy- if you have a gmail account you don't have to enroll in extra stuff.

Facebook has a circle of friends feature - so far as I know not a groups feature (but I could be wrong about that)...

Twitter- you can post things on twitter and have people just look at your twitter page every now and then- but in the regular home page that they see when they enroll- stuff might get lost in the pile of tweets that come at them...

Just my 2 cents.

female Science Professor said...

I don't want to send group e-mail because we all get too much random e-mail. I also don't want to get the e-mail replies that posting group e-mails would likely generate. I want to post the news somewhere and others can look at it if they want. I also want others to be able to post news, so if we did Twitter, lots of people would have the password. I just want to be able to tell everyone in the group (including alums) when Jane gets a job offer and Xavier has a paper accepted and so on.

Anonymous said...

Facebook definitely seems to be the way to go if that's your plan. I would venture to guess that almost everyone will have FB already, whereas a smaller percentage will have Twitter. eve my husband's grandmother is on FB! I could create a group (that can have multiple administrators); you can either make it privately or publicly accessible, so that only invited members can see the information, or such that any FB member can see it.

BB said...

If FB seems too "social," why not try LinkedIn? It's more professional than FB and allows updates easily.
http:www/linkedin.com

Anonymous said...

I have been a professor at a research university for 18 years. I have graduated 15 students (11 PhD and 4 MS) and I currently have 2 PhD students. To keep in touch and give announcements (jobs, papers, grants, fellowships, etc.) I send out a letter in THE MAIL (yes I still use snail mail). I send a letter to all that have graduated from my lab 2 times a year (at Christmas time and during the summer). Also included in the letter is a gift card for either Amazon.com or a gas card (usually $100). I tell the former students to either buy books that are not related to their current studies or to use the gas card and go drive and visit a state or national park. I also give my two current students $250 gift cards at Christmas time to an airline so they can go visit their families (grad students don't make a lot of money). I understand this cost me $3500 a year, but my wife and I do not have children of our own and we see all of our past and current students as family.
In response, all of my students keep in contact with my wife and I with letters, too. It is always fun to get a letter from someone besides BILL in the mail.
Anyway, I find it is a very effective way of communicating information to everyone in the group without filling in boxes or having to use something childish like twitter or facebook.

Chris said...

It's not either/or. You can easily pipe tweets to facebook or facebook status updates to twitter. (I do the former.) So you can set both up, link them, and then let your audience (and other people posting) choose how they want to access your feed.

Alyssa said...

It sounds like Facebook would be your best option, since everyone can just be a part of the group and you wouldn't have to give a password to everyone (like on twitter).

Someone else mentioned just having a "news" section on the group's website - that's a nice option because then a membership isn't required.

Anonymous said...

It sounds like Facebook is the way to go. You wouldn't even have to do a personal page. You could make a fan page or group page for your lab and have administrator control over who joins, and you or other members could post content. You can make it private so only members can see things, or more public options.

I think one big negative of Twitter is you can only do 140 characters.

Zobeide said...

My research group runs a visible emerging technology project.

My students (and occasionally me, but I'm usually too busy) have a blog which we update with group news and new version releases of our toolkit. I personally have a twitter feed which I used to comment (very sparsely) on lab events, field events, and interesting new work

Isabella said...

We have a "news" section prominently placed on the group home page, with non-obtrusive scrolling, so that it doesn't overflow, but always has the newest event on top.

We also post congrats to papers from former group members, and events like awards or job offers.

It is easy to edit for the admin, and at a place where everybody in the group goes all the time anyway (to access things like the group meeting schedule, publication list, etc).

I would hate having something like twitter, but if I'd do it, I'd link it to be easily accessible from the group home page.

I can't stand facebook, I am probably getting too old.

Anonymous said...

Me and my friends have a private group on facebook and it works wonders, though to be fair, we keep in touch frequent enough (we are currently in two separate cities) that we hardly used that.

Comrade Physioprof said...

I understand this cost me $3500 a year, but my wife and I do not have children of our own and we see all of our past and current students as family.
In response, all of my students keep in contact with my wife and I with letters, too.

Are they gonna come wipe your ass for you and change your diaper when you're in a rest home? lolz

TW Andrews said...

I'd lean toward Facebook for the sort of thing it sounds like you're interested in.

It is a lot easier to get people to follow twitter, but Facebook has a much greater set of options for managing groups. Plus once each person signs up for Facebook and joins the group then people's comments are by default available to each other. With twitter each person would need to follow the other people in the group (though you could use a # tag for your group, people need to remember to use it, which is easier with some twitter clients than others).

The more I think about it, the better Facebooks seems for your use case.

Janice said...

Set up a Twitter account that feeds into Facebook with updates. Twice the effective coverage and it is accessible to people who aren't into FB or aren't logged in at the moment.

I use a Twitter account to promote our departmental seminars and other news of interest. Not everyone follows it but we're getting it fed into multiple sites now so it is a good base from which to work.

Anonymous said...

+1 for a news section on your group's website. Make it a Wiki so the whole group can post to it.

Anonymous said...

"Are they gonna come wipe your ass for you and change your diaper when you're in a rest home? lolz"

Most people's own kids wouldn't do that for them either.

Anonymous said...

What about a blog? Lots of research groups have blogs that a number of people in the group post to and they post things like "new instrument works!" or "long term sensor deployed" with pictures as well as lab news. Then anyone who wanted to look at it could go back as far they wanted to, whenever and you would have the ultimate control of how it ws set up.

Ms.PhD said...

I've thought about this a lot and I don't think facebook would work well. Most younger folks use it for friends/family, i.e. non-work stuff. If they friend the lab, it means the lab can now see ALL of their facebook material (the privacy settings are too complicated, nobody wants to be bothered trying to have separate settings for each person). So for most groups, I think you'll find they won't all want to do it.

I like the suggestions of linkedin group or google group, something like that.

But this is a good question, it is something I have wondered about for some groups I have started. I wish we had a wiki or something, but if any of the members are tech-phobic or have any kind of accessibility issues, they won't participate. Then you have to have something like a podcast (!). Then it's a whole other franchise and you might as well hire a full-time staff person just to keep all your social media updated!

Gives me a headache just thinking about it!

Ruchira Datta said...

I think FriendFeed might work well for this (even though FriendFeed has been bought by Facebook). Your Twitter can feed into FriendFeed and your FriendFeed can appear in Facebook. It's much easier to converse on FriendFeed. (Facebook tried to copy FriendFeed in their commenting system, but one can't edit comments after posting them, which inhibits posting comments there.) FriendFeed subscriptions are unidirectional, rather than bidirectional as in Facebook friendships. Most people tend not to put all kinds of personal information on their FriendFeed, and they can subscribe to you without you subscribing to them, so they're less likely to be hesitant. The Life Scientists Room http://friendfeed.com/the-life-scientists is a good example of FriendFeed's scientific use.

Kevin said...

Our department maintains a mailing list for this sort of announcement, as well as seminar announcements, job announcements, social events, congratulations on PhD completion, ... We need such a mailing list, because our small department is scattered over 4 different buildings.

The mailing list gets about 50 items a month, and people can subscribe or unsubscribe with the standard mailman list interface.

There are about 160 people on the mailing list, from undergrads to alumni who are now professors at other R1 schools.

yolio said...

academia.edu is a networking site that is essentially facebook for academics. You might try setting up a profeesional network on this or another similar site.

I wouldn't appreciate being asked to facebook friend all of my collaborators in a research group. In my mind, facebook is for family and friends. I like to maintain at least some separation between my work self and personal self.

Anonymous said...

I think a blog would work the best for what you want to do. You can set up author accounts for each of the individuals to post and then they can take an RSS feed to the blog. They'll know when things are updated (in their feed reader) and can post things at will. You can either use blogger or wordpress to access free tools to do this easily. Eventually, you'll probably want to set up a Google Wave for this, but if you post it on wordpress or blogger - you can feed that into your wave eventually.

Anonymous said...

I don't like facebook because it's so easy to end up with hundreds of "friends" who really are not friends just people you happen to be linked to by one or more degrees of separation (but who, for various purposes, you felt compelled to accept "friend requests" from because you feel awkward or rude to ignore). It can quickly become unmanageable, not to mention annoying when you have to see inane comments posted by people you don't really know that well - you can hide their comments but if you end up turning off everyone's comments then what's left?

I think for your purposes a group wiki is better. You just want a place to share news and allow other members of the group to share news without encouraging all the back-and-forth inane chatter.