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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Educators: What Will Happen When Twitter Ends?

By Peter DeWitt — November 25, 2015 3 min read
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Social media has always brought us the “next big thing.” Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Persicope, and what seems to be dozens and dozens of other platforms have been the perfect tools for people with short attention spans. One of the issues of having a short attention span is that you may get bored with one platform and quickly move on to the next one, which means most platforms won’t last very long.

What does that say about our loyalty to tools?

Certain platforms seem to last longer than others though. Facebook is one of those platforms that may no longer be cool for students but adults are certainly “sharing” and “liking” quite a bit. Facebook is even offering new features and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It seems to be lasting the test of time.

Twitter was one of those platforms that seemed to be destined to last forever, and it’s had an important influence in education over the years...

Hundreds of thousands of educators are on Twitter. Some educators have reached “Edustar” status thanks to the tool. Teachers, leaders, and instructional coaches Tweet out resources, create Professional/Personal Learning Networks (PLN), and take part in the all important Twitter chats like #edchat, #satchat and #edtechchat. It seems to be so popular among so many educators, and has certainly helped some of us reach an audience with our blogs that we would not have normally been able to reach so easily.

But...is Twitter seeing its demise?

A recent Instavest blog reports,

Twitter (NASDAQ: TWTR) released Q2 2015 earnings on 7/28/15. The stock was up approximately 6% after hours until the company's earnings call when CFO Anthony Noto admitted that Twitter's user growth was not expected to improve anytime soon. After that comment, Twitter's stock took a nosedive - losing more than 13% of its value - and is now trading at $31.54, a new 52-week low."

This isn’t new...news. In A Eulogy for Twitter (The Atlantic, April 2014), Adrienne LaFrance and Robinson Meyer wrote,

Twitter used to be a sort of surrogate newsroom/barroom where you could organize around ideas with people whose opinions you wanted to assess. Maybe you wouldn't agree with everybody, but that was part of the fun. But at some point Twitter narratives started to look the same. The crowd became predictable, and not in a good way. Too much of Twitter was cruel and petty and fake. Everything we know from experience about social publishing platforms--about any publishing platforms--is that they change. And it can be hard to track the interplay between design changes and behavioral ones. In other words, did Twitter change Twitter, or did we?"

And then, it came...

In Hard Decisions for a Sustainable Platform (Oct. 2015), Twitter’s Group Product Manager Michael Ducker wrote,

Recently, we announced a new design for our Tweet and follow buttons, as well as a deprecation of the Tweet count feature. We expect to ship these changes by Nov. 20, 2015. We wanted to take a moment to explain how and why we made this decision, as it reflects the kinds of engineering tradeoffs we make every day."

As much as we all might focus on the words “a new design” we know that a new design is usually used to update an image that may be dying, and our real focus falls on the word “depreciation.” Ducker went on to write about the dismantling of their Tweet count button. He wrote,

The Tweet button counts the number of Tweets that have been Tweeted with the exact URL specified in the button. This count does not reflect the impact on Twitter of conversation about your content -- it doesn't count replies, quote Tweets, variants of your URLs, nor does it reflect the fact that some people Tweeting these URLs might have many more followers than others. The count was built in a time where the only button on the web was from Twitter. Today, it's most commonly placed among a number of other share buttons, few of which have counts. Additionally, the "count API" has never existed as part of our public, supported and documented API endpoints; it was only intended for use by our own web widgets. We've often cautioned in our developer forums that use of such undocumented endpoints shouldn't be relied upon, as we cannot commit to supporting them."

That long explanation seems to suggest that the dismantling will only continue.

Twitter Is Complicated

Truth be told, I have loved using Twitter over the last 4 years. Actually, almost 4 years ago to this day I wrote Why Educators Should Join Twitter (11/21/11). Due to using the social media platform I have created great relationships with my PLN, and it has certainly helped me get this blog out to many readers that I never would have found on my own...nor would they have necessarily found the blog without using Twitter. For that I am eternally grateful to having had the opportunity to use Twitter over the years.

Unfortunately, there has been a seedier side to using Twitter as well. It has been used as a venue for mean people to make anonymous comments, or for kids to bully one another. It has also been a way for people to band together and publically shame others.

In education circles it has been a place where teachers, leaders, researchers, and writers have been able to build their public status through consistently offering messages that others want to follow. Unfortunately, due to pressures to look popular, it has also been a venue where educators buy followers to pad their accounts so they look like #edustars or “Twitter rock stars” when they really have just paid for fake followers.

What does that say about us...

In the End

If Twitter really does disappear from the internet what will be the next venue educators use to connect and communicate? Is there one that can help us connect so easily to so many others? Facebook is often saved for friendships and Twitter was used for professional connections. I’m not so sure lots of educators want their professional and personal lives meshing together, which is why they used both platforms.

What will happen to the Twitter “Rock Stars”? Will they still sustain if they lose their followers...both real or fake? Will the number of readers of blogs go down? What will happen to the way we communicate and promote our messages? If Twitter meets its demise, how many educators with status will it take with it?

Connect with Peter on Twitter...while it lasts.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.