Entries Tagged 'Brain dump' ↓

13 years in the digital world

reeves-digital-muse
2015 marks 13 years of my foray into the digital world. Sure, I took an HTML course in college. But I really jumped feet first into this world 13 years ago thanks to the impending arrival of my son. My in-laws gave my husband and I our first digital camera so I could document their grandchild. I decided I would launch a Geocities website to tell our child’s story for the grandparents. It was especially important to me because my brother was just starting a three-year stint in the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. I didn’t want him to miss a thing about his first nephew.

Fast forward 13 years later, this digital world has grow beyond sharing online to a small collection of family members. I tell my stories about how I use the web to people across the country. I get to teach, encourage digital literacy across the generations and I get to raise two awesome kids who respect how connected we all are with people around the world.

It’s a bit mind bending when I just sit here and think about the last 13 years. Raising a digital kid is something I’m figuring out as I go. I manage my son’s access to apps and our family uses Life360 to stay in touch with each other. “The boy” (as we fondly call him) loves to play games on any platform he can get ahold of them. He is a natural when it comes to technology, but he’s worried about failing. I’m working on helping him get more comfortable trying new tech and figuring out how failing is often the best way to learn. Once he gets past that hump, I see him rocking some awesome visions of 3D printed tools, podcasting his very opinionated views of books and movies and launching who-knows-what in the future. His brain and creativity is bound to go far. I’m honored to be his mom and I’m so glad he’s the reason I really launched myself into a digital world. The boy is guiding me as I guide him. It’s pretty awesome.

So, as of today, I am the parent of a teenager. It’s going to take me a while to get used to that concept. I guess the boy will need to help me ride that new experience as well. (Happy birthday!)teenager-parenting-digital-age

The TEDx talk that made my daughter cry

More than two years ago, I knew making a career change could give me a chance to make a new kind of impact. I spent years sending amazing journalists out into the “real world.” But I knew I could do more. I knew taking on the role of social media trainer at AARP could give me a platform to help all generations use the social web.

I have a big reason behind that. Her name is Jone Reeves and she was my mother-in-law. She taught me a lot about how some people can use the social web for the greater good for life and your family. I had a really cool opportunity to speak about Jone and my family during the TEDx Poynter Institute event in August 2014. I had a chance to merge my job with my life and tell a story that means a lot to me. I have a pretty deep emotional connection to the story. That may be the reason why I haven’t written about the talk until now. But I’ve started sharing it and I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback. But when my nine-year-old daughter watched, her reaction proved I should share it even wider. She walked up to me and declared, “I was so happy and sad at the same time. You made me cry.” Here’s what she’s talking about:

 

My talk is basically an extension of a post I wrote here a year ago about ways to have your family talk about technology. I believe talking about setting up boundaries and expectations with your family is important. It’s also important to discuss healthy ways to react to social media content as a family.

Working at AARP gives me a view of all kinds of life experiences along with services, opportunities and data on the ever-changing face of aging. It’s exciting to see generations of people learning to use the Internet together. I hope I continue to have these kind of opportunities to reach out, share perspective so more families can have positive experiences online together. It takes communication. It takes patiences. Most of all, it takes thoughtfulness to find ways to express a family-wide expectation on how the social web is used together. I may be a bit idealistic, but I’ve seen it work. Without a family connected online, I wouldn’t have the digital footprint of my mother-in-law. It’s something we will always cherish.

Room to grow

Nine and a half years ago, I embarked into a career adventure few could imagine. I was the proud mom of a one-year-old toddler who was looking at her first opportunity to help manage a newsroom. As executive producer, I had a chance to take my knowledge as a newscast producer into a professional environment while teaching up and coming journalists at the same time. No where else in the world can you run an NBC affiliate and teach at a world-renowned journalism program.

My career took a fascinating (and some would say geeky) turn when my news director, Stacey Woelfel, allowed me to research and prepare our newsroom’s transition from linear editing and an old newsroom computer system to non-linear editing that communicated with a new newsroom computer system. I analyzed how newsrooms used it, what they did right and wrong. The building and organizing process opened my brain to coding and digital organization. (By the way, that picture is me managing breaking news from the floor of an airport in 2007.)

About a year later, the Missouri School of Journalism’s relationship with Apple gave me an opportunity to help introduce podcasting to the higher education world. I helped lead EDUCAUSE into the concept of podcasting by collecting and sharing a collection of podcasts during the EDUCAUSE Learning Institute conference in January 0f 2005. I had produced an entire conference experience for anyone to hear on demand.

On demand!

In 2005 the only on demand experience I knew came from TiVO. The idea of delivering information that lands into your iPod blew my mind. This was BEFORE the iPhone and podcasts that easily fed into iTunes. It opened my mind and I just didn’t stop from that point forward.

How many work environments would have fostered my desire to continue to learn and teach young journalists along the way? I traveled to China, I taught and spoke across the country, I watched hundreds of former students do AMAZING things with their careers. At the same time I started really understanding the digital world, my daughter was born. My digital knowledge helped me as I started to navigate the special needs parenting world.

What an amazing ride.

As I move away from my 17 years of journalism… I have to recognize the remarkable experience I’ve had at KOMU 8 News, the Missouri School of Journalism and the Reynolds Journalism Institute. I was able to discover the incredible potential of social media long before it really caught on. The @KOMUnews account launched in June 2007. We had a Facebook page LONG before brands had pages. I worked in an environment that fostered and supported my energy to constantly learn and experiment. Sure, not everything worked. But everything we did on air and online taught the industry and students about the changing face of journalism. (That picture is from our J-school centennial in 2008.)

Without this experience, I would have never met members of the social team at AARP during SXSW in 2010. I would have never even known about the opportunity I’m about to take. I’m so excited to take my years of experience as a teacher and as a journalist to help the AARP. What an amazing challenge to take my teaching skills and help build a curriculum for the organization. I have even more to learn and so much to share. It’s really exciting.

Thank you to the many, many students who worked with me these many years. I am so happy to continue working and learning with you. Thank you to the fabulous faculty members at Mizzou – in and out of the journalism school. Thank you to the many J-School and KOMU staff who were so wonderful to work with. Thank you to the incredible social journalists and members of #wjchat for being a part of the journalism community that cares about the industry and good journalism. And most importantly, my husband and the rest of my family deserve a lot of thanks for putting up with my geekiness.

I am not closing my connection to journalism… I’m just going to be working differently. I’m planning to stay in touch thanks to my role as a moderator of #wjchat. My husband will remain in the KOMU newsroom so I won’t be too far away. And best of all, I have the many former students who remain in the journalism and communications industries. We’ll continue to share and learn from each other… Just like I said I always would. Once you’re my student, you’ll always be my student.

Thinking back on Twitter

There was a time in history not long ago when Twitter was new. Nowadays it so not new that it doesn’t even need a “T’ as a logo. Twitter updated its logo and made it just a bird. Heck, Twitter even made a pretty video about it:

 

I used to blog about Twitter all of the time. Interestingly enough, it’s gone mainstream in most parts of the United States… even in portions of the world. Funny. It still hasn’t really caught on in the middle of Missouri where I work. There is a committed group of people using it. There are lots of people who use it as a news and information feed. But where I work and deliver news, Facebook is so dominant.

Maybe because of my market’s use of Twitter, I’ve evolved in the way I use it. Maybe it’s because I follow 5700+ accounts. Maybe because I started too early in Twitter’s history and I haven’t been able to properly build lists. I don’t know. But the way I use Twitter the most is through hashtag-based conversations and conversations I or someone else initialized. I don’t get a chance to just scan the feed as much as I used to. I kind of miss those days. Actually… I have my old scan habits with the way I Instagram and Tumblr. I love keeping up with the people I follow and interact with photos and my Tumblr list is still small enough I can keep up with it. Lately I feel more personally connected to my IG family than my Twitter ones. And no, my market is not a heavy Instagram user just yet. But it has potential. It’s young. After almost five years in the Twitter space, it’s not growing rapidly for my news environment. I wish I could say better of it. Twitter was one of the first spaces I discovered online community around the world. I don’t plan to quit it. But I know it’s changed and I don’t know if it will ever be as much of a go-to network as it is in places like New York City and Seattle. I wonder how many other people feel this way.

Hey Facebook. Let’s talk about Instagram.

I love Facebook and its many ways it helps connect people on a personal level and gives brands a different way to encourage sharing and information distribution. I don’t like how Facebook has killed some pretty great apps in the last few years. I’m writing this to share some history… and let Facebook know I really care about Instagram and don’t want to lose it. But first, let me explain why I’m worried about the future of the Instagram community now that Facebook is paying $1 billion for the app.

In 2009, Facebook purchased FriendFeed. It was a way to keep watch of conversations across various platforms. I used it a bit and enjoyed it. This purchase made a lot of sense to me because Facebook was working on better aggregation of Facebook users. Just think of the many ways the Facebook news feed has changed in the last few years. The FriendFeed concept has led Facebook to include many third party apps into its feed.

In 2010, I discovered a cool app called Hot Potato. The guys who created the app were bouncing around the Austin Conference Center during SXSW. I loved the app. The idea was to provide a more private twitter-type conversation where you could converse quickly based on a topic or an event without overflowing your twitter feed. It was smart. I liked it. Before I could really like it, Facebook bought it. I realize this was the foundation to Facebook’s messenger system. I like messenger… but it still doesn’t meet all of my messaging needs.

I thought the purchase of Hot Potato was really smart. It was small and smart. Facebook snagged the technology at the right time: Before it got too popular. I looked forward to what Facebook would do. I was really happy for the Hot Potato developers.

The big app acquisitions continued in 2011. But my positive view started to change. There were two acquisitions that I felt ate up a product that was great, but Facebook didn’t use to its fullest.

It was clear in 2011 that group messaging was gaining in popularity so I thought I’d play with many of the group tools during SXSW. That was when I fell in love with Beluga. It was a great messaging service where you could have private conversations with a set of people. It would let you message the group and it would display your geolocation. I used it a lot during SXSW with my roommates and groups of people who I wanted to keep up with, but didn’t feel the need to physically follow around during the event. GroupMe is probably the closest tool that I’ve enjoyed since Beluga died, but that geolocation element was really great for me. So Facebook bought it up in the second half of 2011. The app disappeared and I had expected to see more of the Beluga features inside Facebook Messenger. I want Beluga back. I began to think Facebook was buying products up just to squash the competition, not enhance its current products. I hate it when that happens. (I take it personally when Snapfish bought up Motionbox and never made that technology available.)

And then there was the purchase of Gowalla. I LOVED that application. The badges I earned were beautiful eye candy and I enjoyed collecting items for my “passport.” (I even blogged about the ways newsrooms could use it.) It connected with Facebook really well. My check in’s not only showed up on Facebook, they showed up on my Facebook map. (Have you ever checked your Facebook map timeline? It’s kind of cool. It’s really cool if you used Gowalla.) The down side of the purchase? Facebook took all of my check-in history from Gowalla, but never returned my badges, stamps and pins from my long-term use of the app. I had built up a lot of my life story in there. It was fun and full of cool images. As Facebook ate up Gowalla, all of my cool collections disappeared.

So now Facebook has purchased Instagram. It’s an app I have used intensely for about a year but joined in 2010. It’s been a really wonderful community of pictures where you can talk to members and share using hashtags. I had planned to sit down and right a list of ways to connect using Instagram today since last week, Instagram opened the community to Android users. I have dozens of new friends inside the app and I had hoped to share my community building tips.

But before I write that post, I want to beg Facebook to keep Instagram intact. It’s one of the few communities where I’ve enjoyed sharing and loved the simplicity of it all. There’s a fabulous monthly photo challenge that started by a mom blogger last January and has grown each month. (I blogged about that topic on this blog.)

I get it. I really do. Just as Read Write Web wrote, this purchase is all about the investors. Many, many people were posting photos to Facebook through Instagram. The two started working better together recently. You can produce Instagram and Foursquare photo albums instead of just linking out to the app on separate websites. But I think there’s a bigger reason here. Google+ purchased Picnik so users could edit their photos inside the social network. Now, Facebook wants users to be able to “improve” their photos as well. This is a way to use technology to encourage more people to go to Facebook and post photos. This isn’t about the app. But I’m here to beg to keep the app alive. I don’t want to be forced to publish every Instagram photo to Facebook. I have 910 photos on Instagram. Many are also published to my Flickr account, some to Twitter and Facebook. But most are just inside my Instagram community and that’s the way I like it and I hope to keep it.

How I built a community on Facebook

I merged Facebook with my personal blog world in 2010… But getting there took some work. My mom online world started many years before that. It’s something I had started on Geocities in 2002 before my son was born. By the time I was pregnant with baby number two, I had moved over to the Blogger platform to tell my mom stories. (I moved to WordPress in 2007.) To me, it just seemed right to create a new blog for the second child.

What I didn’t expect was for my daughter to be born with a left arm that stopped just below her humerus bone. No elbow. No hand. I didn’t even know that could happen. So as I tried to wrap my brain around the idea of a child with a limb difference, I started to search for community.

I wanted to hear from other parents with similar experiences. I wanted to know what they did when they had a new child. How did they move past the thoughts of cultural fear and how to raise a child without feeling damaged just because of a missing body part or parts? I found an online Yahoo chat group. It was my first life line of knowledge. The whole time, I blogged. I had been a member of Facebook for about nine months before my daughter was born in December 2005. Pages didn’t exist. I didn’t have Twitter yet. But I knew I needed to find people to talk to. As I grew more comfortable as my daughter’s advocate, I felt more comfortable sharing the lessons I learned in to my online communities and my blog. Those lessons expanded onto Facebook and eventually Twitter (which I joined in 2007). I started blending the lessons I was learning from my mom world into my newsroom and classroom. Learning to converse on Twitter about my mom world helped me learn how to transition those skills professionally as a journalist. Eventually I blended my Twitter use into hashtag conversations. One hashtag is the core of an ongoing conversation in the course I teach at the Missouri School of Journalism. I help coordinate a hashtag community of journalists.

I added that Born Just Right Facebook page in 2010 because I was about to build a new helper arm with my daughter in Chicago and I wanted something easy to post updates. The mobile Facebook app has been pretty great for quite a while. I thought a new helper arm and live posting the process would encourage people to “like” it and keep me entertained during that slow process. It worked… and slowly the Facebook page has been as much if not more engaging than the blog itself. Facebook is already a space where people comment and share, so it isn’t hard for followers to contribute thoughts and posts on a Facebook blog page. Facebook posts are a huge driver for post when I’d share a link. The combination of search and the Facebook account for at least 60 percent of the traffic to my site. (which averages 7,000 to 10,000 views a month. It’s a small, but kind space.)

Fast forward to 2012 and not only are there communities for limb different adults, children and family members of those who are limb different… There are organizations popping up in forms of websites and social network pages to share stories and support left and right. I’m doing what I can to keep up with each day for about an hour after the kids go to bed so I can help my readers see what’s happening. All of these pop up communities are a big reason why I hope the tech community can work together with the special needs worlds to find better ways to communicate. The desire to find community and connect with others is deep when you’re in a special needs world. The support I found early (when there weren’t many spaces online) are why I feel informed, empowered and able to help advocate for my daughter and others. That’s why I’m really honored to have my Facebook page nominated for an About.com Special Needs Online Community Reader’s Choice Award. It’s so cool to get some recognition after years of engaging and connecting on many different online spaces. I don’t plan to stop but I do hope to continue to get better at it. I also appreciate that each moment of success on my personal pages teaches me lessons that can help me continue to improve the engagement experience on my newsroom’s social spaces.

The overwhelming rush of social

As I teach and lead a newsroom at the same time, it’s incredible to think of the number of ways newsrooms can deliver information. When a reporter goes out to a story, we expect him or her to deliver information from a cellphone via Twitter with text, photos and video. We expect a written news story for the web along with possibly additional information and documentation. Then they must get multiple versions of a broadcast story  that may include on air time on the set or from a live location. That is a lot to do for any person who is at any point in a career as a journalist.

It’s so fascinating how I continue to help coordinate and expand the roles of journalists in my newsroom. It’s also led me to expand my attentions. I no longer have one central place (like this site) where I share all of my knowledge. I have Twitter (which I’ve used since October 2006), Facebook (since March 2005), LinkedIn (since April 2006), my Google+ page (which is new), Facebook journalism and blogging groups, my course Facebook page, my course Tumblr, my course blog, and my advocacy site and its many social outlets. (Oh, and I love Instagram.) I juggle all of these resources while encouraging my students to focus on one work brand (KOMU or KBIA) and one personal brand (on a portfolio to help them get a job).

It’s no wonder my brain feels busy all of the time.

With my experimentation of so many different tools, I wouldn’t recommend this mode of sharing. Keep it centralized as you build your identity online. Leave comments and share links of information that come from smart people you want to know and talk to. Write strong blog posts and find others who will be interested in what you have to say. You can’t assume they’ll come to you and learn. If you snag a job that lets you experiment… that’s when things can start to get messy. The important thing is to find ways to report back the lessons you’ve learned. I’m lucky to have a class and a newsroom where I can do that. I also get to share my knowledge in spaces like #wjchat and at local meetings for hacks/hackersIRE.

Of course, there’s this space as well. And it feels good to get back to sharing my knowledge here again.

(Photo courtesy of Aramil Liadon/Flickr)

UPDATE: I guess I should clarify after reading my student Max’s blog post. This is what happens when I dump the thoughts in my head. I juggle a thousand different social media tools for many, many different purposes. When I say focus, I mean focus on yourself, your interests and experiment for yourself (a portfolio and social media energy for yourself) and your career (managing multiple social tools for your workplace) before you start adding all kinds of other projects.

I was on live TV from my kitchen

My newsroom is preparing to launch a very new show in September. It’s called U_News@4 and we’re planning to make it a social media-based newscast and conversation. Thanks to that show, the show’s anchor, Sarah Hill, and I are trying to experiment on as many new tools as possible on the air. When Google+ came out we both knew this was a great opportunity for us to test out the tools.

Fast forward to last night. Our engineers figured out how to route the audio from one of our computers and share a Google+ hangout conversation live on the air. Here’s what it looked like:

I had a chance to discuss what Google+ is to our viewers and pick up my kids from summer camp without missing the 5pm newscast. How perfect is that?

We have a number of ideas on future uses of the Google Hangout tool:
*Create live panel discussions – Hangout is the new round table
*Create a circle of people we trust and open it up to join in on a conversation we start at the beginning of the broadcast
*Use this as an easier way to allow different sides to debate about a topic live on the air.

What other ideas do you have?

A little sidebar: We already livestream behind the scenes of the newscast on our Facebook page. The Livestream participants were jealous and demanded a mention on the air during last night’s broadcast. I thought that was really interesting.

You can read about Sarah Hill’s experience using Google+ in this MediaShift article.

Gaga over Google+

I’m hooked. I realize I’m a social networking addict (as someone mentioned to me earlier today) but I’m really enjoying my experience on the new Google Plus.

My invite came through less than 24 hours after the network’s release and I immediately jumped in to share invites with others and figure the space out. The first thing you’ll see when you sign up is the profile in Google+ is the same profile that exists with Google Profiles. I thought that was pretty handy since I had already built mine up a while ago. I was also able to add a link of photos that are my “scrapbook” to personalize things up a bit more.

If you don’t have a Google+ account, you can get ready by adding information to your Google Profiles page (which is available for anyone with a Google account). I’ve found most people who have created a Google Profile are able to easily get into Google+ when a user shares anything to their gmail address. The trick is having that Google Profile ahead of time.

When you arrive inside this new network, I recommend creating circles. This is different from the Facebook lists for a number of reasons. First, when you publish, you pick who listens. Facebook allows you to block certain lists from seeing a post, but you have to pick people individually by name if you want to post something specific. (It’s a four step process.) Second, you can think about Google+ like Twitter. People choose to read your posts and you can choose to add them back into your circles or not. If people don’t like what you post, they can stop following you in a circle. If you don’t like them following you, make sure you only post items specifically to your personal circles and not to the public. I currently have 23. Here’s a look at my growing Google circle (which looks pretty when you roll your mouse over it because it shows the images of the people inside):

Along with Circles, another great G+ (that’s the short, lazy way to say Google+) feature is Google Hangouts. When a person you are following in a circle launches a hangout, you see a notice of it on your stream. If you have a webcam and a microphone, you can jump in. As many as 9 people can be in the hangout at the same time. My first hangout was with Google’s Chief Architect of Social Yonatan Zunger. I had noticed him posting really interesting tips early into the release of G+ and I liked reading his updates. I started a Google circle thanks to him. Many Google employees are openly sharing the developments of the social network and I’m fascinated by the openness of the launch. (Which is COMPLETELY opposite with how Facebook rolls out changes.) I jumped into a public Hangout he had launched and heard many Google fans ask questions and talk about what’s ahead for the project. After that, I launched a few public hangouts. It’s fun when people can get their webcams to work. If you’ve never experienced a Cisco Telepresence Center, a Hangout is a poor man’s version of it. When someone in the Hangout speaks, the video window switches to him or her. It continues to do that until you click on an individual person’s image.

You can choose to have a chat box open on the side (which was handy in the Hangout you can see above here because one person couldn’t get his webcam to work). You can also choose to look through and watch YouTube video with your Hangout. When you hop into YouTube mode, the other members have to choose to join in to watch. When you start playing the video, your audio is automatically muted. You have to press a button to talk over it. I love that! One other pro tip: You can use Google Translate to translate chat and live conversations during a Hangout.
My other tip: Encourage people in your Hangout to share their favorite YouTube video. (Mine is Thumbs up for Rock and Roll)

Not long after I dug into G+ , I started to look for ways this can be used in a news. I’ll write up another post about that soon. In the meantime, feel free to visit the page if you’re a G+ member: gplus.to/komunews

Some additional tips for Google+ users:
*If you’re following someone who posts a lot and there’s a lot of comments that keep pushing the item back to the top of the page, you can click on the little drop down menu (it’s a little triangle to the right of a post) and chose to mute it. You don’t have to remove that person from a circle, you can just quiet him (or her, even though I haven’t found a “loud” G+ female user).

*If you’ve ever enjoyed Twitter, Google+ is a similar experience. Think of this as a space where you can say more than 140 characters and interact with people you may have never considered interacting with before. (Back in the day, Twitter let me talk to amazing people because they weren’t getting bombarded like they do now that Twitter is so big.)

*The intro page when you first sign up on G+ is worth the read to see how to get things started. The first thing I did was create circles and that got my stream moving.

*I was so excited when I first jumped into G+, I didn’t consider the number of alerts I’d get in my Gmail. I think I had collected 100 before I noticed. Don’t do what I did. Change your settings early on: https://plus.google.com/settings/plus

How to get started with Social Media

I have a chance to speak to the Missouri Press Association today with Joy Mayer at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. We have a chance to speak to editors and publishers – many who are lucky to have an engaged audience of readers in small towns across the state. We’re talking today about social media and how it is worth learning about before the core readers age out and the new readers never take their news product into consideration to use as a way to learn about their communities.

But the key tip I hope to share is how to get started in social media. We think this is important because of a little moment I had last week with a large lecture class I’m teaching this semester called Journalism and Democracy. It’s better known as “Journalism for non-journalism majors.” There are 236 students enrolled. All of the students are underclassmen and planning to graduate with a wide range of degrees. There are all kinds of differences until you ask how they got their news of the day. (I took a picture of a portion of the class during our first test of the semester.)

Last week, a class speaker and I asked the class to raise their hands to see who watched television news in the last 24 hours. Four hands went into the air. We asked how many people had read news from a printed material on a newspaper or magazine. Six people put their hand in the air. Then we asked how many people got news from the Internet. All but two people raised their hand. Two people explained they had been so busy with school and work, they had not opened the Internet in the last 24 hours.

Everyone raised their hands when we asked if they learned something new (news or personal, we didn’t differentiate for this question) that day from a social networking tool.

If this class is a peek into the future of news consumption, we better hop into social media and see what the heck is going on here!

But how do you get started?

Let me tell you how I did it. It starts with curiosity.

In 2005, I heard a lot of my students talking about this thing called “Facebook.” They were sharing and distracted and always talking about it. So I hopped in. You just needed an email from .edu account. I had one. So I dug in and created an account. I watched interactions between students. (I had a rule where I would never “friend” a student, but I would accept friend requests. I would only choose to “friend” students after they graduated.) My husband would harass me for using Facebook. But I saw merit in the natural way people interacted with each other. I created a profile for my newsroom and tried to see what kind of interaction I could get in that space. Eventually Facebook created the opportunity to let brands build pages on the site. All of these developments grew while I was already in the space. I understood how it worked because I played with it on a personal level first.

I did the same thing with Twitter. I created a personal account and a newsroom account in June 2006. I had heard some people talking about the tool and I’d seen how easy it was to share information from your phone by just sending a text message. So I signed up. I would text messages and post quick 140 character messages. For my newsroom, I just posted an RSS feed of links. About a month or two into my personal use of Twitter, I realized how searchable the account was on Google and other search tools. I had used the names of my children in many posts and decided to delete the account so my name wouldn’t be linked to their names. But I returned to Twitter with a new account in October of 2006 after watching how Twitter was used to help relay information during a large group of wildfires in Southern California. I still follow the Los Angeles Fire Department thanks to that event. News and emergency officials used Twitter to share information about safety, the size of fires and rescue efforts. I started talking about journalism and mom stuff on a personal level, but I would call my son “the boy” and my daughter “the girl.” The first time I met up with Twitter followers in my town, they were so excited to meet my children and finally learn their real names.

Working with Twitter is a little trickier to understand how to use on a personal level than Facebook. I highly recommend trying Twitter with  a tool called TweetDeck. Most new Twitter users notice how it makes more sense to read and connect with people. You can search by terms, people and conversations called hashtags – these are chats where everyone includes a word with a hashtag in the front. When you follow the hashtag, you can jump in and converse or just peek in on the conversation. Some of my favorite hashtag conversations are #journchat, #wjchat and #smcedu

I didn’t get to this point where I could easily converse immediately. I warmed up to it. But I kept trying. I would @ a person and see if he or she would respond. I have made friends and colleagues through Twitter. I have learned about my community and found new connections to news consumers.

If you want to read some of my other posts about Twitter, feel free to click here to see my a webinar I did on Twitter a while back that still holds true. Also, I keep track of great tools for journalism that are free or really cheap. I have a great list of Twitter tools included!

I would not be linked to my town the way I am without the help of Twitter and Facebook. It is not the end-all-be-all of journalism. But it is a way to connect with many people who are not consuming my newsroom’s material in the traditional ways. And as my class full of 236 underclassmen become professionals, their communication and information collection styles are going to affect us all. It’s great to jump in before you’re playing catch up.