At last Friday's Tristate PLP kickoff, Will Richardson made a startling statement: "Twitter is my most often used professional development tool."
Now, I've been using Twitter for quite a while now, and I do find it useful. As a matter of fact, I found out about PLP itself on Twitter, but Will's statement still seemed audacious. It certainly got my attention.
I have occasionally tried to explain why I find Twitter useful. I think I got it mostly right in a previous post, but Will explained not only why Twitter works, but also how he has a strategy for using it. Will's approach is that he follows people who he trusts, who are "thought leaders" in education, to pre-screen content for him. Faced with the reality that he can't read everything, he trusts others to consume and digest content for him, and pass along whatever is relevant and useful.
This isn't a new idea. For example, John Hodgman is notable for using Twitter as a crowdsourcing tool. He asks a question of his 108,000 Twitter followers, whom he addresses as his "hive mind," and gets back answers. Of course, that's easy when you have 108,000 followers.
For those of us who aren't famous, we can't rely on a massive hive mind. Will's strategy is to carefully select people to follow, and limit himself to following only 150 people to keep the amount of information manageable.
The irony here is that instead of it being difficult to acquire information, you actually have to limit yourself to the relatively few people who pass along the best information. As Clay Shirky points out, the paradigm has reversed, from "filter then publish" to "publish then filter." It also means that your list of tweeps should be a meritocracy- those who consistently pass along the best, most relevant, most useful information stay on the list.
What do you think of Will's strategy? What is your practice for using Twitter as a professional development tool?