Friday, May 15, 2009

Twitter as a Research Asset

Given that the key books that I am referencing all happen to have been published around 2006, it seems useful to follow up on the author’s activities in 2009. I reason that, in evolving, fast-moving, early-stage activities like blogging and social media, any expert’s thinking should have evolved significantly as they incorporate the last three year’s worth of developments.

I found that all of the key authors had active current blogs. Keeping up with those within my work-flow and time commitments proved problematic. Of much more utility was that all of them also had active Twitter accounts. This meant that every day, as part of the casual act of reading my Twitter-feed, I was continually being made aware of further useful material pertinent to my research. Most of the author’s tweets pointed to both their own blog posts and to relevant thoughts and analysis they had sourced online. While the majority of my research has to be ‘pull-based’ – with me going out looking for material, this added a ‘push’ dimension – with content being directed towards me.

One downside to this methodology is that, once following enough experts in your field of interest, you may become overwhelmed with the fire-hose of content pointed at you. This can be mitigated by developing good personal content filters and ruthlessly unfollowing anyone whose tweets are not adding value to your research.

I have found this practice very beneficial in the information gathering phases of my MA research. It is a most effective way of keeping abreast by scanning and evaluating a high volume of potential material. I would recommend this to any researcher, particularly those whose topic concerns technology or Internet-related subjects.