Technology is not the thing

Last week I spoke at the Online Information conference. It was a session about Twitter, where Karen Blakeman did a great job explaining the whole thing, and how organisations can make use of it. Then I stepped up and told a few jokes about government is – and should be – using Twitter.

Here’s the slides, for what they’re worth. Try and imagine a pillock gurning at you while you read them, it’ll provide some context.

Now, there is a thing here, and this is what it is: I don’t like doing tool-focused talks. One reason is that people get the impression that I am saying that everyone should be on Twitter, say.

To be swearily honest, I really couldn’t give a shit whether you use Twitter or not. I might write things that make it easier for you, but I would hate to feel like I’m making promises that it will change your life, or transform your organisation. It probably won’t. Things don’t tend to work that way.

I’m not trying to distance myself from Twitter, here. I still use it a hell of a lot, and my life would be poorer without it. The point I am making is true of any single technology, and goes back to the idea that, actually, the interesting things about the internet and its effect on society – and government – has nothing to do with computers.

Instead of encouraging people and organisations to use Twitter, or whatever, I want to encourage them to listen, to collaborate, to be transparent and open, to take notice of the things their employees say, to be flexible and agile and able to react quickly to changing circumstances.

Technology makes this easier. It provides a platform where it can all happen. In some cases it might be the key that unlocks the door to all this activity. But technology is not the thing.

A quick start guide to Twitter

Twitter Guide You will all be delighted to know that I have written a handy quick-start guide to Twitter for people who work in and around government!

I have had loads of requests for this, from people who can see that Twitter is taking off in a big way, but who also just can’t quite make their way around the service enough to make the most of it.

The guide takes absolute beginners to Twitter right from the start – explaining what Twitter is, and how to sign up – right through to replying, retweeting, hashtagging and using tools to measure success.

It’s free to download, just click the cover graphic or the text link below!

Download Learning Pool’s Twitter Guide

I’d love to know what you make of it, and if you have any suggestions for an updated version. Maybe you have an idea for another subject crying out for the Briggs treatment. Drop me your comments using or send them via Twitter to @davebriggs.

And don’t forget, you can follow Learning Pool on Twitter too – @learningpool.

Twitter lists

Neville writes a post about Twitter lists, some new functionality recently released to users. An official blog post trailed it last month.

Twitter lists

Neville’s quite positive about it, and indeed it may well work for a lot of people. My view is more… meh.

If you follow lots of people it’s true that it is hard to keep up with everything that is said. I follow just under 1,500 accounts and reading everything is impossible. So I don’t.

TweetDeck, my desktop Twitter client of choice, has had groups – the ability to track a group of twitterers in a single, separate stream – for ages, and I’ve never used it.

After all, Twitter isn’t email. You don’t have to read it all.

I’m happy to dip in and out of my Twitter stream as I have time, and as I have something to say.

Anything that is directly pointed for my attention – ie by including @davebriggs in the tweet – is already highlighted for me. Likewise with the issues I am interested in – I monitor various keywords for mentions of those.

But other than that, I’m comfortable with the fact that I’ll miss the occasional gem – but know that if it’s really good, I’ll pick up on it later, anyway. The thought of spending a load of time managing a bunch of extra lists doesn’t really do it for me, at all – just as I don’t tend to put feeds in folders in Google Reader.

I guess I’m happy to rely on serendipity over organisation.

What is Twitter for?

Whenever I mention Twitter to anyone who wasn’t previously aware of it, the first question they ask is always ‘What is it for?’

Like many social web services, it can be difficult to explain the concept of Twitter. I find it is best to respond with another question: ‘Well, what is talking for?’

‘Er, telling people about stuff. Asking questions. Finding out what’s going on.’

That’s what Twitter is for, too. It’s just like talking.


Twitterhack is a new blog I have started. And it’s horrible.


I hate ads on blogs, and this one has lots of them. It even has ads in the RSS, and the RSS isn’t even full text!

Here’s why I have inflicted this abomination on the world: I found myself writing – or wanting to write – more and more about Twitter as different stuff came to my attention, but didn’t want DavePress to become overwhelmed with that sort of thing.

Also, I’m kind of interested in how ads can be used on websites, how how you can use metrics to find out which bits of sites people visit and where they are most likely to click on the ads. So, why not turn my new Twitterblog into an ad experiment too?

So, if you are interested, feel free to sign up for the RSS or just visit TwitterHack now and again. But don’t send me emails telling me it’s horrible – I know it is!