Pocket Handbook for the Twitterilliterate

During the first week of March, the Twittersphere becomes an orgy of science-related art as the Scientific American Symbiartic blogging team (consisting of Glendon Mellow, Kalliopi Monoyios, and Katie McKissick) lead the charge for their annual #sciart tweetstorm. Some brave GNSI members took the opportunity to see what Twitter was all about with varying degrees of satisfaction. If you're still scratching your head about what all the Twitter fuss is about, this article is for you.

So what exactly is Twitter? Perhaps you have the impression that it's a way for you to update everyone who cares (is that nobody?) about what you had for breakfast, who just flipped you off in the parking lot, why you desperately need a coffee, etc. If that's your impression, I don't blame you for ignoring it! But maybe you've heard friends and colleagues who appear slightly more "in-the-know" when it comes to social media wax poetic about the power of Twitter. You trust these folks and are intrigued, but good grief, is it just another instant messaging thingie? A group texting tool? A Facebook wannabe with the weird constraint of 140 characters?

I like to think of Twitter as a personalized newsfeed. To use it effectively you never even have to post, but it can link you into a world of information that will (frankly) make your brain hurt... in a good way. By carefully choosing who you follow - both people and conversations - you can expand your perspective and become aware of a much broader array of information than if you relied on the two or three publications you likely go to on your own. Here is what I suggest:

1. Open a Twitter account.

2. Start following people. Not sure how to find them?

Try "LISTS" these for starters:
GNSI members on Twitter (created by the GNSI)
Science Artists on Twitter (created by the Symbiartic blogging team)

Or look for particular Twitter feeds:
GNSIsciart (created by Science-Art.com)
GNSIorg (the GNSI twitter feed)

3. Follow conversations using hashtags that interest you. Simply search for these on Twitter.com and every post that contains the particular hashtag you entered will show up. From there, you can find more people to follow, if you care to. You can just as easily follow no one and just tune into conversations around hashtags. Relevant hashtags to start with include:  #sciart, #scicomm, #bioart, #biology, #evolution, #botany, #stem, #stemtosteam

Using these three simple steps, you'll find you get pinged around the web to publications you like but never think to visit, you'll find viewpoints different than your own that help you out of the echo chamber of your go-to news & opinion sites. If you are in search of like-minded artists, you'll find them and be able to connect. If you're hoping to get noticed by scientists whose research you'd ultimately like to be a part of, you can find them, follow them and ideally interact with them. Used intelligently, Twitter is a tool like no other. Get on it and get busy!

GNSI Twitter interface

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