Professional Development: Curating personalised professional development

For the next two weeks the QUT Information Studies Group has taken over the ILN Blog to discuss Professional Development: 

Do you enjoy flipping through trashy magazines in doctor’s waiting rooms or at the hairdressers?

Do you get a kick from personalized recommendations of what to read?

If you answered ‘yes’ to both these questions, then this blog post is for you.

This post is about how to curate your own magazine-style personalised professional development. Specifically I want to talk about how to combine Twitter with 3rd party presentation app Flipboard to create a personalised information stream for your professional development.

Photo CC_0 by Tatiana Niño

Photo CC_0 by Tatiana Niño

Twitter is sometime misunderstood as a medium. While it can be used effectively to communicate, it’s also a great way to curate personalized content. The main issue with Twitter as an aggregator is that the interface design isn’t very appealing to users, either the web, or the app. So, many users sign up for Twitter and then disengage because the user experience is poor. A secret to enjoying Twitter is installing the app, ‘Flipboard’ and adding your Twitter account to it. Flipboard turns text-heavy, linear tweets into a funky, colourful magazine-like format. You still get Twitter functionality (e.g. retweeting), but you experience the information more visually.

How to find great Twitter users to follow for content

  1. To find people with your interests, search Twitter using a technical concept in your field of interest. For example, if you’re interested in ‘knitting’, then search for ‘stitch density’ and then browse users who come up.
  2. To find professionals to connect with, try Googling “ * on Twitter “ replacing the ‘*’ with the type of professional you’re interested in, e.g. “Librarians on Twitter”. Then, browse some of the suggested people. If you find someone who’s Tweets you respect, then browse who they follow and so on. Be selective on who you follow. You will gain the most if you follow only a few hundred people. If you follow more than 1,000 people, then you will have a ‘firehose’ effect of too much information. Try following people and then be avid ‘unfollowing’ people too. ‘Unfollowing’ is not as emotional as ‘unfriending’ on Facebook. So, don’t feel bad if you unfollow someone on Twitter. It’s just a normal part of the experience.
  3. To follow conversations on an issue that matters to you, find a tweet that uses a relevant hashtag, e.g. #edtech for tweets on the use of technology in education. Then, search Twitter using that hashtag to read the stream of ideas from multiple users on the same topic. Apps such as Tweetdeck are great ways to keeping hashtag conversations as separate visual information streams.

How to build up your own Twitter followers,

  1. Aim to write a single original Tweet each week. Focus on finding recent articles in your profession of interest to you and practice writing your own analytic response to the article in 140 characters. Use a url shortening service, e.g. Google’s to keep links to the smallest number of characters. Use technical terms from your field. You will find that you gain followers when you write good original content of interest to other professionals.
  2. Start a conversation with someone on Twitter about a topic they’ve posted on. Demonstrate your professional knowledge, capabilities and personality to build rapport and then increase the likelihood of gaining a follower.
  3. Build your own online professional identity using a blog or website. Link to the blog or website in your Twitter profile so that other users can understand who you are a little better.
  4. Take the time to write an authentic and engaging Twitter profile biography. Don’t be glib. Don’t put on airs. Describe who you are. Use specialised vocabulary, professional language, personal details and humor as suits your personality and hope for a satisfying long term online identity. There is no one right way to write a bio.
  5. Retweet (RT) and Modify retweet (MT) selectively. RT when you’re reposting verbatim what someone else has said. MT when you re-write or alter the original tweet of someone, but include the most pertinent details, e.g. url and their Twitter handle. MT is a great way to add your own style to content without needing to write a whole original Tweet from scratch.

Not only can you link your social media on Flipboard, but you can also curate personalized news content using Flipboard. Flipboard incorporates machine learning to adapt the information they present. When you first download the app, you identify your interest areas, e.g. metadata, information science, libraries and it will make suggestions based on these. It will also make generic news suggestions. Each day, you curate the content, marking articles ‘show less like this’ or clicking the heart icon to mark its relevance to your interests. The app learns from your interactions with it. Over weeks it comes to offer you more and more targeted news. There are new news aggregator products emerging every year, so it’s worth checking in on which ones are using the latest algorithms to curate personalized information.

Finally, once you have a trusted set of followers on Twitter and/or Facebook, you can use apps such as Nuzzel that analyze all the links suggested by your followers and rank them according to how popular links are to your network. This is really helpful if you only read social media once or twice a week, because you will get the top news headlines and stories relevant to your community at a glance.

–  Dr Kate Devitt

Posted in Discussion topics, Round 2016A and tagged , , , , .

One Comment

  1. Hi Kate,

    I found this guide to Twitter excellent, the most complete I have ever seen! Thank you for your great tips, in particular how to curate content with Flipboard. Sounds like fun!

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