The job of the humanities academic has always been to absorb large amounts of content, evaluate it, synthesize it, and portray the results in a way that will be relevant and engaging to an audience (whether that audience be students, peers, or the wider society). In the information age, we have a vast array of new tools to not only help us sort through this content, but also to shape it and share it.
I am a big fan of the ‘whole-person’ style of tweeting, with a mixture of general chatter (e.g. “it’s Thai for dinner!”) and valuable curated content (e.g. “great article at http://…”). A mixture of about 30% chatter and 70% content is seen as a golden standard by those in the brand and digital media world, and seems to suit academic tweeting down to a T. This blend of chatter and content situates the academic lifestyle in a very real and very human context, while also providing some helpful information to colleagues. Remember, sharing is caring!
But continually finding that 70% of curated content can be an onerous task, especially now, when desks are piled with unmarked essays and grant application deadlines are looming. To make sure that my Twitter feed is filled with links that the academic community may find interesting, I use a couple of helpful apps to make the process as easy for me as possible. I spend an hour every Sunday getting high-quality Twitter content ready for the coming week, which leaves me the rest of the week to tweet about the interesting new recipe I’ve made for dinner or the dance routines on Strictly.
My Twitter workflow for curated content is based on David Allen’s infamous GTD method, as is the flowchart that outlines it. It goes like this. Throughout the week I scan through the content that comes through to my RSS reader (I happen to use NewsRack). The content is a mixture of my main interests: academia, of course, but also fashion, design, media, culture, theatre, and architecture. If I can read the post in less than 2 minutes (that magical cutoff point for GTDers) then I have a read, and tweet it if I think it is worthwhile. But if it will take longer than 2 minutes, I send it straight to Pocket, a read-it-later app which links directly with NewsRack.
Every Sunday morning–usually with strong coffee and a pain au chocolat at my elbow–I read my own personal newspaper that has been growing in Pocket over the week. It’s a wonderful weekend ritual, and I know that there will always be loads of interesting essays and articles that I saved during the week. But because I have batched the reading, I avoid simply sending important essays straight to Twitter–they will simply get lost in the clutter, and the constant barrage of links will probably annoy everyone. Instead, I use a web-based app called Buffer, which collects planned tweets and sends them automatically at preappointed times. Pocket allows me to add tweets straight to my Buffer queue–it’s efficiency at its most elegant.
But how are these preappointed times settled on? Ah, there’s a web-based app for that as well. Tweriod will scan through your followers and determine the time of day that they are most active on Twitter, and conveniently configure Buffer’s posting schedule for you. Done. Magic. A lovely leisurely hour of Sunday morning reading means that I can spend the rest of the week without worrying what high-quality content I will be tweeting. Of course I do tweet throughout the week, but I know that the real, value-added content of my Twitter feed is on autopilot.
The key ingredients to this workflow are a good RSS reader, a read-it-later app, a tweet scheduling app, and a tweeting time calculator. There are countless versions of these, but I like the ones that I use precisely because of their elegant and seamless integration. With this set up in place, it means that I have plenty of time to do what no app ever can: thinking about the ideas I have found.