Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The PLN Project Featuring Twitter, Guy Fieri, Kookiness, Spleens, and Ed Sheeran

So, yeah, I never blog.  I don't know why, but there is just something in my nature that makes me not want to sit here every day and write for hours upon end.

Insert Twitter.

I love Twittter.  My gal pal, Katie, (a doctor and not her real name) also loves Twitter.

Two weekends ago we had lunch and were chatting about our amazing Professional Learning Networks (PLNs) and how Twitter is simply an incredible tool to keep current in the fields of medicine and education.

We are both active tweeters in our fields, and we haven't really used Twitter for super personal stuff. (Isn't that, after all, what Facebook is all about???)  In any case, we conjured up a wee plan.  We wanted to see if our PLN communities could handle some "personal" stuff and/or random stuff in addition to our normal "professional" related tweets.

So, here is the plan...

In addition to our normal PLN topics (medicine and educational technology), each of us picked a topic we love and have tweeted about occasionally, and, because we wanted to have a focus, we each picked one famous person to follow from our topic.  For Katie, she actually knows how to cook (and is quite excellent).  So, she is devoting herself to tweeting about cooking, pulmonary medicine (her normal PLN topic), and her famous person to follow is Guy Fieri.  She picked him because "he seems the most down to earth of the cooks on the cooking channel."  She also likes his hair - which is crazy because she is a straight and narrow kind of girl.  She insists that "no one really wants a doctor that looks like Pink."

For me, I love music of all shapes and sizes, so my chosen topics are music, educational technology (my normal PLN topic), and the person I chose to follow is a new British singer/songwriter named Ed Sheeran.  He is an excellent musician and part of this new "Young British stars are not jackasses" movement that is also evident in major acts like Adele & Mumford and Sons.  He has crazy hair like I do, so that made him a natural choice, but I also picked him because he wasn't someone I have tweeted about in the past (The Rolling Stones, Eminem, Metallica, Tori Amos, Jane's Addiction, Pink Floyd, Mumford and Sons, Gaga, Adele, Beastie Boys, et al).  He is also just a mere 21 which isn't "boy bandish" but a hell of a lot younger than Simon LeBon.  So, it is a different "jet set" than I am used to following (and, OMMMMG, if they had had Twitter in the 80s, Duran Duran would have been my constant source of girlie fandom).

Our "Study"

Neither of us wanted to do official research because we are set professionally and it is December. We just wanted to have fun and operate within the spirit of a project done years ago called "Barbie with Brains."  But, we are both nerds, so we wanted to give our little practice/study some guidelines.

1.  We had to continue to engage our professional communities.  We use Twitter because it is a place where we learn and grow professionally.

2.  We did not use Facebook at all for this practice.  Since our family and friends are on Fb, the results would get messed up because our friends and family would comment (well, at least mine, and they are raspy assortment of truckers, bikers, scholars, and dentists).  We also did not mention this project to any one (it is mentioned here, but no one reads this blog).

3.  We are using Quitter to see if anyone stops following us.  If someone we cherish from our PLN stops following us, we will connect with that person and explain that these increased tweets will stop on Jan 1.

4.  We committed to spending some of our free time trying to post lots of posts about our topic (food and music).  I have more free time than Katie, as she has to go save lives, and, well, I have to charge lots of devices and write code.  According to Katie, I have "diarrhea of the phalanges" anyway because I am a better writer than speaker.

5.  We had to somehow participate in the tweet culture of our chosen famous person.  Ed Sheeran has made that fairly easy, though, because he launched an #edvent calendar, and every day there is something new.  Katie is watching Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives and tweeting about it.  She is also following his tweet stream.

6.  We can back out of this project if we think it is damaging our PLN.  We needed a safe word.  Katie picked pickles; I went for chocolate.  This is why she is a doctor, and I am not.  Katie is a boat load more reserved than I am when it comes to stuff like this, but even I am not all that comfortable going all out there on Twitter.  Katie says that I "think too deeply about life and love and peace...there aren't enough Twitter characters to write it all down."  So, this will be the burden I carry.  I despise superficial communication.

7.  We are keeping an archive of our tweets and retweets, follows, and unfollows, and comments/interactions.  We will look at common threads after the project ends on December 31st.  But, it won't be the next day because, well, God invented Guinness.

8.  Our project will end with a blog post written together and posted here on this blog.  Katie is doing this project anonymously (see below). We will link out that post and this one to our PLN and see what responses we get.

What do we hope to learn?

We want to see what happens to our PLN if we infuse more of our personalities.  Katie, for example, is doing all of this anonymously because she can't risk her professional career.  Even though she is chatty, she is a little bit militant in her mannerisms.  She says that she "has always had a hard time making friends" because she is "harsh and abrasive" (her words, not mine).  On Twitter, though, no one knows that about her and that is a huge draw for her.  Everyone who knows me already knows that I am zany, experimental and have never, in all of my 40 years, cared the slightest bit about following the crowd. There is a lot of freedom in never having ponied up your personality to the altar of expectation. I don't need to be anonymous.

We want to see if people get into our chats from our PLN.  Will they listen to any of the music?  Will they comment on a diner?  Will they stop following us because we have crossed some sort of professional line?  Will Ed Sheeran fans suddenly want to start coding in Python?  Will doctors eat at dives?

Our Predictions

For some of my 1200 followers, I think an addition of personal stuff might be a little weird but not too weird.  It isn't risky for me to adore a sweet and cheeky soul singer from England.  I expect more of a lashing from the teenage girls that love Ed Sheeran because they are (really) devoted to him. And, when I was their age, I adored Simon LeBon, Jon Bon Jovi, and Slash.  So, I am cheerfully amused by their devotion to him, but also know that 14 year olds can get possessive about crushes.  So, I am going to be clear that there is no crush here (which would be utterly creepy anyway) and that it is, truly, because I am huge fan of the work I have heard him play and the music he has written for others. 

His songs like A Team have a depth to them that is somewhat rare these days, and he seems really well grounded for being just 21.  In the few interviews I watched to prepare for this project, I found a few instances where he seemed so much more mature than his age.  But, in more recent stuff I have watched, he seems to be falling into a teen idol trap.  But, give him his props, he is, in fact, a teen idol to a very devoted set of girls.  If I interviewed him, I would not ask one question that would make him slide backward into the fanboy circuit.  I would ask him about the work he did with the homeless and the fate of the girl, Angel, that A Team is written about.  I feel this young man has so much to say but no one is asking the right questions.  They want to know what kind of britches he wears.  So, in a sense, I am saddened by the loss of a great mind in the mix of what fame does to people. 

Whew.  Random.

So, my three predictions:  I won't lose many followers (right now I lose about 3 a week).  I may gain a few more followers, but not many (I gain about 3 a day), and, overall, my PLN will tolerate my infusion of something non-work related (this will be evidenced by retweets, comments/conversation, and "likes").  Educators are loving peeps.

For Katie's followers (about 400), she is unsure.  No one posts about anything other than medical stuff.  A lot of doctors apparently have two twitter accounts - one for personal stuff and one for medicine.  She, too, wanted to make sure that it was clear that she didn't have some sort of fan crush on Guy Fieri but that she loved his cooking style and his sense (and trust me, he is the absolute opposite of Katie.  Katie and I have been friends for at least 100 years now and she and I are polar opposites in almost every sense...Guy Fieri is the south to her north pole in terms of style).

Katie's three predictions....She will lose followers (she loses about 1 a week now), she will not gain followers (she gains less than 1 per week on average), and her PLN will not tolerate her persona infusion.  She doesn't think there will be a a smooth way to tweet about cheeseburgers while others tweet about academic journal articles.  She also recognized that her age (54) might prevent her from being as carefree as I am at 40.  She thinks our ages impact our ability to post.  We'll see.  No one really knows your age on Twitter unless you tell them.  And, hell, I am still 29.  Can't help what the sun and Earth do :-)

We are excited about the project. 

So....let's see how this all shakes out.

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