When I decided that I wanted to become a data scientist, I started following some data scientists on twitter to see what they talk about and what was going on in the “industry”. Then I saw them pointing one another to resources and answering each other’s questions, and I realized I had only seen the tip of the iceberg of “Data Science Twitter”. That’s when I created a new twitter account.
A few things I should say first…. I think “data science” can be replaced by just about any other topic, but especially science & tech topics, so please keep that in mind as you read this. I follow a bunch of scientists on my “regular” personal twitter account @paix120, and I sense the same things going on in their communities as I’m about to outline for data science.
Another thing I want to mention is that I’ve had other “topical” twitter accounts. I created one called @womenwithdroids when I started a blog of the same name, and I was amazed at how many awesome women I met that were building android apps, wanted to learn more about how to use their android phones (which at the time were being marketed as a “manly” alternative to the “cutesy” iPhone), and wanted to join a community of women talking about android phones and apps. At the time, I had created a separate account because I saw it as a “business” account for my blog, but I realized that there was a lot of value in separating that from my personal account. I’ll go into that below. Now that you know a little background, let’s dive into how you can use twitter to learn just about anything.
I have explained to people I meet in person how much I gain from Twitter, and they often look at me like I’m a little nutty. I have heard a few recurring comments from them that I see as misconceptions:
“I started using Twitter and was overwhelmed. I couldn’t keep up with my timeline.” My answer to that is that first, you’re not supposed to “keep up” with your Twitter timeline. I don’t use Facebook, but I get the impression that people that do will scroll back through every post that happened since the last time they visited, to make sure they don’t miss any important info from their friends. Twitter is not like that. On Twitter, you can jump on when you need a 5-minute break from work, read a few tweets, mark some longer stories to read later or go read an article or two now, and then get right back to work. People that use twitter won’t get mad if you miss one of their tweets. If something resonates with a lot of people, it will be retweeted and you will probably see it later. If not, it’s not a big deal. You see what you see when you’re online, and don’t worry about what you may have missed, it will just stress you out. Think of Twitter like the news. You may want to see if anything has just happened, what’s at the “top of the news”, or what people are talking about that happened recently. If there is a big news story, it will likely still be visible when you visit later. It would be stressful to try to keep up with every news article that’s published at any time. I just scroll back a half hour or so and scroll up until I’m ready to do something else. If I’m looking for tweets about a specific topic, I do a search and see what the top tweets are for it. You can narrow down the search results to “People You Follow” if you only want to see what people you are connected with are saying about the topic. “I started using Twitter and it was just a bunch of junk I didn’t care about.” Twitter has an onboarding problem. The problem used to be that when you started a new account, you weren’t following anyone, then people would feel lost and not know how to find interesting accounts to follow. Then they started suggesting interesting accounts.