E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

Can Twitter Serve as a Personal Knowledge Management Tool?

Gran Canaria - Roque NubloI have been using Twitter now for over two and a half years and, all along, if you have been following some of my recent twitterings, you would know how I seem to keep having a love / hate relationship with it. It still remains one of my favourite Web 2.0 tools out there on the Internet, but I must admit that some times it drives me just nuts! Completely! Not sure up to what point it becomes frustration, but time and time again it amazes me that we are putting to waste such great potential with this micro-blogging / micro-sharing tool. And yet we all keep getting back to it over and over again. Why? Well, because that’s where our communities hang out.

So when Bill Ives just recently questioned whether you could make use of Twitter as a Personal Knowledge Management tool I couldn’t help but wonder myself whether I am using it as well as my PKM tool of choice, along with my own personal business blog and a couple of other tools. And the answer back then was a big NO! I simply couldn’t consider Twitter in this area for the many various flaws that it has, specially its lack of searching capabilities beyond, roughly, a week old tweets, or its inability to allow me to keep an archive of all things I have tweeted in the past that I can access at my own convenience. And those are just a couple of issues. I am sure there are plenty more out there…

But here is the one that was starting to drive me crazy more and more by the day and the main culprit why I haven’t been twittering much as of late. Most folks out there using Twitter consider it their new, and enhanced, RSS feed reader, from where they grab their daily links or feeds to keep in the know and on top of everything that’s happening. I would agree that Twitter has got tremendous value in performing such task well, specially when most of those links shared are actually already validated by the folks who you follow and connect, those folks who you share a common passion with. That’s just fantastic!

But, Twitter, as a brilliant dynamic feed reader, has got such a huge long term memory problem, that, unless you are constantly checking it out, you will be missing out on most of those really interesting links that folks share across. And, of course, no-one has got time for that! So I started playing with a number of options and see how they would go and tried to figure out a way to give Twitter back some of that long term memory. And I think I have finally managed to make it work. Mind you though, Twitter alone won’t do the job itself. Thus here is how I am going to start using Twitter now as one of my Personal Knowledge Management tools.

Twitter as a Personal Knowledge Management Tool – Here is the how!

For a good number of months there have been two simple actions I perform in Twitter that I have grown rather fond of all along: Retweeting and marking tweets as favourites. To me that’s part of where this tool holds most of its meat, amongst a couple of other key elements (Like the usage of hash tags, for instance). So I needed to figure out a way to make those two actions a bit more permanent so that I would have a chance to search through the Archives over time and find the content I would need when I needed it.

And to such extent I have finally settled in bringing into the mix a couple of other Web 2.0 social software tools that I have found rather interesting and with a huge potential to explore further, along with starting to use both of them on a more regular basis:

  • Evernote: This is one of those Web 2.0 tools that is rather simple to use, as well as amazingly pervasive, yet so incredibly effective. Typically, there are dozens and dozens of use cases for it, but the one I am using for Twitter in particular is that one where every now and then I display the page of tweets I have marked as favourites and I capture a screen shot with Evernote, which I can then annotate further, synchronise back to the server and from that moment onwards I can search the text throughout that screen shot as if it were just that: plain text.

    Have been playing with it for a few days now already and it seems to be working like a charm! Finally, I now have got an opportunity to search through my Favourites Archives and re-find what I need. Things are starting to take shape. Wonderful!

  • Posterous: A couple of weeks back, I mentioned on Twitter how I was starting to play with another social software tool on the Internet that seems to be incredibly popular at the moment, as a (micro-)blogging fashion (Along the lines of Tumblr) but making use of the lowest common denominator that could get everyone making use of it without any excuses: email! Yes, I am talking about Posterous, indeed.

    Now, I haven’t started sharing any content just yet in my Posterous address, but I will be doing so this very same week. However, I can now finally share one particular use case with which I am planning to make use of Posterous itself, amongst several others, and that is sharing all of the retweets I collect over time in Twitter.

    Like I said, both Favourites and retweets are two of the features I treasure the most from Twitter and if I would want to see this tool become part of my Personal Knowledge Management tools suite I need to give it a bit more persistency as well as re-findability, and, although I can understand how some people may not be happy with me taking retweets out of Twitter, I do hope it will stick around. It would be too bad letting those retweets died a short, sudden death, just because Twitter doesn’t want to know better. We shall see how that goes… I will be reporting over time how things develop further.

And that’s it! That’s how I am planning to convert Twitter from here onwards into one of my most powerful Personal Knowledge Management tools on the Internet. With the extra help of both Evernote and Posterous I think I am off to a good start, one where I will finally be able to state time and time again … "I love Twitter!" 😀

Oh, and in case you may be wondering what would be my preferred Twitter tool to interact with on a daily basis, over the last few weeks I have grown very fond of Mixero and so far I think it’s probably one of the best Twitter clients out there that I have played with all along (Including both TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, too!).

If you are into groups, searches and a really clean interface Mixero is worth while all the way. However, if you one of those folks who don’t care much about groups my other old time favourite desktop client has been, all along, Tweetie for the Mac (On the iPhone it still is my default Twitter client while on the move!). Phew! So, there you have it! Those are the tools I keep using on a regular basis to interact with Twitter and I guess at this point I will probably need to put together a short screencast to show folks how it eventually works out for me … Stay tuned! hehe

Oh, wait, you don’t know just yet what Twitter is? Really? You haven’t heard what the fuss is all about? Not interested? Perhaps you may not have found a good enough explanation that will help you decide whether to give it a go or not? Well, how about this incredibly powerful, and helpful!, YouTube video titled "Twitter in 60 seconds" put together by Jim Gates:

Not bad, eh? Perhaps we may be able to see you there very soon! Why not, right? Your community is waiting out there for you to arrive! And, of course, I can assure you the waters are lovely! Dive in!

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  1. Nice post. I agree: Twitter is a great Personal KM tool.
    I solved the archiving problem by using Dave Winer’s script to back up tweets to Google Reader. Now I’ve archived them and can search them. I even find myself reading tweets in GReader.

  2. Thanks much for the article. I had not heard of Evernote, that sounds like a great and easy possibility to capture from Twitter as well as Facebook, which is also just terrible in that you lose knowledge after a short period. I’ve been searching as well for an FB archival tool to no avail via their apps systems, this might do it.

    Samuel, thanks as well for the Google Reader tip.

    I do expect that Twitter as well as social network sites will develop some sort of healthier archival system rather than leave it to 3rd party developers, at least given the commercial opportunity if you own/manage that archival/recall process, adn also given the lack of 3rd party developers doing anything really slick here to date.

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