A year ago I wrote my first math related tweet on my way home from the 2014 NCTM conference. Over the past year I have managed to get pretty involved in the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere, and received a lot of benefits along the way. Here’s how any new person could actually get started based on my experience and also whatever knowledge I’ve picked up along the way.
1. There’s no shame in lurking.
Many people will disagree with me, but I think lurking is understandable for a certain period of time. Before I tweeted I have to say I lurked for a while but I really did not get much out of it.
But if you’re going to lurk, do it right!
However, lurking is good when done well and even the most seasoned people need to switch to lurk mode when they get busy. Here are some first steps:
- Fill up your Twitter and/or Feedly with quality stuff – It is too much work to go google the people you want to keep track of every day. Make accounts so you can have all the latest happenings on your phone whenever you have down time (it’s better than playing 2048). Twitter is, well, twitter, but feedly is a way to collect the tweets of lots of people you follow. Feedly may be for you if you like reading long form, as it creates a personal magazine of all the blogs you follow.
- Follow conversations – As you transition away from googling things you are interested, start following the conversations of interesting people. Look to follow the conversations in comments on blogs or along the conversation threads in twitter. You can learn a lot about current issues that you might not have known you cared about, and find more things to follow.
- Think like an ethnographer, study new things or people you may not have heard of before. It may help to keep track of what you find by using something like pocket or evernote or, you know, paper.
2. Get off the fence: Ask Questions!
Once you learn your way around, and want to get your feet wet, it might be hard to know what to say. So an easy thing to do would be to ask, right? Odds are you met someone at the conference who you talked to about all this, ask them a question. Here was my first tweet after the conference.
@Mythagon Is there a site where people are posting reviews of the NCTM talks?
— Carl Oliver (@carloliwitter) April 12, 2014
If you can’t think of anyone to ask a question to, but you have a relevant question, you can always add #MTBoS to the end of your tag and someone can help you.
This is also a good idea for a blog post. What is an issue that you struggle with? What questions do you have about it? Here’s one of my early posts about my struggles with writing proofs.
3. Answer questions
So now you’ve lurked, you understand the conversations going on, and you feel comfortable asking questions. You’ve come a long way, and it may be the case that you can help someone. Now would be a good time to do it. Remember this is a two way street, and this community only benefits others because people like you are not afraid to share your knowledge and your brilliance. It can be terrifying to think of yourself as an expert opining on a topic, so don’t. Think of yourself as a colleague helping out one of their own.
— Carl Oliver (@carloliwitter) April 27, 2014
This is also a good idea for a blog post. You can answer people’s questions explicitly, or just write a post that more or less answers questions that you would have to answer.
4. Create spaces for conversations
Once you get comfortable on the MTBoS and have had a number of interactions, you may see things things that these other people would want to talk about it. Well you can create the space for that conversation by writing a tweet or a blog post about the issue. I can’t guarantee that everyone is going to get a conversation going immediately, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t important and valuable.
What do you think?
I think this 4-step progression is more or less my path to getting involved. Do you think it will work for you? Let me know in the comments:
- Ask Questions
- Answer Questions
- Create Spaces for Conversation