It’s only in the past year that I discovered the benefits of Twitter beyond knowing what random celebrities are doing when they’re drunk. Technically, I set up my Twitter account years ago, only to use it to follow some radio show for a now unknown purpose. My account sat dormant until last summer. That’s when I went to CAST 2012. Over the past year, I’ve learned a fair amount about using Twitter to further my connections in the community and aid in my professional development.
Let’s start at the beginning…
Should you be on Twitter?
I feel silly writing this since if you are reading my blog, and you are, I would imagine the vast majority of you found it via Twitter. But, just in case you didn’t, here you go.
The short answer? Yes.
For the long answer, see the remainder of this post.
I see Twitter as the primary means of communication between a large number of professional testers, test managers, leaders and those looking to join our ranks. Though many discussions and debates happen elsewhere, Twitter is the easiest place to find information /about/ them.
Networking – If you aren’t trying to build a professional network, You can probably close the tab on this post and move on. I spent many years not caring about having a network. The only purpose I saw was for trying to find a job. After attending CAST, I saw the real value in building a professional network. You gain easy access to so many people and resources and ideas that you can’t get to as easily anywhere else.
Camaraderie – Similar to what /normal/ people do with Twitter, you can build friendships with others. If you do this with the people in your network, it helps to build even stronger relationships. Personally, the vast majority of the people I follow are either testers, test leaders, or thinkers of some flavor that I feel are beneficial for me to follow. Finding interesting people and following them is one thing, but communicating with them makes things like meetups and conferences all the better since you can know people before walk through the door.
Access – The vast majority of people in the testing community that I have found on Twitter are accessible. I don’t mean the post-a-blog-entry-once-a-month-then-enter-radio-silence type, I mean the you-can-send-them-a-question-and-they-answer-it type. You can have conversations (or whatever you call the back-and-forth of Twitter) with “big name” testers. The kind of testers whose names appear on books. The kind of testers that run full day tutorials, or multi-day training programs. Where else can you get that? Oh sure, you can go to each of their blogs, and post comments on relevant entries and wait for them to get to reviewing and responding. OR, you could send them something on Twitter and watch the magic happen.
Discourse and Debate – So many (in my mind) great discussions and debates either take place on Twitter, start on Twitter and move elsewhere, or get mentioned on Twitter that it seems foolish to me that more people aren’t playing along.
Learning – Oh the learning. If you are not on Twitter, how do you learn about any of the following?
- New or existing meetups in your area
- New or existing testing organizations
- Events being put on for testers in your area
- Conferences (big and small)
- Public training opportunities
- Blog posts
- E-books (or the paper kind)
- Petitions that further the ideal that testers should have brains?
It is possible to learn about many of these things without using Twitter, but I think it is much more difficult.
Time – Yeah so… sometimes you have to get work done. If you are the type who dives headlong into rabbit holes when you see something shiny and new, be careful with the Twitter. My recommendation would be to set your refresh rate to something high (like an hour or two), or if you have the willpower (anyone who follows me can tell I don’t), only look at it during a time you allot each day.
Bitching/Complaining/Shouting – Sometimes, people get poked a little too hard, or had an especially bad day, or in general are not good at debate so they resort to bitching, complaining, shouting, personal attacks, etc. I just ignore those when they pop up. If they bother you, or if you see one person doing it a lot, it’s super easy to unfollow them.
The Format – 140 characters is not a lot. When people try to convey a lot of information, or when a conversation grows beyond four or five people, Twitter falls part. Don’t use it for dissertations. That’s not the point. If you want to write a lot, start a blog. It would have taken three tweets just to get this paragraph out.
Do your own math, but I would highly recommend anyone interested in developing their professional network, advancing their skills, meeting new people and engaging in thought-provoking debates (especially with regards to testing and test leadership) get on Twitter. Decide for yourself, but I say you should do it. Come on. Join already. No one will make fun of you for waiting until 2013 to join Twitter. Seriously.
Next up, I will post my own X Testers to Follow on Twitter list, where X is a yet undefined quantity. I have a feeling I will go beyond Matt’s two-year old 29 count, but I have to start assembling it to see how far I end up going. Oh, and I am mentioning it here so people will pester me to finally do it.