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Using & Teaching Educational Technology
Six microblogging services that may be of interest to educators
By Terry Freedman
Tue, 30 Dec 2008, 07:25

I've come across 6 microblogging services that you may find interesting, though I doubt you will find them useful (apart, perhaps, from the one concerning members of Parliament or members of Congress).

Still, who am I to judge? Here they are, and don't say I didn't warn you.

Twitter follower counter

If you have hundreds or even thousands of followers in Twitter, you can get a Twitter Counter badge to put on your website. It will look like this:

TwitterCounter for @terryfreedman

Go to and then enter your Twitter username in the box provided. Personally I can never see the point in this sort of thing. If you have a low number of followers it could be mildly embarrassing. If you have a large number of followers it could seem rather egotistical.

But even more pertinent, I think, is the implicit assumption that the number of followers you have is actually important. It may be, but everyone will have their own assumptions about what sort of number is "good". Without common agreement on that, what does the number signify anyway?

When it comes to following people in Twitter, I think quality is more important than quantity. One day soon I will write a post about how I decide whether or not to follow someone in Twitter. For now, let me state what I think must be obvious: I'd rather have one teacher follow me than 5,000 marketing "gurus".

Twitter Grader

That is what's wrong with Twitter Grader. Go there, type your Twitter username into the box, and you'll see how you rate. It's based on the number of messages you post and the number of followers you have. It's quite ridiculous in a way: I checked my rating and half an hour later it had gone done by from 900 and something out of 760,000 to 10,089 out of 764,000. Thus any rating you have is valid for a couple of seconds! The whole idea of a rating is pointless anyway, and having a rating valid for one or two seconds is even more pointless!

Part of this "service" is the inclusion of a listing called the Twitter Elite. These are the people who have thousands of followers. I suppose this is mildly interesting. It would have been even better to be able to search by category, in order to obtain some idea of who people in a particular sector think are the people worth following. I have to say I think even that is of dubious value though. After all, if you are already in that sector, then (a) you should know who the movers and shakers are, and (b) you should also know that they got to be movers and shakers by the quality and reliability of their content, not the number of followers they have. They may have lots of followers because of the quality of what they write, but not necessarily.

In a way this is analogous to a strange situation I found myself in 25 years ago. I went for an interview at a private college which was operating over the summer vacation, because I needed the cash. The job was teacher of economics. When I was shown into the Principal's office, I was informed by the young lady behind the desk that the Principal couldn't see me, and that she would be conducting the interview instead.

She had all the questions, and answers, written on a sheet of paper. One of the questions was "What textbooks would you recommend for your students?". My real answer was "None of them, because they all have flaws; or all of them, for the same reason (because the flaws in one would usually be counterbalanced by insight in another, and so the worst aspects could be evened out if you consulted enough tomes)".

I didn't think that answer, or my alternative one (a title called "What's wrong with economic theory" would get me the job, because I knew that the person interviewing me didn't know enough to be able to engage in a discussion about it with me, so I reeled off all the bestseller economic textbooks I knew would be on her list. It was a bluff, and it paid off: I was offered the job. But all I was doing was stating the names of the books that anyone "in the know" would already know of. If Twitter had been around in those days, those authors would have had thousands of followers -- but that wouldn't have made their textbooks any better!

Stop press! Just before publishing this I came across this article:

What counts as authority online?

Thanks to @jayrosen_nyu for posting details of this in Twitter.

A brief history of microblogging

Thanks to Carmen Holotescu (@cami13) for posting this link in Twitter. It marks all the major events in Twitter's brief life so far. It's interesting to note just how young Twitter and its counterparts are, and how the pace of change has accelerated over 2008 as compared to 2007. Not sure how valuable or surprising any of this is though.

The state of the Twitterverse

More statistics, from Twitter Grader. Again, not sure of its usefulness, except that it gives you some sort of benchmark by which to judge whether you have a lot, or not a lot, of followers, if that's what interests you (see above).

For what it's worth, the Twittering centre of the universe appears to be London. Or at least it was when this report was compiled, according to the data available (which is not comprehensive or, therefore, reliable).


Want to know if your Member of Parliament tweets? Look no further than, which includes other contact details too.


For the USA equivalent to Tweetminster (and the original, I should add), look here:

Stop press (again)! Thanks to @Mike_Stelzner for his message in Twitter, drawing my attention to this article:

Looking for Mr GoodTweet: How to pick up followers in Twitter.

Related articles:

Three microblogging services for use in schools

Ten things to do when someone follows you in Twitter





Terry Freedman Tue, 30 Dec 2008