News - June 10, 2010

Twitter. An interactive medium?

All the university uses the multifaceted medium of Twitter for is to share its own publications with others. Surely this medium would be ideal for bridging the alleged divide between students, staff and organization? Or do we simply not want to know what our board members have in their sandwiches?

Kees van der Ark, webmaster and publicity officer for VeSte
@KeesvanderArk, 13 tweets, @VeSte09010, 129 tweets.
'The university Twitter feed is irritating. It is meant to create interaction but that isn't happening. I have no idea, either, who it is aimed at. If it's aimed at students then I can class it as entirely useless. If it's aimed at people outside the university then it's close to useless. They might as well just stop unless they take a whole new approach. Inviting students to events, asking for feedback, that sort of thing. It is not helped by the fact that very few Wageningen students use Twitter. Perhaps the university could use the Wageningen University page on Facebook with its 2,100 members, but not like it uses Twitter now. Personally, I hardly use Twitter at all; just to keep in contact with student council members in other cities - they all have a Twitter feed. I use Facebook mainly for promotional purposes, simply because it is used more by students.'
Diana Beljaars, Spatial Planning student, WU
@Sprookje, 3072 tweets
'There is no dialogue with the university and that is a shame. I do follow the university but it doesn't produce much. Most of what I read has been retweeted by other people I follow. All those PhD projects might be interesting for researchers in that field but I don't exactly find them fascinating. I do enjoy following the personal feeds by staff members. Simon Vink is very chatty even though he is a really important person. Sometimes he asks how I am via Twitter. Personally, I use it a bit like a diary, for scientific news and for keeping up with social trends. Because it is changing so quickly, it remains innovative and a nice way of passing the time. My tweets can be very personal. That's possible because I only know two of my followers personally. Then my followers will wish me courage, for instance, and I won't hear anything more about it. One option for getting more interaction with the university would be to organize a twitter discussion. Then everyone can take part by using the same hashtag at a particular time. Except I don't know whether there would be much interest; I hardly know any Wageningen students who are active Twitter users. It's mostly something for people in their thirties or forties.'
Prof. Michael Muller, Human Nutrition department, WU
@nutrigenomics,  875 followers, 3201 tweets
'The university could share information related to Wageningen's areas of expertise. At present, there are not many active academics in the Netherlands; there are far more in the States. But a lot of claims are made on Twitter. If a Wageningen scientist has a different opinion, he could share it. That way, the university twitter feed would be an integral source of scientific information. Given that the university is such a huge organization, it would be better to avoid personal comments via the WUR twitter account; that would be better done through private accounts. I use English to make sure my Twitter account appeals to as many people as possible, and I also try to avoid tweeting about private matters too often, for example that I'm off on a run. So basically, I use it as a PR tool for our own work and as a scientific channel for exchanging information. I tweet about the latest publications I'm reading, and colleagues in the US in particular do the same. That way you don't miss much. Since I've been an active Twitter user I've been keeping really up to date with the latest developments in personal genomics in particular. It also costs me a lot less time.'
Hugo Besemer, information and collections specialist for WUR Library
@hugobesemer, 107 tweets
'People here haven't yet discovered the application. There are very few users. In my opinion, the people who do use it do so mainly because it's new, not really because it is handy. I myself started tweeting interactively but now it has turned into a glorified RSS feed. I don't know why really, it just happened that way. I've read that Twitter is a means of notification, used to reach journalists. Incidentally, it would be strange if an institutional feed were to tweet about personal affairs. My own tweets are protected because I don't want them on Google. I don't think there is anyone who can follow me as a whole because it is a real mix of science, local politics and personal matters. The newness of social media does sometimes lead to strange situations. A British friend of mine lost his wife. Facebook doesn't have a protocol for users who have died and her husband doesn't know her password. So she still exists on Internet.'
Dr Reint-Jan Renes, sub-department of Communication Science, WU
@ReintJanRenes, 162 tweets
'What I notice is that the university actually seems to send on everything without filtering. I lose all feeling of urgency when I see those messages interrupted halfway through and without any personal touch. It would be better for the university to have a single, integrated flow of messages but at the same time for there to be transparency in who the message came from and what they do.  High profile people within the university should be more open, but they do need to be prepared to do that. They should also use Twitter in cases where the university is in the news, such as recently with the livestock farming affair. In September I created a Twitter account for the Social Psychology course as a kind of experiment; I pointed it out to the students who were going to be taking that course. Relevant messages appear there and there is room for interaction. I have only been using my personal Twitter account for a few months. It is quite a challenge to find the right balance between personal and professional. It is difficult to say something inspiring about my discipline in 140 characters. But I do want to do something with it as a communications researcher.'