As a technologist, I am always looking for a way to communicate with like-minded individuals. In many ways, I used to do that through Twitter. However, is Twitter becoming nothing more than a glorified RSS feed? I still see lots of sharing occurring on Twitter, but I do not see much in the way of communication. I don’t see outright discussions around technology any more, but I do see plenty of other discussions. These are discussions I would rather not see. Discussions around politics, personal preferences, and references, but not about technology. Is Twitter nothing more than a news or information feed these days? Actually, is any social media more than an information feed, one more and more people seem to be turning off or just using differently?
Not many years ago, the virtualization and cloud community joined Twitter. There were even automation scripts built around who to follow within the community. Many of us started this way. Now, we need big data solutions to weed out certain conversations from our timelines so that we can focus on technology. Even then, technology discussions are not really happening on Twitter, Facebook, or even Google+. They have moved somewhere else. That somewhere else seems to be local Slack communities, where conversations are once more between like-minded individuals.
Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ are great ways to disseminate knowledge, with updates about conferences, published posts and articles, updates about software versions, etc. However, they have become less about personal interaction and more about information dumps. I see long dumps of information as well, with no response to attempts at interaction. Now, do not get me wrong: some folks still interact on these social media, but they are becoming few and far between. On Twitter and others, this lack seems to more a defensive move than anything else. Anyone may join your conversation and actually take it over. We know how to handle that sort of thing in person usually, but on social media those actions do not work unless we move the conversation elsewhere, where the interloper does not exist.
This is where Slack and the like come into play. We use Twitter as the information dump, but we use Slack to have real conversations—ones that are about technology or are related to the group. We can even bow out of various channels. Welcome back, IRC—yet with many more bells, whistles, and outright capability, not to mention privacy. Communication within a group is private from all other groups.
This makes Slack ideal for small teams, businesses, and groups of folks working remotely from each other but on the same project. There is a growing use of Slack as the “chat-ops” capability of an organization, even to the extent that conversations within specific channels about issues are being recorded and becoming part of the permanent record, perhaps as a knowledge base for a solution to a problem. In the end, there are several uses for social media within the business or groups of technologists:
- Actual conversation
- Discussion of problems or just plain keeping up with each other, current tasks, social, as well as other channels for conversation
- Group discussion of a specific problem, looking at data, and actually coming up with a solution
- Recording salient points to become the basis for a knowledge-based article
- Sharing of knowledge
When you look at these, most are about the group, not individuals. The group conversation often should be just within the group with no interlopers. This rules out tools such as Twitter, Google+, and even Facebook. While social media seems great and is good for instant communication, the broad audience for some of the services impacts the need for confidentiality within businesses. The need for privacy outweighs the need for immediacy. In some cases, social media and tools such as Slack have taken over where pagers used to be.
How is social media used within your organization? How do you use Twitter, Google+, or Facebook? Has your team embraced tools such as Slack?