Leveraging Twitter

First off, I want to welcome everyone back to DIY Ivory Tower. You might have noticed that the blog went on a brief hiatus during the late fall. My dissertation and the job market kept me quite busy during the past few months. Now that I’ve got another chapter drafted and a large pile of letters off to search committees, I have time once again to devote to DiYiT. Now on to the post…

Twitter LogosReturning home from the annual American Historical Association conference a few weeks ago, I found that one of my most important post-conference chores was the addition of dozens of scholars, editors, archivists, and librarians to my Twitter feed. During the conference I used Twitter extensively and for a variety of different purposes. And I wasn’t alone. All tolled, Twitter users sent over 4,200 messages about the AHA meeting to the public micro-blogging service during the conference. And since then another 500 or so tweets have rolled in as conversations begun during the conference have continued on Twitter. Given the value of all that tweeting, I thought it might be a good idea to put together a post describing the basic uses of Twitter by academics.

If you are completely unfamiliar with Twitter, I suggest that you check out this PDF describing the basics of Twitter put together by the Public Policy Group of the London School of Economics and Political Science. If you are familiar enough with the service to understand terminology like “tweeting” and “following,” then we can get right down to business.

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Use URL Shorteners to Create Custom, Trackable Links

In the last few years we’ve seen an explosion of web sites offering a simple service: shrinking long URLs down to nice manageable sizes. Demand for URL shortening has been driven largely by Twitter’s 140-character per tweet maximum. Without a URL shortener you’d have little room in a tweet to say anything about an included link. The URL for this post, for example, would take up nearly three quarters of a tweet’s real estate.

Long Tweet

Fortunately for the web user, competition in the URL shrinking business has resulted in the rapid development of new features. Various shortener services now offer integration with web browsers or social media sites, link previews, and even profit sharing based on advertising. All in all there are far too many options out there for me to attempt any reasonable summary of them. A quick Google search for “best URL shortener” will net you plenty of blogs and other sites that have attempted to shoot that particularly quickly moving target. For this post I want to highlight two features offered by many URL shorteners that grads and academics might find particularly useful, whether you’re using Twitter or not.

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How To Perform Nearly Any Task From Your Browser’s Address Bar

screengrab of the address barToday over at Lifehacker they’ve got a fascinating post about using the address bar in your web browser to perform a whole host of useful tasks.  After reading through their post and watching their how-to videos, I’ve already trained my installation of Firefox to recognize several of these shortcuts. In particular, I’m very excited about integrating Google Maps’ directions into my address bar and sending quick emails from there. Now I can get directions from my town to another location by simply typing “dir” and then the address of the second location in the address bar. And I can send a quick email to my wife by typing her name and then the body of the email in the address bar. Continue reading