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Has Twitter already peaked?

A flash debate Inspired by the Week 8 Activity for the Open University H800 course. A recent...

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Derek Mackrell
15 April 2010

A flash debate Inspired by the Week 8 Activity for the Open University H800 course.

A recent analysis of data from Twitter found the following:

  • Twitter ended 2009 with just over 75 million user accounts.
  • The monthly rate of new user accounts peaked in July 2009 and is currently around 6.2 million new accounts per month (or 2-3 per second). This is about 20% below July’s peak rate.
  • A large percentage of Twitter accounts are inactive, with about 25% of accounts having no followers and about 40% of accounts having never sent a single Tweet.
  • About 80% of all Twitter users have tweeted fewer than ten times.
  • Only about 17% of registered Twitter accounts sent a Tweet in December 2009, an all-time-low.

This would suggest that perhaps Twitter is a fad, and has already peaked. However, the same analysis found "tremendous loyalty and engagement from those Twitter users who stay on the system after their first week as members."

This suggests two questions:

  1. Is Twitter a fad that has already peaked, and is falling out of favour?
  2. If Twitter is here to stay, will it be only relevant to those in the inner circle of hardcore users, but irrelevant to everyone else? 

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Derek Mackrell
3:48am 15 April 2010

My own opinion is that it will continue. Although the number of active users may decline, or at least slow in rate of growth, those hard core users are among the most vocal people on the internet. For that reason alone, Twitter will stay in the public eye - at least until the next thing comes along. Personally, I've never used Twitter, so I'm speaking from ignorance here. Can someone who uses it explain the appeal? What things is it best for?

Georgina Spencer
7:28am 15 April 2010

I think perhaps people are finding different uses.  Personally I don't tweet as much as I did but I still find it invaluable for following interesting topics and backchannels are useful for getting an over view of a conference.  Only this morning I saw a news item explaining how Chinese bloggers are using it as a way of circumventing The Great Fire Wall and it's use following the Iranian elections was completely unforeseen.  I don't think we've seen the last of Twitter...

Gráinne Conole
7:37am 15 April 2010

Interesting question! I do think these technologies come and go. Personally I find there are periods when I tweet, blog etc and then other times when I don't. Still haven't really got into google wave yet...

Kevin Amor
10:10am 15 April 2010

I have never used twitter (read or written). Does anyone think there might be a learning use for it?

Georgina Spencer
10:14am 15 April 2010 (Edited 10:28am 15 April 2010)

Hi Kevin, take a look at the ukwarcabinet feed which links through to original National Archives materials, I could see a student project in that - see link on left.  Tony McNeill has also worked a lot in this area (link left), saw him present at the LDHEN in Nottingham, interesting and entertaining.

Gráinne Conole
11:09am 15 April 2010

Hi Kevin

quite alot of people are using Twitter for both teaching and for learning - if you search on Twitter in here in cloudworks you will find lots of different discussions on this. Personally I have used it alot as a student, when I was learning spanish - I found it really helpful as people would reply to my learning queries, point me to useful resource and even offer to edit stuff for me!!! As a 'professional' learner as it were, in my work context, i find it a useful means of keeping up to date with current developments, of course all of this is dependent on who you are connected to and whether what they are tweeting is of relevance to you or not!

Derek Mackrell
11:26am 15 April 2010

Hi Gráinne, For someone like me or Kevin, do you have any recommendations on places to start? How do we go about finding interesting users?

Gráinne Conole
11:37am 15 April 2010

That's a hard question to answer Derek! I think part of the problem with web 2.0 stuff is you have to jump in, try it, experiement, find your own way. With twitter technically its dead simple, BUT using it effectively is another matter. It depends on a number of things.

  • What you are interesting in getting out of it - some people simply use it as a fun social network, others as a source of info professionally, others still as a disseminate route.
  • Who you are connected to - if your peers arent in there or likeminded people, its not going to be much use.

Tips to get started:

  • 'Follow' some people you think are interesting, note the tweets of others they are following and follow those people who also look interesting.
  • Experiment abit, find your Twitter digital voice
  • Look at some of the various blog posts or clouds in here on 'using twitter'
  • Give it time and be reflective on how you are feeling about it, you  might find it takes a while before you have your own 'ah ha' moment 'now I get it'!!


Hope this helps!!!

Joanna Webb
1:10pm 15 April 2010


I put a link up to Jane Hart's excellent collection about Twitter and learning that someone Tweeted me yesterday.  Only wish I had time to read it all!

1:49pm 15 April 2010

The Library of Congress announced yesterday that it has acquired the whole Twitter archive, back to 2006.

Derek Mackrell
1:55pm 15 April 2010

Gráinne, thanks very much for the encouragement.The problem I've had is that no one I know personally uses it, so I've got to start the ball rolling in my social circle. I need to just jump in and give it a go.

Joanna, wow, what a fantastic collection of links. Thanks very much for posting it.


Gráinne Conole
2:09pm 15 April 2010

Hi Derek yes that is a common problem people face. I was lucky in that when I started a number of other colleagues in the OU did as well. One of the nice things about Twitter though it that you can connect to and get to know people outside your existing circle of peers - abit like cloudworks too! Sooo have a go, follow some people, encourage others to use and see what happens! :-)

Kevin Amor
3:05pm 15 April 2010

I've had a look at the links: thanks Georgina and Joanna.And thanks Grainne for your advice.

 I really like the War Cabinet tweets! I noticed from one of the links from Joanna's resource list that a school is doing something similar: the poetry students have to tweet as if they are Dante delving deeper levels into hell   - really good stuff.

Having seen this stuff and starting to get my head around the potential,  I'm a little embarrassed at posing my question! 

Sharon Gardner
3:14pm 15 April 2010

I am one of those described in the research - I signed up, logged in, thought 'what am I going to use this for?' and priomptly logged out again. I think I had the mistaken perception that it was mainly being used the same way that friends' use their facebook status (i.e. to report humerous banalities mostly). However, reading this discussion I can see I am wrong and it may be a great way to get instant updates on areas I am interested in.

I think it's a problem with new technologies when you can't work out what the application is and how it applies to you. I have heard that said about Google wave...

Gráinne Conole
3:50pm 15 April 2010

Hi Sharon

Yep I know how you feel! I actually have a very low tolerance level with technologies and when confronted with a  new technology I have a number of mixed emotions 1. skeptisim, 2. slight apprehension of having to learn yet another thing, 3. irritation if its not obvious to use quickly, 4. concern about how long it will take to master. AND I'm supposed to be a professor of elearning!!! ;-) I think these feelings are particualry true of technologies in the last few years, there are just so many, and so many possibilities. I think its a question of trying and then sometimes you will hit on things you like and are relevant to your practice and sometimes not and that that is fine. Plus its worth going back as something that appears no use at first might become valuable yet.

I am still waiting to see if that is the case with me with Google Wave!

Georgina Spencer
4:32pm 15 April 2010

Some technologies I take to straight away and others I have to come back to in order to recognise the use.  Couldn't imagine working without delicious now but the first attempt I just couldn't see the point.  Twitter was similar, I registered very early on when few people were using it and just wasn't interested in what  everybody had had for breakfast.  Now I can't imagine not checking in several times a day!

Lindsey Moore
2:43am 16 April 2010

Hi all

I'm rather relieved to find that I'm not the only Twitter virgin in the group.  I too had made an assumption - fueled by a banal column in the free paper I read on the train each day reporting on 'celebrity' tweets - that it was another frivolous form of social networking with little gravitas.  My view was changed slightly in the wake of the hotel bombing in India when Twitter provided a lifeline - literally - to some people caught up in it.  However, that still wasn't sufficient to make me take a look.  This activity, on the other hand, has done what major global events have failed to do!  I'm about to log in for the first time.  wish me luck!

Lindsey Moore
3:15am 16 April 2010

OK, I've had a peek.  Luckily, there was something I wanted to follow anyway - we have a huge fundraising event called Trailwalker going on this weekend involving around 5000 people and due to raise well over $2m.  Have a look for yourselves at Oxfam Australia's tweets.  My goodness, I'm embracing the terminology already.

My last post has gone for 'moderation' so hasn't appeared yet.  Maybe because I used the 'v' word?



Julia Wells
11:14am 16 April 2010


As a visitor from another H800 group, I'm glad I dipped into this discussion. Like many of you, I had dismissed Twitter as a social tool for which I had no time or patience. I can see that I may have been wrong. As an EFL teacher, I love the idea of using it to practice English in short, manageable chunks.

Joanna Webb
4:07pm 16 April 2010

Hi Julia

There is a massive ELT community on there.  I follow the MFL community with a few e-learning people thrown in.  

I went to a conference where Russell Stannard spoke about Twitter. Have a look at his collection of how to videos including some on Twitter under web2.0

Nick Purkis
7:03pm 16 April 2010 (Edited 7:28pm 16 April 2010)

Hi all

I am a bit behind this week so have had to resort to studying on a Friday night! I have heard a lot about Twitter from my kids and they dont touch it with a barge pole, as they use Facebook more often, as in their opinion it is more popular.

I set myself up with a Twitter acount, having never been on there before.

I have just watched a video of how to use Twitter and its dead simple. Thanks for posting them Joanna. And I agree I think it will continue for quite some time yet.  My first impressions are that its just like a real time chat area about hot topics. I like the option of 'following' someone . This is a great tool, and one that I have already experimented with. The site is a great information site full of useful stuff and its hard to knwo where to start with it realy. The advice posted above is really helpful.


11:02am 18 April 2010

I have never used Twitter although I set up an account; clearly there are quite a few like me. I can sense its potential as a forum for exchange of information or a debate and I think I would start using it immediately if I wanted to follow a particular debate that was of sufficient / particular concern to me (eg. like the Iranian example given above). It's clearly great for grass roots debates and by-passing the establishment. That appeals to me too. 


Melanie Burton
1:51pm 18 April 2010

Interesting discussion and links.

I think because Twitter is so easy to use a lot of people signed up initially and that it's only natural there has been a decline. Most technologies probably work the other way round, a few people start and it gradually grows, whereas Twitter had a massive surge at the beginning.

I can see that twitter is useful even if you don't want to tweet but just to follow. I've just followed tweets at a conference which was interesting as it enables you to follow the sessions you can't attend. 

I have found it really useful in terms of the links posted by others I am following. I think once you find a way to follow people of interest in the field you are in (if for non-social use) then it becomes a lot more interesting, although it can then be overwhelming if you try to keep up with every tweet - so don't try to!
I think it will continue and is a useful way to stay connected.


Julie Carle
4:41am 20 April 2010

I am not a regular twitter user, but when I do, I usually discover something very useful. Today I learned how to download youtube videos and was reminded about the live debate Are Most Investments in Technology for Schools Wasted? The key is who you follow.

Gráinne Conole
10:57am 20 April 2010

Hi JUlie and others, I also find I dip in and out of Twitter. If I am at an event and there is a twitter back channel then I will keep a close eye. Othertimes I just look at it occasionally. I found it really useful when I was learning spanish as a means of practicing some chunks of spanish but could persuade my fellow students to get into it!! However I did get to know lots of spanish speaking people virtually which was great!

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