Thought of the Week – Science on Twitter

In an attempt to blog more regularly, I will be trying to take one thing that I read or came across in the past week or so and writing something about it. I am going to kick off this series with something from twitter, asked by @JacquelynGill:

If you follow someone for science, does whether they tweet personal things make you more or less inclined to follow them?#themeinmedia

My take on this is simple:

Organisations should be impersonal, people are, well, people.

To elaborate:

If you are tweeting on behalf of an organisation, then you should only be tweeting about or for that organisation. Saying something like “The office is a bit haywire today, expect slow responses”, especially you are doing helpdesk type stuff is fine, in my view. On the other hand, posting links not related to your organisation’s field of interest should not be happening. This goes for humour or gossip or opinion. Why should, for example, a geological society care about Lance Armstrong having taken banned substances, or who won an Oscar (unless they were portraying a geologist, or something like that, I suppose). Both of those are simply recent news items, which are possibly of general interest, but an organisation not involved in cycling/doping/similar or celeb gossip/movie reviews etc has no reason to be telling people about that. Leave it to the aforementioned types of account or general news people. Idle complaints about the weather or other chit-chat should only be used to start discussion based on that organisation’s interests.

If someone is tweeting for themselves, and the magic words here seem to be “views and opinions are my own”, then I am of the view that anything goes. Obviously, many people have a specific focus, or set of interests. I do not see anything wrong with someone being human enough to complain about the cold, or post a random lolcat or something instead of posting about their job. People are allowed to have opinions, so if someone brings in politics, or random cat pictures, or whatever, that is their call. If I find I am not liking what they are putting out on twitter, I will find people whose output I do like instead. Of course, I follow relatively few people just for the science. I follow them because they are putting out interesting material, both of hard science and how they get to the science at the end.

Of course, these are not hard and fast rules; just how I view things.