Hoping to get better

My apologies in advance to English and Language teachers. I hated your class in school! I did well enough, I guess, I took three Mathematics, three Science, and an English kicker in Grade 13. Yes, I know, I’m old. I wasn’t interested in English but it was a fallback in case I stumbled in any of the other classes.

I was the kid, when you assigned a writing assignment like an essay, whose hand immediately shot up “How long does it have to be?” If you said “three pages”, you’d get three pages and not one word more. I ended up typing my essays because I learned that you could move the left and right margins in just a bit so that there were less words and yet it still looked the same.

I had no intention of being an author so I couldn’t see a great deal of value in it. It was an attitude that lasted until my first year at university in a computer science class of about 100 students when we were told that only 30% of us would become professional programmers. The rest wouldn’t be written off; there are all kinds of jobs in the computer industry other than programming and being able to write would help if we got a job writing manuals or documentation. Hmmm, or become a teacher?

I took those words to heart and started to get very serious about writing to support my love of mathematics or programming where I could. As a teacher, I ensured that there were marks for documenting computer solutions in addition to being able to code that solution.

And, I started to blog. It was intermittent and experimental on a number of platforms until I got to this place. For the longest time now, I do follow the advice of Mrs. Ball and write something everyday, even if it’s not graded. So, here we are today.

I’m a sucker I guess for online tutorials but I like to think that they and a daily writing habit have made me a better writer. I actually use some of the strategies that I was taught years ago but never really took seriously. I’ll never be a great writer like my friend David Garlick but I hope that I get better with my habits.

Speaking of David, a Twitter message went flying by on my timeline last night that caught my eye. He had retweeted this.

I actually knew that! The Cookie Monster reference would have come after my time but we talked about this somewhere a long time ago. Now, I already follow David but I decided to follow Mr. Gallagher as well.

And then, “Wait! Grammarly has a blog?”

Indeed it does! It more than that annoying English teacher that looks over my shoulder pointing out every little mistake that I make. I know, things do get through but I look forward to reading the blog posts and get better.

I could throw in that typical teacher comment about being lifelong … but I’ll resist. I’m looking forward to getting better at this little hobby.

Once again, it shows the value of following smart people like David. They can lead you to ever smarter and more useful learning. And that’s why I do it.

Unwanted followers

I can remember a time when you joined Twitter and you were just so happy when someone followed you. You read about these people with millions of followers (usually from them) and wonder what you’re doing wrong!

Whenever I do get a new follower, I check them out. If they’re an Ontario Educator, I’ll add them to one of my lists, if there’s something they’re an expert in then I’ll add them to one of my specialized lists, and sometimes I’ll just follow them back. I’m finding that to be more of a challenge when the numbers get so high – how do you manage with millions?

Recently, there has been a strange new breed of follower. When I check their profile, the image often doesn’t make any sense (or even worse it makes bad sense) or they have no profile description or the account is private or they have no followers themselves. I can only conclude they have nothing to contribute to anyone. And, the one that is most frustrating and telling is that they have no location listed.

Normally, I wouldn’t put much thought into that but the speed with which I’m getting these accounts following me leads me to believe that perhaps there’s a bot somewhere who latched onto me and is creating and following for who knows what reason. It’s just kind of freaky.

When it’s one account every now and again, it’s not a big deal. When it’s happening daily, I’ve got to figure that there’s something up. I know that you can block these accounts but what if they are legitimate and just dipping their toes into Twitter to see what it’s all about. I was like that. Only when I saw the real value did I start to contribute more. (better is in the eye of the beholder).

So, I take a slightly different approach.

I’ll head off to their profile and click the “more” button (the three dots).

Instead of the hard “block” or “report”, I’ll select “Remove this follower”.

My logic is a little more forgiving than the harder actions. I figure that if I remove them and they really want to follow me, they’ll try again. I’m not above admitting when I’ve made an error in judgement.

Having said this, I haven’t had the opportunity to do this more than a couple of times. It reinforces my original thought that there’s a bot somewhere doing the deed.

How do you handle potentially unwanted followers?

I’m staying

The world all over was talking about Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter yesterday. Some are looking for some immediate action.

A picture from a long time ago that he wants removed. A lesson here is that anything that goes on social media never goes away.

Maybe the new Twitter, whatever that will be, could hire Peter to write something in Colab that would implement this. The lesson here is that you should proofread before you send anything. (I’m as guilty as anyone for this) And, as the best advice ever from a long time ago was, “Don’t post anything online you wouldn’t want your mother to see.”

In fact, there are lots of lessons and learning to be had by using Twitter. According to my profile, I’ve been a member since 2007. I remember why I joined; I was in a workshop with Will Richardson who was leading a session and he talked about how many smart people were connected, providing the opportunity to learn something new every day. All you had to do was follow the right people. Another message that he had that remains with me to this day is that you should provide something back so that others can learn. It’s Win, Win.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

And so, to whatever ability that I have, I try to do so by sharing my reading, my learnings, and my contributions to this blog. It’s been so good for me and I like to think that I follow the best of the best. I’ve never had a concern for freedom of speech and I do have connections all over the place. Some I agree with; others I don’t but it’s never been a deal breaker.

Not so with others. There have been some amusing hashtags to follow.


and my favourite, #TwitterinCanada where a number of people outside our nation were schooled on social media and that Twitter is actually available in Canada, no matter who owns it. So, moving to Canada doesn’t let you escape Twitter. Pro Tip: Turning off you devices will.

For me though, it remains my goto place for well connected and smart people. It’s the only place where I announce my blog posts and I am so appreciative of Ontario Educators who take the time to write and share their own ideas. It’s the one forum that they have to reach out to others and are as credible with their thoughts about education and their reality as anyone.

I don’t go to Twitter for political information although I like a good meme as much as anyone else. I prefer to go right to the source and read the writing and listen to the voices of credible news researchers.

While there are all kinds of people threatening to leave Twitter (remember, talk is cheap), I’m not going to be one of them. As long as it makes the connections and learning that I so value, I’m here for the long run.

How about you?

The secret formula

There are lots of secret formulas…

  • recipe for Coca-Cola
  • recipe for Kentucky Friend Chicken

…and it makes them unique and of value to us. One thing we know is that they’re consistent no matter where you order them.

To the list, I guess we can add Twitter’s notification formula. While reading Stephen Downes’ OLDaily this morning, I found his commentary on this article. Does Twitter’s Algorithm Hate Your Friends?

When I first joined Twitter (August 2007), I felt immediately that this would be the perfect learning environment for me. Just follow smart people to see what they’re thinking and learning and I too could think better and learn more.

I’ll admit that it got out of control for me and I probably follow more than I should. These days, though, I can’t guarantee that notifications will generate the best of breed stuff for me on a consistent basis.

For the longest time, I’ve tried to take better control of things by using Twitter lists. They’re private as I got tired of requests for me to add so and so to a list. I want to be in control of things so out of sight, out of mind.

Notably, there are some public lists that I maintain – Ontario Educators. In that case, I like to think that I’m paying back by sharing with anyone who cares to follow them. And some people do…

I’ve long suspected that there are more things going on that I care to spend the time to figure out. It seems to change; recently, we witnessed a visual attempt to adjust that and the feedback stopped it.

It’s not that it’s wrong; after all there is so much information flowing and somehow it needs to be presented in some sort of meaningful way. FIFO (First In, First Out) wouldn’t cut it since we’re stepping onto a moving train. Just because I log in at a certain time doesn’t mean that I only want messages going forward; there are just as valuable messages that have been previously posted. This magic formula works to make that happen somehow. It’s a huge task when you think about it.

The traditional follow process just doesn’t work to my liking.

For my purposes, Twitter lists seems to duck any sort of algorithm and show them in what to me, is a meaningful way.

To me, anyway. I do remember a discussion with an educator who was angry that I didn’t follow him even though I did my best to explain why I do what I do.

I’ve never done the research to the level of the author in the article so I did appreciate his efforts. It was kind of rewarding to see that his solution was lists like I’ve done.

Of course, there are the traditional ways of staying on top of things – hashtags, trending topics, “What’s Happening”, and so that definitely needs to be thrown into the mix.

Every time I try something, I feel like I’m getting closer to being on top of things until I miss something completely. That bring back a sense of humility that I must confess to not knowing exactly how Twitter works.

Kicking the tires on Tweetdeck Preview

I had read about a new version of Tweetdeck a while back. At the time, the news said that access was on an invitation basis. Seem it was a party that I wasn’t invited to. I looked around to see how to get invited and kind of just gave up on it.

Lately, I’ve been having an issue with regular ol’ Twitter itself but only on my Chromebook. In the reply dialogue or in private messages, the text ends up being broken on my display. The common thing that I can see is that both are in overlay windows. It’s not the end of the world but things like that drive me crazy. I’ve tried everything that I can think of with no success. It even happens in the Android Twitter app on my Chromebook. It doesn’t happen if I run it on the Opera Android app on the Chromebook. It’s so strange.

Where the problem doesn’t exist is in Tweetdeck, or as we’ll end up saying, Classic Tweetdeck. Last night, I was getting frustrated seeing the broken letters so I loaded Tweetdeck instead. What popped up surprised me. I was invited to preview the new Tweetdeck. Of course, I accepted. After about half an hour later, I got frustrated with the slowness on ChromeOS and switched back. I grabbed my MacBook Pro and tried it there only to find out that it wasn’t supported. This morning, I tried it on my Windows 11 computer and it appears to work like a champ.

I had to smile just a bit because my first thought was that it was a bit overly busy. Then, reality kicked in and it’s supposed to be like that. The goals is to get a lot of information on the screen and that’s so helpful when I’m doing #FollowFridays and working my way through Ontario Educator Lists.

There was certainly more customization than in the old Tweetdeck. Even a quick glance above shows that I’ve been able to make Notifications wider than the lists. Message intrigued me. Instead of being a separate column as the old Tweetdeck did it, it’s a popup on the right bottom. I kind of like that since I want to know if I have any private messages the moment that they arrive. You know; the fear of missing out and all that. My quick summary was that this new version was built on the existing Twitter interface and so there was a familiarity that wasn’t there with the old Tweetdeck. It always seemed like a separate entity and I suppose that was OK but Twitter appears to be all about changing that.

I started feeling a bit badly that maybe I had ditched things on the Chromebook a little too quickly and switched to the new Tweetdeck. Sadly, the text issue with the new Twitter had followed it to the new Tweetdeck. On Chromebook anyway; it works beautifully under Windows.

Since I got my invitation, I have been doing a lot of reading like articles like this:

Twitter shares a first look at the ‘big overhaul’ coming to TweetDeck

and poking around at the impression of others on, well, Twitter.

I’m actually liking what I’m seeing and think that Twitter may be on to something with this new design. I’ll be poking around to see if it’s going to replace the Twitter client like I know it will … and on Friday mornings for sure. I do like changes when they’re for the better but I also like speed. It may be that I’ll end up using a combination of the old and the new depending upon the computer and that’s OK.

It’s not perfect yet, hence the “Preview” qualifier but that’s to be expected. You can follow bug reports here.


If you’ve been poking around with the Tweetdeck Preview and have thoughts toss me a comment. I’d be very interested in your take. And, please, if you have a fix for my broken text issue, I’d really, really appreciate it!