Thursday, March 26, 2009

What's New for HeatSeekers? Using Twitter in Meetings

If you look up "Heatseeker" in Wikipedia, you get redirected immediately to "Missile Guidance", and a long explanation of how these kinds of missiles work to find their targets. However, the top link of this entry is another redirection to Billboard weekly album chart's Top Heatseekers which refers to a selected list of new and emerging artists who have never been on the top 100 albums list. In fact, once an album hits the top 100 chart, they are off the Top Heatseekers list. The label of heatseeker is strictly reserved for great new stuff.

I was interested at David Allen's GTD Summit a few weeks ago to hear the label of "Heatseeker" used over and over again. It was used to refer to speakers and participants, like Guy Kawasaki or Taco Oosterkamp, who are out there looking for the newest technologies, gadgets and productivity enhancements (usually these people are in the technology space, but this is probably not a necessity.) One of the participants beside me in a panel session was using the newest Kindle, and delighted in showing me how it worked, what he liked about it and what he was looking forward to in the next version. Everyone had their iPhone and were talking about new applications for it and wishes. David Allen was given a Mac after Guy Kawasaki hassled him about not having one, clearly for the Heatseekers a Mac with all the bells and whistles is essential.

One thing I noticed about this meeting that I have not noticed before, was that everyone seemingly was using Twitter. In fact, it was the first time I had seen a plenary session where, in addition to the two central screens, there were two lateral screens that were scrolling the Twitter Tweets as people posted them. It turned out that there were dozens of people in the room who, throughout the speeches and discussion, were micro-blogging their 140 character Tweets, including questions (that other Twitter users were answering), quotes, additional information and connections to what other speakers had said (especially when they contradicted each other). Nothing got past the people Twittering. And the interesting thing was that people outside the room were following people inside the room, so not only were we benefitting from the Tweets, but who knows how many people not attending the conference were following those Twittering inside the meeting rooms. Apparently David Allen has over 75,000 people "following him", which he said was either the cause of celebration or great paranoia.

I had heard of Twitter a few years ago just after it started. We had a demonstration during our New Learning Meeting in Alexandria, Egypt in 2007, where at the time the primary new and interesting Heatseeker thing was using Second Life for learning. I started my own Twitter account in the meantime but had not discovered its potential yet for learning. In addition to using it to host multiple conversations during what otherwise would be a monologue of a plenary session, they had some other applications for Twitter. For example, the Heatseekers said that it definitely could be useful for learning how to waste time (that was their first response.) However, they also said that it gave people up-to-the-minute news flashes (remember the people who tweeted about their plane crashing before any other media was on the spot.)

And of course trend spotters and Heatseekers use it to find the heat, so no wonder they like it. There are definitely different levels of Heatseekers, we have a few in our institution, although I don't know of anyone yet who is Twittering as a part of their work (or even for recreational purposes for that matter). We haven't had a meeting yet that mentioned real-time bullet-point reporting via Twitter. Our team has introduced reporting via a cartoonist, graphic facilitation and blogging. Maybe Tweeting is next. When you only have 140 characters to make your point, you need to make sure you are on target - maybe that missile guidance system analogy works after all...