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How is Twitter Useful for Entomologists?

By Derek Hennen

Twitter has made headlines recently by becoming a public company. As the micro-blogging service enters this new phase, some people may still be wondering, “What’s the point of Twitter?”

This is a legitimate question to ask. After all, the concept of Twitter is a bit strange. You can post messages, called tweets, to your Twitter profile. These messages are then read by your followers — people who are interested in what you have to say. If your Twitter profile is public, anyone can read your tweets. You can follow other Twitter users to read their messages, which can be about anything, depending on what a person feels like writing about. The topics can include philosophy, art, science, lunch, and even cute photos of cats — sometimes all from the same person.

The catch? Any message posted to Twitter can only be 140 characters long.

This might sound like a glaring weakness, but the 140 character limit can be seen as one of Twitter’s biggest strengths. Having a strict limit on how many characters are available forces Twitter users to be direct and concise; there’s not much room for fluff in tweets.

Users decide who to follow and what kind of tweets they want to see, making Twitter into a personalized news feed. Everyone sees different lists of tweets tailored to their own interests, which means that Twitter can be a powerful tool for scientists. Twitter can be used to keep up with science news, connect with other scientists, and share information.

There is a sizeable science community on Twitter, including a large contingent of entomologists. To learn about the reasons why some of them are on Twitter, I interviewed three of them about their experiences with the site:

Thanks to Gwen Pearson (@bug_girl), Miles Zhang (@ymilez), Ted MacRae (@tcmacrae), and Chris Buddle (@CMBuddle) for graciously donating their time and thoughts!


Derek Hennen is a graduate student at the University of Arkansas who studies the endemic arthropods of Arkansas. Follow him on Twitter at @derekhennen

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