Twitter, ad infinitum

Twitter is proving itself to be infinitely expandable and capable of amazing things. Within the last month or two we’ve seen a coal ash disaster in Tennessee and a plane crash in the Hudson River reported first on Twitter. And arguably with better information than the media could get for several hours.

Gez Lemon recently used Twitter to survey people about whether or not alt should be required in HTML5. This is the tweet that started it all:

Should alt be required for img in HTML5? Please use the hashtag #althtml5 if you respond, so I can find the responses.

You can see the responses using a Twitter search for the hashtag #althtml5. (You’ll see several responses from me, since I originally misunderstood the question to mean that an alt attribute could not be emtpy, as in alt=”". With a little hand-holding from Laura Carlson, I finally realized that he was asking if the alt attribute should be required to be there, even if it’s empty. To which I respond: yes, indeed.)

On a small, local level, a couple of web developer friends recently organized a successful Webuquerque meeting with nothing more than a Facebook page and Twitter.

Twitter is now used to raise money for charity. The latest example is Twestival. Twestival is a world wide Tweet Up to raise money for clean water. You can organize a Twestival in your city, attend an event in your city, or participate online. The event will be on Feb. 12. I predict that it will be a landslide success.

Smaller Twitter fund raising projects have been reported by Mommy Gossip Cares in How Is Mom It Forward Changing the World One Mom at a Time? where $1400 for Thanksgiving dinners were raised with Twitter.

Beth Kanter realized the value of Twitter early on. Recently, she did a thorough analysis of using Twitter for charity in Twitter As Charitable Giving Spreader: A Meta Analysis, which reports on a number of events. She’s successfully raised money using Twitter. She tells more micro-fund raising stories in Twestival: Here Comes Everyone to Raise Money on Twitter for Charity: Water.

When millions of people all over the world are interconnected by the same technology, there’s no telling what can be done with it. New and wonderful usesĀ  appear, ad infinitum.

Since Twitter can be harnessed to do good, can it be harnessed to improve education? I’ve been working for months with a group from the Web Standards Project (WaSP) on a standards-based modular curriculum framework for web design education. It’s under discussion in places like A List Apart, The Magazine for People who Make Websites. The curriculum will be released to the public at SXSWi.

I’m wondering if we should release it with a world-wide Tweet Up. The Tweet Up wouldn’t raise money, but it could raise awareness and send educators to the not-yet-public web site housing the first round of completed courses.

Or perhaps an organized Tweet Up isn’t even necessary. What if every person attending the WaSP annual meeting at SXSWi and every person attending the No Web Professional Left Behind: Educating the Next Generation panel at SXSWi sent out a tweet about the curriculum?

Philanthropy 2173′s Give Fast, lists benefits of Twitter for fund raising:

  • Community building (you can identify other donors, everyone blogs about it), instant infrastructure (giving managed by chip-in, Paypal enables the back office);
  • Quick commitment – set a goal, reach it, move on;
  • Little gifts – and lots of them – are the holy grail;
  • Creativity matters – next year you’ll need a new twist;
  • Anyone at an organization might be the leader of your next campaign;

Change those benefits to describe education or any other topic you want, the benefits still apply. The quick commitment – set a goal, reach it, move on item seems particularly relevant.

What could you accomplish with a conference audience of several hundred people if all of them tweeted the same topic at an event? For the attendee, it’s a quick commitment, just 140 characters, yet still a contribution. The results are big, even though the individual effort is small.

Cross posted at BlogHer.

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