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Things That Suck: Twitter Chats (Let’s fix them)

In my class you can’t use the word suck, but there’s an edcamp session called Things That Suck that has become VERY popular. It started with Dan Callahan, got bigger with Bill Selak and I’ve had the fortune of running two sessions at edcampOC and edcampSD (yes that’s me hogging the session board).


In a Things That Suck session you put up a topic in education and people move to one side of the room or the other based on whether they think something sucks or not. You can also stay in the middle if you want to be boring aka thoughtful. I like putting up topics that make people go huh? I thought that was something awesome. In fact I had planned on putting up a slide to debate the “Things That Suck” session itself (very meta Theriault) at edcampOC but ran out of time.


Now I had the fortune of running my last session with Karl Lindgren-Streicher. He added a useful and much needed twist. You spent the last minute or two of the topic talking about how you can fix something. I loved this. It made the session SO much more useful as a learning tool.

Here is my Things That Suck Google Presentation Deck, feel free to use it anytime. 

So I’m going to share with you a topic I put up for debate. It’s a topic near and dear to my heart.

Things That Suck


that’s right…Twitter Chats

But wait Theriault- you are a moderator for #CAedchat. One of the largest state twitter chats in the U.S. and you moderate pretty often. What’s going on here?

Remember there are two sides of a Things That Suck. I LOVE #CAedchat for these reasons:

  • My fellow moderators are amazing- I’ve learned so much by working with them. They truly inspire me. Just check out these awesome educators
  • We get amazing co-mods who bring in fresh ideas
  • We have people from Texas, Mexico, Canada, even the UK join our chat and we get to learn from them.
  • It’s a real party. We average about 300-400 teachers in a chat and can have upwards of 3,000 Tweets: ideas, links, pics, videos all shared on ONE topic in ONE hour.
  • Getting this many people together who give up a precious hour each Sunday night inspires me and fires me up for the school week.
  • For these and many more #caedchat and other chats DO NOT suck and I was always be involved with them.

But here’s why Twitter chats S*#K

TOO BIG TOO FAST: I joined #azedchat the other day. It was a revalation. It was like a nice stroll in a park with some friends. Standing in stark contrast is #CAedchat. I know everyone thinks #satchat or #edchat are the big bad boys in the educational twitter chat sphere, but just try a #CAedchat one Sunday I dare you. It’s like THIS:



Seriously. After a #CAedchat I feel like this:

that escalated quickly

It’s so bad I actually wrote a blog post on how to best deal with the madness that is #CAedchat We’ve even taken some steps as a moderator team to help with the chaos, but it’s part of what makes it awesome. If you join a #satchat or #caedchat you WILL miss tweets during the chat.

THE ARCHIVE: I have people all the time bug me for the #caedchat archive. I laugh and giggle. It’s sometimes 2,000 tweets. Seriously… you’re going to read all of those? And many of those are RTs, short responses or even just introductions. Speaking of:

INTRODUCTIONS: so every chat we “waste” five precious minutes introducing ourselves even though some people never tweet or say anything you will care to remember. My friend Sean makes it a point to miss the first five minutes of every #CAedchat just to avoid the introductions. Worse, we end up trying to say hi to people and then miss about 80% of the other participants cause there are so many tweets and participants we can’t possibly great them all. We COULD be answering or asking questions, but that’s not polite.

GHOSTING: ghosting is when you show up or leave a party without bugging the host by saying “Hi” or “Bye” it’s AWESOME. But no… here I am DYING trying to keep up with reading and responding to the AVALANCE of tweets and I get one of these tweets show up:

“Sorry everyone for being late, I was cooking steaks for the family on the patio while watching the sunset.” #caedchat

or this one:

“Sorry everyone, I have to leave the chat early for my YOGA class. #caedchat”

Don’t forget to read THOSE in the archive. Please stop doing that in Twitter chats- I know you are trying to be polite, but just stop… please.

MODERATING: now I love being a moderator. Finding a topic, working with others, asking questions. I LOVE asking questions. I even moderated a #caedchat where every question could only be answered BY a question. But ask my wife how she feels about the fact that I moderated three #caedchats in January. Ask my son. We’ve fixed that mostly by coming up with a once a month schedule, but we still have had several #caedchat mods take semi-permanent breaks from the responsibility to find balance in their family life.


Now I’m NOT quitting #caedchat nor am I saying it’s a waste of time. I love #caedchat and #satchatwc I learn so much, but I think there’s room for another method of running an #edchat

So I’m taking Karl’s advice and I’m proposing a solution to some of these problems. I want to slow the chat experience WAY DOWN. In fact that’s what I’m proposing: a slow chat, more specifically


So here’s how it’s going to work.

  • On the #slowchatED blog there will be a few Google Forms. This form will collect, or crowd-source possible questions, topics, and moderators for #slowchatED

  • A different person will moderate each week. ANYONE involved in education can apply to moderate. You could do it once a year or once every two years. This is a community edchat it does not belong to me, it is not my project it is OUR project. I’m just asking people try it out. Once you are chosen to moderate a chat for the week I will make you an editor on this site so you can write and post the summary blog post. You will continue to have editing privileges for as long as you want. If you would like to become a person who vets the moderators please let me know.

  • There will be no FB, G+, Pinterest, NO #slowchatED Twitter account (egads) or anything else, just a simple blog that will be the learning engine behind #slowchatED This is not about promotion, just learning.

  • The chat is not limited to one day or one time slot so it becomes open to EVERYONE everywhere.

  • On Monday the chat starts. Several times during the day the same question will be tweeted out. There is no hurry to respond. You can think about it for several hours, you can find a blog post and link or just the right video, heck you could WRITE a blog post or create a video response and then reply to the question. When you are ready to respond just tweet out A1 “insert response here” #slowchatED

  • There will be ONE question asked per day ending on Saturday. That’s six questions all built around the same topic. Then the magic happens.

  • On Sunday the moderator grabs all of the responses for the week. There are no introductions to wade through and every response should be thoughtful. The moderator will then EDIT and CURATE the archive and turn the results into a blog post. Only the moderators favorite responses will show up in the blog post. It will be there reflection and creation. It will look similar to this #ukedchat blog post by Rachel Jones. But every moderator will have liberty to tweek the blog post to their style of writing and presentation AND they can cross-post their creation to their own personal blog if they want. The blog post will have the moderators personal reflections on the topic and the responses and write a summary statement. This blog post will then serve as a condensed version of Twitter wisdom on the subject. If people want to add resources, thoughts or ideas on the topic they can post them in the comments below the post. (Obviously if you want to see ALL the tweets that badly you can find them yourself using Twitter or another archive tool.)

I am extremely open to tweaking this as we go, for me I just want to see if this can help fix some of the problems we have with Twitter chats. I’ve seen a growing push to move chats to G+ or some other space, but I’m curious if we can use the power of the hashtag to find a solution without leaving Twitter.

I’m starting this next Monday. For this first chat I’m picking the topic and moderating the the blog post. You can see, or recommend possible questions here.

The topic is: EduFamous: How do we best deal with the problems, benefits and goal of being a popular or name educator.

Visit the #slowchatED site

Submit this form to sign up for a topic and to moderate #slowchatED

See the possible questions and submit potential questions for each #slowchatED topic/week here


  1. Twitter chats are what we make of them. Many are overwhelming, as you describe. I tend to pop in and out as time and my patience allow.

    Chats are a great way for people to make new connections. If they spend time during the first 5 minutes of intros connecting with new folks, that’s a win, even if they miss the first two questions and the 200 tweets that come along with them.

    I found scheduling my question tweets to be really helpful when moderating so I could focus on the emerging conversations and not need to worry about moderating duties.

    And is this for reals a topic of a future chat? I feel like it’s a joke, and if it’s not, it should be?–> EduFamous: How do we best deal with the problems, benefits and goal of being a popular or name educator.

    I use Things That Suck in my grad courses. Always fun!

    1. Lyn: anything can be “what we make of them” that doesn’t mean we can’t make them better. I agree completely that chats are an awesome way to quickly see who you want to connect with. I don’t like scheduling questions during the chat because I like to see the flow, sometimes Qs need more time, sometimes they are a dud.

      The eduFAMOUS should be a joke, but the topic is not here’s why:
      1. I’ve seen too many people talking about others behind their back re: they attempt to become “known” and self-promote. I want to bring that out in the open and talk about it.
      2. I’ve seen people buy or do shady things to get followers- let’s talk about why some feel the pressure to do this.
      2a: Similarly to this I see people snipe about the same idea when bands “sell-out” or someone goes from teaching to admin. Also I’ve had an admin tell me his 5 year goal was to work for the department of Education- some people are “fast-track” people…. why? And should we trust those people less? How do we identify them online?
      3. I’ve seen 3 blog posts about the subject just this week and we had a heated Voxer discussion about it which made a bell go off in my head and pick it as a subject. Feel free to skip this week and please submit a topic and moderate a future week.

  2. What an awesome concept! The think-time is critical. I often have a much better/more thoughtful response to a chat hours or days later. I’m in! I would love to curate one of the #slowchatED weeks. Let me know!
    And thanks for thinking outside the box. I once (Twitter newbie) accidental dropped into the Rhode Island edchat (#edchatri)–oops! Sorry Rhode Islanders, but they were very welcoming and I learned a lot. Much, much smaller than our crazy fire hose, but there’s much to be gained from #caedchat in terms of enthusiasm and passion. Frenetic but invigorating.
    I’m anxious to see how #slowchatED can change the learning and reflection.

  3. I drop into #caedchat every once in a while, primarily because I live on the East Coast (US,) and your “chat” runs at a time when the house gets quiet and I can concentrate. I enjoy the fast pace, volume of tweets, and number of participants. Granted, I took a speed-reading course in high school, and although it was one of my least favorite courses, in the end, it was practical for many reasons. I can skim the stream, use the favorite option, and reply to tweeters. Sure, I don’t have time to reply to all tweets that I would if the stream were slower, but, then again, if I did, I would have too many conversations going on at once. Quality versus quantity in replying is more important. I do like the idea of providing a Google Doc in advance w/ the Q and A, and also the time when a Google Doc (e.g., “Form”) was available for people to provide feedback after the chat. All in all, congratulations to a successful chat!

    1. Judy, Judy, Judy, I thought we knew each other better than that. 1. My points/thoughts are always just the start of a conversation, never an end. 2. I agree w/ many of your points. I can keep up too, although it’s easier when I’m not worried about moderating. 3. I hear complaints all the time, compliments too- I mean if people hated it than it wouldn’t be so popular. I’m just trying something new. I do this in my class all the time. Maybe it too will SUCK- we’ll see. I loved your comment- feel free to comment more often.

      Also thanks for your comment about the GDoc in advance that we’ve started using in #CAedchat there are many changes and modifications that we are going to try in #CAedchat this year. I’m really excited about the risk-taking and willingness to try something new in our #CAedchat team.

  4. Well said David… Tim, Jason Seliskar and I, when moderating #txeduchat, created a crowd source doc hoping to collect the content of great info being shared, although not many contributed, I think if you build that priece in as part of the culture of the chat, more and more people will add content. What’s best about this post and many of your posts is that you model process… The process of reflection, of admission, and advancement and improvement, of honoring people for their contribution and creating connection. Thanks for starting the conversations in true punk rock style!

  5. Another fantastic idea, David – and one whose time has come. As a deliberate thinker, I’ve always disliked the frantic rush of a Twitter chat. It seems as if we’re only licking away the first layer of a multi-flavoured jaw-breaker, and I want more!
    I’ve tried hiding and blocking and reporting, but this invariably takes up more time than it should, and so mostly I just sit back and watch the ideas flow down my screen. By the time I do feel ready to jump in, everyone has moved on, and I feel like the last one in the pool.
    I’m nominating you as the first edutwipreneur winner. (They seem to like portmanteau words on your side of the pond, so I thought I’d gift you with a new one!)

  6. I know many people that stay away from chats like the dengue fever because they are fast/furious and the sense of connection they’re looking for that can be so magical gets lost in the Tweetdeck avalanche. It’s impressive to see #caedchat consistently trend numero uno on Twittter but also there’s a price to pay, n’est pas? Less time for contemplation, less feel for the other people participating. What a SHOCKER, another great idea, wow I’m glad I’m sitting down reading it or else I might have passed out…
    …and you had me at Ron Burgundy.
    eduFAMOUS will be interesting – to me it calls to mind ladder climbing admin (it’s about ME) vs those that are committed heart and soul to their organization and the kids they serve. Or the teachers that operate on cult of personality alone. See you then. e

  7. I am new to #CAedchat and have never moderated one so I don’t feel I’ve earned my stripes to say what #slowchatED will be or not be. I do know that I test-piloted (moderated) a Twitter Chat with my classes this week and am now planning a blog post titled “Twitter Splat.” If that gives you any indication of how it went. As for #CAedchat I personally love the fast pace as a participant, but probably wouldn’t like it so much as a moderator. I’m definitely interested in #slowchatED – not only for my own learning but to experiment with an idea like this in my classroom. Thanks for creating the opportunity to try something new. So, does this mean instead of the mosh pit we will all be doing some kind of slow interpretive dance at various times throughout the day?

    1. 1. Who ARE you Furniture cause I’m already in love with your blog, we have a collective of punk/ALT teachers here in so cal and we NEED you in the group.
      2. I pictured it as more of a laying on a hammock, drinking lemonade and listening to the Evens.

      1. Am I THAT underground on my blog? I guess I reverted back to my zine days. I thought I had my name somewhere on there?! O-well, I’m new to it. Thanks for the follow. It’s Seena, from right next door! And, yes, the Evens, sounds delightful.

  8. I’ve only tried one or two of these twitter chats in the past – but I fully identify with the madness you describe – too many people trying to get their oar in. I left not having learn that much other than how to phrase a few vacuous soundbites as click-bait. I am doing some research on how teachers – in particular senior leaders – use twitter so this side of the argument is useful to me: http://tjj.postach.io/leading-the-conversation-senior-leaders-use-of-twitter

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