Why are there so few UK technical authors on Twitter?

At a rough guess, there no more than 20 UK  technical authors using Twitter on a regular basis. Given the Social Web is going to play an increasing role in User Assistance and Customer Support, that’s a surprise.

What’s stopping them, I wonder?

It may be they don’t understand how to use Twitter, they might not have the time or they may not be convinced of the value of using Twitter. As I said, it’s a surprise.


Colum McAndrew

As you say Ellis, it is a surprise. I certainly do (@robocolumn) but I feel that many people, not just Technical Writers, don’t “get it”. Part of the issue is the association of Twitter with other social networking sites (e.g. FaceBook) which are too often seen as a medium for a younger audience to stay in touch with their friends. The parallels between this and staying in touch with your clients / user base are just lost on many.

Rachel P

Lots of people left Technical Communication UK all fired up and keen to start using twitter. Many of them even signed up and started following people, but seem to have gone a bit quiet now. I’d love to hear from them about what’s holding them back?

Also, following on from the same conference, RJ Jacquez (Adobe) is going to run a free webinar: “An overview of using twitter for technical communicators” http://www.adobe.com/cfusion/event/index.cfm?event=detail&id=1540125&loc=en_us.

mick davidson

It’s nothing to do with age, it’s usefulness and probably ignorance: how many characters can you send in one twitter msg? Is that really enough? My little knowledge/experience of Twitter and how I can use it as a tech author don’t help because all I can see is the limitations. I know I can send an URL but do my readers want to be bothered by my msgs or can they get by without knowing that I’ve just updated page 33? Also, why clog up the internet/mobile channels with loads of tiny msgs when people can look at the info when as and they need it? Twitter might be useful, but it’s just another one of those things harassing you that I can live without. It’s a bit like the news – now everything has to be breaking news, nowadays we have to know that something’s happened to someone, somewhere or we’ll die. It’s ludicrous, I don’t (yet) see what the value of using Twitter is and don’t want to become part of this ‘must know now, now, now’ society (unless it’s genuinely useful).

John Ellam (john_ellam on Twitter)

Having just spotted Colum’s Tweet about this article, this comment is thanks to Twitter. I usually only visit this blog via links in the Cherryleaf newsletter. I don’t have time to trawl every Tech Author site but I’ll happily check my Twitter feed while making a cup of tea or having lunch.

140 characters is enough to pique someone’s interest in something & provide a link to a relevant web page. Your readers will not be “bothered” by your messages as they would if they were sent notification emails. They only see them when they visit Twitter & it is just like the rest of the web in that you can ignore the bits in which you have no interest.

You can set up multiple Twitter accounts if you want a personal account & a technical writing account. I have not done so, and most of my tweets (john_ellam) are not related to technical writing.

I suspect that workload may be stopping other authors from using Twitter, which is a shame as I use tweets from my peers to provide a filter to find interesting & relevant web content – Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everyone explains this concept well.

The most underrated advantage of Twitter is that it provokes you to think about cutting out irrelevant content from all your other work.


As with many things, such as fast food, people in the US often adopt things earlier than we in Europe. Twitter is still a very young medium and many people are only just beginning to realise that its potential reaches much further than the popular assumption that it’s just a glorified Facebook status.
Another reason could be that many employers put a firewall between their employees and social networking sites because they are seen as a massive timewaster and distraction.


For Tech Writers who work in a corporate environment, I can tell you from experience that Twitter is considered social media and is blocked for use for employees because it is felt by management that such things waste time.

Colum McAndrew

I sold my soul to the corporate world years ago and can certainly vouch for the comments made by SGraham. Although Twitter isn’t blocked here yet, it is looked on as a potential time waster. The problem is a perception that Twitter is full of useless tweets. Whilst this is true of some tweeters the real benefit of Twitter is where it is used correctly! Out Marketing Department is looking into its benefits after I (and others) pushed them to see what it can offer. Oh and by the way, I circumnavigate any IT big brother by using a Twitter app on my Blackberry 😉

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