Access to information continues to alter the ways that we live, learn, share and connect with the world around us. The cost of higher education continues to rise but so does the speed with which the courses are becoming outdated. You can take a 2-4 year course in Human Computer Interactions (HCI), you can join an increasingly popular short-term immersive UX program or you can take a series of online courses at the pace that works best for you. Whatever path you choose, you’ll need to supplement your own education outside of course parameters.
Which brings me to Twitter. For me, nothing has been able to embrace speed and content quite like the little blue bird. I’ve been on Twitter for many years, ranting, raving, etc. but when I began dabbling in UX I created a new account related just to the field and it has been insanely helpful in my growth. I don’t have a sea of followers (119 at the time of posting) and I don’t spend all day on it interacting with others but I would like to highlight 3 reasons why I think Twitter is essential for those getting started in the field of User Experience.
As I make this career shift I continue to tell people I meet that the great thing about the tech industry right now is that it is moving so fast, you just have to learn the new new and jump in. Now you don’t need to know the very second that an idea was conceived (you might) but you DO need to know about it before the 3rd edition of the ‘For Dummies’ is pressed. Books are great but can become outdated quickly and some of us don’t have time to sit and devour these tomes the way that we’d like. Blogs (hello!) are great for getting you all of the details on the newest trends or technological advancement, but what if you could know faster??
With Twitter you have access to a never-ending stream of insights, complaints, ideas and general every day thoughts from industry leaders! Today’s off-the-cuff tweet is next month’s blog which is next year’s book. It might sound crazy but in an industry built on progress, the faster you can solve the next problem the better.
Continuing this line of thinking extends directly to my second point, connection. Let’s say you did have time to sit down and read that new UX book and you loved it, now what? Well you can take to Google and start looking for the most recent think pieces. Or you can hop on Twitter and connect to the author directly. You can ask the author questions you had about the book or you can read conversations about the material that other readers have initiated with them.
On the flip side, you can find other people from all over the world that are also new to the field and build a support network of information sharing and encouraging messages. It’s great to be able to observe other people as they progress and learn. All along the way you can ask questions and take notes about what has and hasn’t worked for them. I have also crossed paths with more established professionals that have reached out with support or answered general questions that I had pushed out in to the universe. These interactions can be one time things are extended professional relationships but they all help you move forward.
Everyone processes information differently and there is definitely an endless supply of information out in the world related to User Experience. It can be overwhelming at times with all of the sources of information that becomes classified as required reading. Twitter not only allows you to access this information quickly, but it allows you to determine its relevance too! It’s a real “if a blog gets posted in the woods, does anyone actually read it” type of thing. I think.
There are many great articles, blogs and keynotes out there and there are even more in the queue right now waiting to be published. Once they’re out there though, how do you know which ones are worth your valuable time. By following people who inspire you, that drive and inform you – you have access to the people who inspire, drive and inform them! Your network of intellectual resources increases and now you have a curated list of things deemed important to the people you deem important.
When it comes to how Twitter and User Experience relate, it’s about education not fame. Sure, you’re able to connect professionally but the true end game is to stay informed in the face of constant change. The great thing about this medium is that taking an active or passive stance on Twitter can still be beneficial to a career. Whether you sit back and read articles that people recommend or you engage with the local or global community, you’re more informed than before.