Tweet With Care

I love Twitter, but the other day I forgot just how public my tweets are. Last week I was assigned a large amount of reading for my “User Centered Design” class. While I tried to plow through it, I just couldn’t. I had to finish it though, there was going to be a quiz.

As I kept pushing myself to read on, I would fall drowsy and drift away. The book I was reading was “Communicating Design,” by Daniel Brown. The book is geared towards people who design websites, in other words, not me. It is a very technical book, and one that I could only just understand.

I heard William Zinsser’s voice in my head as I read the book. In his book, “On Writing Well,” he devotes a chapter to writing about science and technology. He argues that some of the best writing has come from scientists and not English departments. He highlights a few rules that are key to writing about technology: “You can’t assume a reader knows what you assume everybody knows.” He goes on to say: “write like a person and not like a scientist.”

As I sat and read Daniel Brown’s book, I didn’t feel like he was writing like a person. I felt like he was writing as a web designer to another web designer. So in my frustration I tweeted: “Having a bad ‘user experience’ on communicating design by Daniel brown, bad writing for such technical matters.” I was angry and the required reading is all about the “user experience” and how to understand it and make it better.

Feeling justified, I went back to the reading. A day later I get this tweet back to me:

”Hoping to clean up much of the writing in the 2nd ed. anything bothering you in particular?”

I was a bit shocked. My original tweet was not directed to him, nor was it really meant for him. I am glad he saw it though. I tweeted back more about the writing.

It was a good reminder that Twitter is a public place and I need to choose my words carefully. Dan’s writing did put me to sleep. Since it is required reading, it should flow better and be more engaging. His information was very technical, but it only played to a crowd who “gets” it. If he is going to write a “how-to” anyone should be able to pick it up and run with it.

The same rule applies to how I produce my show. When someone tunes in to see my show, they should be able to pick up where we are. If they are too confused, they will change the channel. Same with the book, if its too confusing, someone else will come along and write it better.