In Defense Of Note Taking On Twitter

Seth Godin wrote a post on The Domino Project about tweeting in class. He references my talk at HBS where the professor asked his students to tweet out their class notes. Seth says:

I confess to being fascinated, mystified and horrified by people who tweet notes in real time. I mean, here is one of the giants of his industry, and the best the students can do with their attention is tweet short sentences, out of context, to an unknown audience of busy people who are reading hundreds of other out of context abbreviated notes at the same time? Waste a wasted opportunity.

I understand Seth's horror. But I don't share it. I believe note taking is an important way to remember the important points made in class. The act of writing something down makes it easier to recall. And if you share those notes out on a twitter feed, then you are saving them publicly, like bookmarks in delicious, with others who might want to consume them.

You might have a separate twitter feed for class notes. That way you don't spam all your followers with dozens of notes that might not make sense to them. You could have a twitter feed for every class you are in so the class notes don't get comingled. This has the added benefit of different URLs for each set of class notes.

Twitter is many different things rolled into one. There are so many different useful things you can do with it. I think public class notes is a particularly interesting one.

#hacking education#Web/Tech

Comments (Archived):

  1. Fernando Gutierrez

    Although those tweets can be great, I’m more with Seth this time. Note taking is very important to fix concepts, but Twitter isn’t exactly that. In Twitter you have to consider the length, you can be distracted with replies or other tweets with that hashtag, input method is sometimes slower and the fact of being public makes us think more (maybe too much) about that note.I liked a lot the feed with the hashtag for that class. But I feel that producing it some of the creators probably missed something… I don’t know any, but there are probably some collaborative writing tools that could be used for this purpose. I think that ideally you should be able to take fast private notes. Then, after the event, edit and share some of them in a common repository.

    1. William Mougayar

      I’m with you. See my comment.

  2. Judah

    Interesting that you put this up. This is pretty common–or, at least, that is how I see it. I use twitter during church to post real time comments on passages that we are talking about from my BlackBerry and they tie into my Bible that I have on my phone. It also lets me see who else has commented on the same stuff and within the context of a timeline. I was in Chicago recently where while I was getting ready to go on stage and speak at DrupalCon I used twitter to remind myself and everyone else in the audience about a party we were having later: it was cool because people were seeing me on stage at the same time that they were reading my party invite, and then I was able to go back and look at the @replies and send a personal message. One of the coolest things that I love using twitter for is with respect to live music. Twittering during a concert allows me to go back and see what music I really liked, and should therefore chase down and download. Now if only I could get my dad to use it….

    1. fredwilson

      Tweeting in church is probably more controversial than tweeting in class!

      1. Emily Merkle

        and these days…neither is more controversial than tweeting in public spaces in New York City…

      2. Judah

        Turns out that it was appreciated! I was talking to the rector about it and since then has decided that the church needed a twitter account to keep the younger people up to date on what was going on–being in the East End of London, I had to agree. =)

        1. Alex R.

          Judah – is there a way we can get in touch? We’re moving to London this fall, and we’re thinking of going to All Soul’s.

  3. leigh

    Not really sure I understand his issue. Seems to be a theme of concern around shallow vs. deep thinking. The generation who has grown up with the network has such a different way of doing things and has integrated ubiquitous always on communication tools into everything they do.Grant McCracken would call twitter notes – pinging the hive – to me that isn’t a wasted opportunity – it’s the ability for one group to get another group who isn’t there and can’t experience the moment to join in and maybe get interested in something they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.I wonder why that would horrify anyone?

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      Because by sharing with others and making them interested you maybe missing part of it. It’s an excess of generosity! It’s like the guy who doesn’t talk to anyone in a party because he’s all the time taking photos. Next day we all enjoy the photos, but he can’t recall any conversation because he was too busy taking photos. Some people like it that way, but if we all start taking photos there won’t be anyone to appear on them.I’m not talking about someone taking a few casual photos (or tweets) or the great photographer (or whatever it is someone with a great following in twitter). I’m talking about everyone looking at the smartphone all the time, everywhere.

      1. leigh

        I think you are projecting a little bit. Some people find passively watching something paying attention – for me, I absorb by writing notes. While i don’t disagree smartphones can be an issue (say during dinner) but I think your concern is a bit of a stretch in this context.

        1. Fernando Gutierrez

          Maybe I’m projecting, altough I also take notes, in a computer if possible because my handwriting is terrible. But Twitter is not the optimal tool for taking notes. It’s the optimal took for sharing.

          1. fredwilson

            it is optimal for me because it forces me to be short, crisp, and concise

          2. Fernando Gutierrez

            Truth is that most of your comments would fit into a tweet.Maybe being concise is a virtue I don’t have. If I need to I can be, but I have to think about it. And I can’t think and listen at the same time. Too bad!

          3. fredwilson

            i think concise is always best

    2. fredwilson

      I’m with you leigh

  4. William Mougayar

    That’s a tough one. If you’re the recipient of these tweets, there is value, but if you’re the one tweeting, as multitasking as one can be, something has to give: you’ll miss something that’s being said or you won’t participate as much. I’ve tweeted from conferences like anyone else, partly to brag that I’m there, partly to share something useful and assert some social presence. But almost each time, I’m missing something being said even if it takes 30 sec to tweet. The irony is that I end-up catching what I may have missed via someone else’s tweet when the revelation comes as – oh I must have missed this one- glad that someone tweeted it. On the other hand, tweeting is like note-taking, but you can’t do both well.  If it was up to me, I would give 5 min Tweet breaks after 30 mins of class. That way, the audience fully participates without losing attention, and then they can tweet out the results of a richer interaction. Too much real-time is not always a good thing. You’ll be bouncing off the trees, totally missing the forest. 

    1. Fernando Gutierrez

      Intereseting that you bring up the braggin! we all do it, admit it or not. In Twitter, in Foursquare, in Facebook (how great world would be if everyone lived like they show in FB!!).Robert Scoble wrote and interesting article about this a few months ago. The “like, er, lie” economy:

      1. RichardF

        The hype and noise around SXSW on Twitter last week was a great example of that. A pain in the…..

      2. Dale Allyn

        Along a similar vein (though not exactly the same) Caterina Fake had a good post on FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on her blog recently. I liked it and blogged about it too, as did many others with whom it rang true.

    2. fredwilson

      Note taking in class is multitasking too. What’s the difference?

      1. William Mougayar

        Agreed, as I said “tweeting is like note-taking, but you can’t do both well”. My point was that it would be tough to do both at the same time. It’s typically one or the other, although alternating is OK.The difference is that notes should tend to be complete, whereas tweets don’t have to be, but the crowd-sourcing effects are powerful,- there’s no denying that.The other difference is that you don’t have to re-read your notes as you take them, because you can go back and read them later and no one is seeing them. But with a tweet, you’re probably going to pause, re-read it and try to fit it into 140 chars while the instructor is speaking, and you will undoubtedly tune out some of what’s being said.

        1. fredwilson

          ah, got itthe reason i like tweeting is 140 characters keeps it short and sweet

      2. Drew Shannon

        Perhaps you’re a better man than I, but it usually takes me a minute or two to compose a tweet, whereas my notes tend to be more stream-of-conscious and free-flowing.For me, tweeting my notes would take an extra mental step that I believe is a bigger distraction than merely taking notes.

        1. fredwilson

          i see. that makes sense. i am not a better man than you under any circumstances. just different.

  5. Dale Allyn

    This is a very individual thing. It depends on how one absorbs new information and whether they’re really as effective while mulit-tasking. I see Seth’s concern, but it may not apply to all. One should consume, absorb and retain new information in whatever method works best for them.I agree that thinking about the character limit and phrasing is less than ideal if one is wanting to tweet while still catching all that’s being exchanged. Again, up to each.Edit: Guess I posted while William’s comment was is the background and not loaded yet. Similar ideas.

    1. William Mougayar

      Thanks. That theme is emerging & from Fernando as well. I’m sure it will be countered vehemently by others.

      1. Dale Allyn

        I know that in my case, I would get more info from a discussion by carefully listening and taking my version of crude, short-hand notes. Tweeting would cost me content. My notes are often just a single keyword or a few pairs of keywords. They would be meaningless as tweets to anyone but me, as I use them as memory “pins”.Still, I must assume that there are others who don’t suffer this need for focus. However, I often find those who boast of multi-tasking effectively produce less-than-perfect output. 😉

  6. ErikSchwartz

    Sure you can do that with twitter, but there are much better tools to for the job. I don’t see benefits of the real time public nature of the note taking via twitter making up for the obvious weaknesses and limitations of twitter as a notation medium.

    1. fredwilson

      what is a better tool for the job? do they allow public sharing of the notes?

      1. ErikSchwartz

        In the case of twitter the operation of the tool can become a distraction.While many important ideas can be distilled down to 140 characters, many others cannot. Even if an idea can be distilled down to 140 characters, doing so takes time which might be better spent listening to the subject at hand.Let’s say it’s November 19, 1863 and we’re listening to President Lincoln.”Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”Needs 36 characters edited out of it. By the time we finish tightening up Lincoln’s first sentence and get the tweet out, the speech is over and we’ve missed the best part.The value of real time sharing is greatly overwhelmed, not so much by the 140 character limit, but the fact that the limit forces you to pay attention to the note taking process rather than the speech, lecture, or discussion itself. When tools force you to pay attention to them they become a distraction.

        1. falicon

          “87 years ago this country was created with ideals of freedom & equality”72 characters…to me, notes are about concepts, not specific details (well to be fair many teachers want specific details but that’s a whole different battle I have with the education system and I’ll save that for another debate).Also – I feel like a lot of people dissing the idea of notes via Twitter are not thinking about all the levels…especially the aggregation level.On the first level, you’ve got your mental pins/notes from the things you tweeted yourself…On the second level, you’ve got what everyone in your own physical class tweeted as well…so you can now (probably via a 3rd party app that would be pretty easy to build) merge them all into one master set of notes for a class…and see what the class as a whole thought were the bigger points and key take aways (HUGE or the actual learning)…Then on the third level, you’ve got what everyone that’s sat in the class (now AND *ever since* live note-tweeting started)…and you can apply the same aggregation stuff from #2 above…and whala, massive collective intelligence on the topic at hand (I *think* thereby allowing each future class to dive a little deeper, and learn/customize from what everyone else already knows)…To be honest, now that I think about all the advantages there could be to it…I’m shocked that it’s not more common already (and even a little pissed that we didn’t have this when I was in school!)…Just my 2 cents…

          1. ErikSchwartz

            And while you were thinking about how to trim:”Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”Down to:”87 years ago this country was created with ideals of freedom & equality”You were not paying attention to the speech (which continued while you were rewording), you were paying attention to the note taking tool and counting characters to work within its limitations.The only way twitter is better than typing your notes into a sticky or omnigraffle and posting them afterwards is they go out in real time. None of the advantages of community note taking you discuss require real time publishing.

          2. falicon

            actually I was just saying that it could be summarized with more than enough space…I was only using the sentence you pointed out…if I were actually live-tweeting, I would have only tweeted out the things that struck me as important (not every sentence, or even every point)…and to be honest, I would have been relying on other live-tweeters to help catch the points I didn’t (massive power in aggregation of live-tweeting).I should also note that, I’m not actually that into real time…and so I don’t think there’s nec. value in ‘real time publishing’ (you picked up on that)…but I *am* saying there is massive value in publishing…and especially in public publishing (ie. aggregation).You can use sticky or omnigraffle or any tool that works for you…but without sharing that information publicly (either in real-time or after the fact)…it’s only useful to you for the limited window of the time you’re interested in that topic…which is fine (it’s worked for 100s of years in the education system so far)…I’m just saying that I think it *could* be so much better for everyone…The reason I like twitter as a solution (regardless of time) is because it forces you to be concise (something I’m clearly not unless forced)…it’s generally public (so others can take advantage of your work)…and it’s unstructured yet driven by community conventions (so writers are free to convey concepts but software has at least a little reasonable structure to build on top of)…oh and there’s a very simple API which means building a specific app to make the entire process *so* much more powerful is actually possible/reasonable (and won’t require millions of dollars and lots of years to get out the door)…Just my opinion though…

          3. fredwilson

            i am fairly annoyed i didn’t have it in school, both as a student and ateacher

        2. fredwilson

          just do two tweets

          1. kidmercury

            inconvenient. a specialized app for taking notes would work best IMHO. such an app could probably run on twitter’s platform, but of course then come all the platform rights issues.

        3. kidmercury

          yup, nailed it

      2. roland

        use a hosted etherpad tool (etherpad is now open source) e.g. piratepad:…and then copy to a common group blog or a wiki when done

      3. Dan Buell

        Evernote is probably the best known one… There are some more. Some people use Google Docs. There are a lot of Apps in the Mac ecosystem for this that sync between devices and can be shared publicly. I haven’t tried a lot of them but do like Evernote…

        1. fredwilson

          i’ve tried to use evernote at least three times. it is too heavyweight forme.

  7. Drew Shannon

    I’m only 24, so I didn’t quite think that I was ready to consider myself an “old-timer” just yet, but isn’t there a point when social media should just STOP, if only for an hour or two? I don’t think that we need to be sharing everything, especially, as Seth mentioned, out-of-context notes in a sea of other out-of-context notes.If you’re merely using a “private” or class-specific twitter account, why not just go the extra step and using something like Word, where you can organize thoughts in relation to one another, and build context between points?To me, the great thing about Twitter is its simplicity, in that each tweet is theoretically worth the same as another – text-only updates limited to 140 characters. There’s no room to build connections to other pieces, which I think misses the point of note taking, especially in an educational setting.

    1. fredwilson

      word is not public. there is no value to anyone other than yourself by saving something in word. at least a public google doc

      1. Drew Shannon

        Right, I think that’s my point. I don’t necessarily believe that class notes need to be (or ought to be) public without some context and conceptual hierarchy.If someone wants to tweet the main points of the lecture, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them “notes”. On the other hand, If you’re actually trying to take notes for the purpose of understanding concepts, I think a richer system (like Word) is a much better tool because it allows for context and the illustration of conceptual relationships.EDIT: perhaps it’s just a semantics issue, but in my mind, the purpose of notes are to take information, and put it into a clear and easy-to-understand format for recall at a later time. When notes become public and are limited to 140-characters of text-only information, I believe that their original intent is compromised.

        1. Ryan from GroupTweet

          If you don’t limit the use of Twitter in the classroom as simply a “note-taking” tool, you can see some real value.Here is a good article and video of how Twitter can be used in the classroom as a way to facilitate discussion and engage students who otherwise are hesitant to participate or simply can’t due to a large lecture format.…We have a number of college professors using GroupTweet to simplify the process. Allows them to create class accounts that can be updated by all the various students. Much easier to track the conversation under one account as opposed to messing with hashtags or burdening the students with making sure they are all following each other in order to follow the entire conversation.Check out some examples of GroupTweet classroom discussion in action here:

      2. Random Internet Guy 23

        Seriously Fred, why do class notes have to be public?This is just short attention span run amok.A month after I take notes, I have a hard enough time making sense of my notes in context. Good luck to those students making sense of 140 char out-of-context tweet notes.Frankly, I find your logic on this flawed, and I agree 100% with Seth.

      3. Oscar Godson

        Why Twitter though? I don’t know what classes you’ve been taking, but 140 characters to describe, let’s say, Binary Mitosis would be just ridiculous.

    2. ShanaC

      I write lines of notes that are about 140 char each (when I write notes). The issue for me is sharing only with those who care. I mean, some of my friends and I took very different classes, and I kind of don’t want to see their notes in my twitter….

  8. Jonathan Nation

    Where I have benefited from a group tweet note taking experience (at unconferances, like PodCamps and BarCamps) a better experience might be a google doc (assuming there are enough PCs in the audience.I know others have did this with Google Wave.

  9. Shripriya

    Twitter can be tailored to do many different things and if someone wants to have separate twitter feeds for their classes, great. The problem lies, however, in the use cases mentioned.They only work if Twitter has great archiving and search capabilities. And right now it has neither. Twitter does not enable me to export all my tweets from the beginning of time. Neither does it provide me a way to effectively search my own tweets, let alone tagging or annotating. How can it be useful for class notes I might want to reference at some future date? The lack of capabilities is a huge hole that prevents many, many uses.

    1. awaldstein

      You hit on something that I’ve been thinking about.Archiving and curating your tweets into a URL-like presence is a hole for the branding capabilities that Twitter dances around but doesn’t quite capture…yet.Tweets are in themselves keyword dense. Once there is aggregation of tweets then not only is there a ‘place’ but there is searchability from a keyword perspective.

      1. Viktor Ovurmind

        I like to personally think of archiving and curating facility as achieving meaning over mass. Richard Feynman was taught to notice things rather than to simply note or name things. Here is a video that provides an insight how Feynman was taught this:…Just because we are faster at finding or sharing something does not mean that we are in any better a position regarding what it is we have found or our now able to find? The answer here IMHO is not the quantity of our data proficiency, but the quality of our data discernment.There is a diminishing return to our memory and if tweets lead to repetition, then we can still achieve “repetitio est mater studiorum”. Ultimately only we know how best that we learn, (that is if we notice that we have the power to notice as Feynman notes).There is no law of diminishing returns in the return on development of our imagination where notes help us notice – but only in that which stymies or conditions our personal ingenuity, where our following becomes mechanical.[v.o.M.]

    2. fredwilson

      i think there are third party services which allow you to export all of your tweets

      1. Shripriya

        The basics of searching your own timeline or someone else’s for more than a couple of weeks is core functionality that Twitter has to enable. This will enable many use cases and expand what third parties can build on top of it. Without this, it’s impossible to find tweets more than a couple of weeks old.And yes, there are third parties that allow a full download, but they are not simple and I bet the average user will not know how to use them (one of them exports to a self-hosted WordPress blog, for example).

        1. leigh

          If you use pinboard as your social link service, you can ask it to automagically add any links you have in twitter into your saved list – it will annotate with your hashtags but you can then go to add any context you want to it.I used to use delicious but switched over when it was Yahoothanized – have to say LOVE IT way more (the twitter thing, private links…so awesome)

      2. andyswan

        Backupify FTW

    3. Donna Brewington White

      I think that @Jon_Ferrara, CEO of @Nimble told me that you can access your old tweets from their site for far longer than you can on Twitter. You’d need to verify this.

  10. Marcel Weiss

    “You might have a separate twitter feed for class notes. That way you don’t spam all your followers with dozens of notes that might not make sense to them. You could have a twitter feed for every class you are in so the class notes don’t get comingled.”Twitter still isn’t build for these kinds of special use cases. You still can’t sign up and manage several Twitter-accounts with one email-adress for example. For every new account you need another email-adress.

    1. fredwilson

      true. there are tools that help you manage that though

    2. Fernando Gutierrez

      You can use your email account with some tweaking to create other accounts. If you add +something between your user and the @ it works as a different account for twitter but you’ll receive everything in your email. Example:[email protected][email protected][email protected] these addresses will let you create an account and you’ll get all the emails in [email protected]. Gmail allows this, but most email servers will do the trick also.Then you can use multiple accounts with third party clients like Hootsuite, Seesmic or Tweetdeck.*Edited to clarify the first sentence. It seemed I was refering to your Twitter account when I wanted to refer to your email account.

      1. Ryan from GroupTweet

        Twitter should definitely get rid of the one account per email address rule. It seems pointless given the easy gmail + workaround. Thus, its not preventing any spam accounts from being created and only hindering truly well-intentioned users such as Marcel that want to legitimately setup multiple twitter accounts.

  11. Guest

    I am right now going into Mini Sagas (stories with meaning in exactly 50 words) and coming from there it can be really interesting for both sides if the student brings value, in 150 characters, on point.

  12. rick gregory

    I’m with Seth. Your comments on notes are valid for people who can use the notes (tweeted or not) to jog their memories about the lecture. But for people who don’t have that context, tweeting notes is just public masturbation. It’s close to useless for the reader and almost certainly doesn’t capture the lecture in any meaningful way. Most quick notes like that don’t.But then, I dislike the entire idea of tweeting as a feedback channel in lectures etc. To me, the point of having someone talk to a class (or a conference, etc) is to get the benefit of their thinking. Certainly engage with them, but of the class isn’t going to pay attention, why are they there? If people at a conference session aren’t going to give the speaker the minimal respect of listening to the talk, why go to that session?

    1. fredwilson

      i can assure you the tweet stream from that HBS class was not “public masturbation”public masturbation is the accusation that so many have made of twitter over the yearsbut it is a accusation that has consistently proven wrong

  13. Diane Dolinsky-Pickar

    As someone who has stood at the front of the class, I would rather not have my students on twitter, taking notes, since in fact, most cannot separate out their input, from the field of vsion where they are seeing everyone else’s tweets, and thinking on that. I mean, in tweetdeck, they are all over the place. On the twitter platform itself, they are seeing the tweetstream from all those they follow. On their smartphone, it is just one button away from all the other apps…. unless you are seeing a totally different group of folks, twitter distracts from the message that they should be listening to, more than other options. Any one else out there feel that others are having trouble LISTENING and HEARING when you speak?

    1. fredwilson

      i taught my way through graduate school. i guest lecture from time to time. i give talks and speeches as well. and i love it when people are tweeting when i talk.

  14. Himanshu Chanda

    Even I believe tweeting at the same time while attending a class is a stupid idea.You lose focus! On a notepad (physical) u just scribble down wats important. Any where, any how and any ways.While tweeting u pay attention to the text box, Hash tags, reviews, others stream and most imp try to fit in the creativity of 140 character mark!! I guess thats just too much.Better option is like OYC. Record it . publish it online…

    1. fredwilson

      are you sure it is stupid?

      1. Himanshu Chanda

        To be frank yes. I rather believe in (myself try to) giving 100% to whatever you have in hand. Forget 100s reading and learning from stream, even if1 can dedicate himself to the lecture it will be worth…

  15. Emily Merkle

    I can see this as being beneficial, in a controlled classroom environment. However, even with that – people take notes differently. My notes will likely not make sense to my Psych101 twitter stream.There’s also the introduction of yet another attention-diverter from the main show – the lecture and discussion.Tweeting feedback lowers the professor/student interaction to 140 characters, and puts another barrier between what should be a mentoring, tutorial, transactive relationship.As well, most classrooms offer a wiki for this purpose.Sounds nice, but as a professor I would not introduce this manner of “interaction” into the classroom setting.An application such as Google Docs or some such would be much more relevant.

  16. Wells Baum

    Seth’s point was to pay attention, take a holistic approach and then break the lesson down into bite sized pieces, aka twitterable pieces.

    1. Emily Merkle

      I revisited Seth’s post, and nowhere does he explicitly refer to anything like “breaking a lesson down into bite-sized, aka Twitterable pieces”.

  17. TomLong74

    Both Seth & Fred have valid points; so is one more valid than the other? Well when I was a sophomore in high school my GPA was less than the minimum to play school football. I’ll just say a lot less.Then, my concerned mother bought “Where There’s a Will There’s an A” on video tape – oh man I’m dating myself here. It was a collection of learning techniques that guaranteed improved grades or your money back blah, blah, blah. It did it by giving you tips. Some that were contrary to the standard system of learning.One such tip was to STOP taking notes in class and focus 100% on the lecture centering yourself on the subject at the time it was being taught instead of after. Interrupt and ask question while the learning is active, just as Seth mentioned.However, it also mentioned that if need be jot down short quick notes to refresh yourself outside of class for test prep/study time. Hmm… sounds kinda like a 140 char max tweet eh?OBTW: After multiple summer school redo’s of courses and using the tips, I graduated with honors *shrug* 🙂

    1. Brad

      Agreed, I do much better just listening. However if someone took good notes I could use those too.

    2. fredwilson

      i prefer to just listen too. but what i prefer even more is to stop and jot down a quick note on something that really made sense to me

  18. skyrank

    Fred -Tweeting class notes publicly. Wow. I had not thought of that before. Isn’t the objective an increased utility around an individual or group of people of a similar interest? If so, which I believe to be the case, tweeting class notes and ones’ personal pespectives around those experiences seems to be a very effective use of twitter. In a nutshell, I agree.

  19. MindWallet

    I’m not sure if I have an opinion of whether this is a good idea or not, but I did key in on context.I’ve built tool at MindWallet that would have let these students tweet and capture context. Here is an example of notes I took at StartUp Houston a couple of weeks ago. It is in context and you can navigate up the tree if you want more context than can be found at this level.…A couple of days ago I added the ability to tweet in-line, from different accounts.Here is what some of that looks like in context:…Here is a horribly unedited video about how to use it:

  20. Seth Godin

    Sounds like an opportunity for a new USV venture, Fred.Instead of using a platform that is ill-suited for this use, perhaps take a look at the threads on your blog posts. Far more thoughtful commentary. More back and forth. A coherent trail that’s archived and lasts more than a few days. Context. Writers put on the spot, forced to think a bit instead of just churning out “I was there” with lots of abbreviations.Just because a tool is handy doesn’t mean it’s the right tool.What would happen if classes required the students to chime in with a comment-like thread as homework? If part of the deal of hearing a lecture from someone like Fred was putting in at least as much time participating in an archived comment stream that examined the key points and demonstrated understanding–and went even further in terms of building new thoughts on those presented?First one to email Fred a business plan wins…

    1. Emily Merkle

      Seth, agreed completely.I’ve studied in two PhD programs and each had a wiki-like “community/class” chat room with sections for student to student discussion, open discussion, and both with professorial and TA input and engagement.As well, my professors would use the wiki/interface to assign readings, update class schedules, issue exams. Bye bye syllabus.Note that this is chat outside the classroom. Classroom time is/was devoted to discussion and lecture. More discussion than lecture.Not sure this requires a new application or platform. It exists.Though the opportunity is always there for optimization….

      1. ShanaC

        From a UX point of view, stuff like Chalk is terrible….

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


          1. ShanaC

            True that…

    2. leigh

      I don’t really understand why you assume that the twitter notes devalue anything else they may or may not get from the lecture. Don’t think of it as detracting and making something shallow rather as adding another dimension and a different type of context than the ones we have been traditionally used to.Really think you are missing the forest for the trees on this one.

    3. fredwilson

      there are a bunch of services that do this. we’ve looked at them. i think twitter is better because there are a couple hundred million people on it and there aren’t more than a couple hundred thousand on these note taking services

      1. Aaron Klein

        Trying to capture all of your important points in elegant 140-character spurts seems very difficult to me. To the point that I might not try.I often rewrite tweets 3-4 times before I hit send. Some people have the gift of being able to self-edit themselves down to 140 in their first thought. I can’t do that…it takes a little bit of effort.A more free-flowing form of note taking, with a simple switch flip for public or private, would be awesome.Having Twitter built into that, where the service would “suggest” tweets to pull my followers into my note stream in real time, would be insanely cool.

      2. Andrew Wong

        good point



  21. Robert Verwaayen

    Dont have a particular strong view on the topic, but it did remind me of the great PBS documentary ‘Digital Nation’ and its first chapter ‘Distracted by Everything’.This part of the documentary looks at MIT students (who are the most wired on the planet – in multiple senses) and are increasingly becoming distracted and less able to focus.For anyone interested:

    1. Emily Merkle

      props Robert for the link to PBS!support public programming!!

  22. Emily Merkle

    I could not tweet my class notes if my life depended on it – they are in my personal notational language.I use visual aids that others might see as doodles…And arrows, underlining for emphasis.

    1. fredwilson

      wow, a personal notational language. that’s cool.

    2. ShanaC

      i would love to see them.

      1. Douglas Crets

        have you all seen ?Emily’s point about visual aids made me think of this.

        1. ShanaC

          Now I have 🙂

      2. Emily Merkle

        I last took notes in a graduate class in psycho-dynamic psychology at Hunter College on the upper east side in the fall of 2009. My notes were in such a sad state I would go back to them while writing and I could not interpret them. I had not last actually written a good deal since I was studying for my PhD, then in 1999 I left school to enter the interactive space. My handwriting has atrophied, and as such those Hunter notes were quite….interesting.

        1. ShanaC

          This is why I moved to typing my notes whenever possible…

  23. Rcapece

    Point of order: somewhere along the line, investors stopped adding disclaimers/disclosures (“I am in investor in twitter.”) Please remember to do so. And now that twitter is an “official publishing medium,” the hashtag #investor should be used. After all, VCs have thousands, if not millions, of followers. Portfolio-company success is self-interested.

    1. Emily Merkle

      touche – and too true. Transparency is king.

    2. fredwilson

      this investor stopped adding disclaimers/disclosures on twitter related posts after about the 100th one on this blog. if anyone who reads this blog doesn’t know that i am an investor in twitter, they must have their head in the sand

    3. hangtime79

      Let’s talk context. We are not on SeekingAlpha and Fred isn’t a sell-side analyst. You either follow Fred on Twitter/RSS Feeds or got heer by accident. My guess is 90% of folks get here on the former. Reading Fred is like being a “qualified investor.” Fred’s stuff is not general public so as a “qualified investor” you don’t get/need the hand holding. Besides, unless you are truly a qualified investor you can’t even invest in Twitter through the secondary market which is why all of these disclosures started anyway.

      1. ShanaC

        honestly, I’ve been surprised by who stops by. While you probably shouldn’t need handholding, when I first came around, I actually was looking up terms used on a regular basis.

    4. Aaron Klein

      Respectfully, your comment is absurd. This is Fred Wilson’s personal blog. It’s up to you to take what you read with a grain of salt.Are you telling me that you rely on every writer to pedantically re-state their background over and over and over again, so that you can blindly believe everything you read on the Internet?Do your own due diligence if you feel the need to do a detailed assessment of someone else’s point of view. Here’s a few quick pointers: in the top right, it says he’s with USV. Click the link. Click Portfolio companies. Voila.Take some responsibility for yourself. The burden is on you.(I apologize in advance for the rant-like quality, but I’m just tired of reading this comment whenever someone can’t figure out how to articulate why they disagree with a post here on AVC.)

      1. kidmercury

        oh snap

  24. abe nego

    With all due respect, I think both Seth and you Fred are over reacting a little.I don’t think Seth thinks that note taking is unimportant. I do think it is an interesting use of twitter but not more so than taking notes in any other slight unconventional form.In art school I used to sketch my notes with visuals, as supposed to just write things down.The same way that say, I could text my self or email my self my own notes so I can later refer to them.I do agree that posting random statements with no context can be annoying but there is always the unfollow button there that twitter has made clear enough.

  25. csertoglu

    One negative has been that Twitter has hurt panels. Panelists get worried about getting tweeted live.

    1. fredwilson

      panels should be hurt. they are the worst. i said my piece on panels here…

      1. csertoglu

        nevertheless, provocative panels are better than sterile panels.

  26. Donna Brewington White

    Re the concern that by tweeting you’d miss more of the content since you’re focused on “composing” a tweet:If there is an agreed upon #hashtag and everyone tweeting in the class uses it, then you can search that #hashtag and probably end up with a more complete set of notes than if you’d just taken them all yourself by hand or in Word.I’ve tweeted while observing a panel discussion and also sitting in on some startup presentations — I may have missed some things, but afterward had great take-aways based on what I’d tweeted — more so than when I generally take notes. Plus, I was able to share with others which made it more enjoyable.

  27. Sam Birmingham

    There are three key elements of Seth’s decripstion

  28. Sam Birmingham

    Based on Seth’s description of the problem, I would argue that this is a case of confusing symptoms with causes:1) Context: Surely we can track trends within the stream to at least get a feel for context?2) Unknown Audience: Are they really that unknown? And even if they are, does it matter? If you follow a person then presumably you have at least one thing in common and have made a conscious decision that you want to hear what they’ve got to say.3) Information Overload: The wasted opportunity lies not in “busy people…reading hundreds of other out of context abbreviated notes at the same time” – after all, we only drown in information if our filters aren’t set correctly… The real wasted opportunity is that the information flow isn’t being filtered in order to direct our precious attention to what we should be reading, based on our interests, quality-controlled by others who share those interests, etc.The first element of Seth’s description (“tweet short sentences”) is spot on — a platform for distributing information in short form is at the heart of Twitter.Rather than lamenting the use of Twitter in this situation, we need to seize the opportunity it presents by adding more (and better) layers to the Twitter “stack”, in order to address those Context, Audience and Information Overload challenges.

    1. fredwilson

      i agree sam

      1. Sam Birmingham

        OK, so I’ve been giving this some more thought and have started wondering whether we are trying to solve the wrong problem here…Rather than thinking of Twitter as the starting point, what if Twitter is actually the destination?Think about a dam…We build a dam, it rains and eventually the dam fills with water. We can’t use all that water at once so we store it and allow only a certain amount to flow to where we need it at any one time.Now, imagine that the dam is filled with the 140 million tweets that flood Twitter every day. Obviously no one person needs to read all those tweets, so instead we follow a bunch of users and track certain hashtags… These filters are our metaphorical spillway.Remember, however, that it’s not only rain that fills a dam… Much of the water comes from elsewhere – rivers, tributaries, run off. Now I ask you: What if your tweets came from elsewhere too?Rather than focusing on the all-encompassing hub that is Twitter, shouldn’t clients be providing a raft of Twitter-inspired sharing platforms, adapted for niche audiences? Tweets on those third party platforms (twibutaries?) could still flow into Twitter Dam, but by initially focusing on a localised audience, aren’t we addressing those context and information overload problems?When I think it through, services like Yammer are providing this functionality, but in reverse – you can tag a tweet with #yam to import it to your Yammer profile. Wouldn’t it be better, though, if you were sharing the message with your Yammer network first, then pushing it to Twitter, as appropriate?Originally, I agreed when Fred suggested that “you might have a separate Twitter feed for class notes”… But now that I’ve thought about it more, perhaps we actually need to look a bit further upstream to solve the problem?From:

        1. fredwilson

          that is certainly part of the solution

  29. falicon

    I already posted most of my thoughts as a response…but had a few more quick things I just had to add to the conversation too:1. Just because you are using Twitter doesn’t mean it has to be in real time…if it’s too much of a distraction to be able to write notes 140 characters at a time, in real time…then why not just do it the old fashioned way and tweet out the highlights after class (whenever you are organizing your notes)…again I think the *real* value that Fred is getting at with this idea lies in making the notes public and useful to more than just yourself (ie. aggregation in a simple, public, and intelligent way).2. For those that say it can be a distraction…have you sat in on ANY class ever? Look around the room and tell me how many kids are actually engaged or paying attention anyway? The reality is that, even back in my day, 90% of the kids that appeared to be taking notes were just doodling…or worse, writing notes that meant nothing to them after class anyway (I still have some of my old notebooks and I can say looking over them is hilarious and completely meaningless…but maybe I’m the only horrible note taker out there?)3. Doing something the students enjoy (texting/tweeting/using smart phones) can only help to get them engaged in the material and the class…and doing it in a public way not only helps on the aggregation level (as I’ve mentioned a million times now)…but it creates a certain level of competition and public awareness that I *think* would motivate more students to try a little harder and think a little more…and really that’s not so bad in itself either…

  30. Douglas Crets

    the thing about those notes, though, is that they are going somewhere. It might be more efficient and a more worthy cause for curation to have bitly links made of notes taken on a blog. Or conversations tracked on a blog, and then tweeted out. In a case like this, I think the value of Twitter is that its offering a tracking metric for curation.Godin is right. People are less concerned with random information flying at them that seems interesting. What they want is a contextual shell around that information so that they can understand how to use it.

  31. ShanaC

    Point 1- I have in the past tweeted notes. This was before anyone in the class was using twitter, so it sort of defeated the purpose (sort of)Point two- Having done this, I do think it would be really really interesting to have a private/semiprivate twitter of the class going on in order to float questions as they are happening, and get them answered later. There is just no possible way that q/a in classes can keep up with what people are thinking.Point 3 – I never understood why there were no “class notes” in a wiki of some sort. I’ve shared notes I have digitially taken. I’ve had a professor who has asked students to create for him a master copy of the class, non-digital. Yet, there seems to be no in between point.I do think that we should be asking why we’re taking notes, and why we want a twitter version of the notes. Is it at a backup? To create a flow of questions? To create a memory of the material while you are writing? These are different goals, and honestly I don;t think we’ve really answered how to deal with any of them well through technology….

    1. Douglas Crets

      Interesting to your point two:I think we have to have a transformation of the idea of private. In thiscase, private is not something shut off from other person’s participationthrough physical means. In this case, private is something that one personunderstands and another person may not understand.Public education already suffers from this, to make a broad point. There areso many racial and class divisions that keep certain knowledge from beingeffective when given as ammunition to certain people. Information in oneperson’s hand may be useless, but in another person’s hand it may be strongand effective. This is not because the information is worthless. It isvalue-less. The context of the community gives it its meaning.Twitter can help break out of that mold, where knolwedge is held inuniversities or certain public schools, or certain class groups as if in arepository. To me it comes down to access. And breaking codes.If anyone has ever grown up poor, they know this struggle exists. Its partof the fabric of how the world appears to function.

      1. ShanaC

        I sort of agree, and sort of don’t. There are layers of privacy like an onion, and there are layers of need to know.When I was in college, I didn’t ever really need to see my friend’s notes for the major I wasn’t taking.If I were a parent of a 3rd grader, I wouldn’t mind wanting to see a twitteresque panel of q/z, but I can guarantee it wouldn’t be as important in a lot of ways to me as it is to the teacher. I wouldn’t be the teacher, I don’t need to know except in a semi-vague way about everyone else’s kid,As a member of a school district, yeah I want to make sure kids are getting educated, especially at a decent rate of pay and taxes (performance…). But I don’t need to know lots of details, I don’t have a kid in the school. I just need to know enough to make an educated decision how to vote.I do think you are right about access, there needs to be a breakdown of the wall to make sure there is access to a lot of this kind of information by young people in schools, and I do think we need to push students towards that information. Even with that, I don’t think we should push everyone towards the great blob of knowledge – it just is info overload and unnecessary for daily life.

  32. Douglas Crets

    I couldn’t comment on Seth’s blog, so I will comment here.Here is the issue: We are often surprised by news because, well, news is really the first time we hear about a specific action. But added to that is the fact that we live outside of its context.Twitter is a context delivery machine, in a way, because through lists and hashtags, it allows us to sift through and then find the context about a discussion. More interestingly, it shows that you can have, in this case, a really great lecturer, but if you use the platform to tweet out that information, you may find yourself engaging with even more great lecturers. In a way, you will find a community of context, outside of that single person delivery of information.In way, Godin and Wilson are both right. A book does give us a single idea. But in Wilson’s case, Twitter gives us the multiple touch pionts of a single idea, and shows us that within every idea are molecules of contextulizers that give it life.In the end, what do you want to engage in? Learning the idea? Or using or observing the idea as it is used?This is where I think learning in this century will transform. Learning is actually something that is more utilitarian and observable OUTSIDE a learning institution. This is my idea about how the shadow education system works. There’s already a tribe of people with great ideas, who just have to find each other to make learning happen.

  33. Rahul Deodhar

    I think the difference comes from point of view of information creator v/s information consumer. In a way, most of the information revolution was aimed at improving the life of information creator. The information consumer sort of stopped with google search engine.What we need is Infosynth (something similar to Microsoft’s Photosynth but for information). An Infosynth will read the streams of the entire class and help the information consumer make sense of the lecture.Also, notes are not about the speaker – but also about the audience’s interpretation and analysis of the speaker. Being in a twitter feed, it will give excellent insight into who actually got the idea.That gives me the idea that the next revolution will come with development of “Infosynth”. Can I copyright this? ;)As I read ShanaC’s post I thought I must add that Wikis were supposed to be InfoSynth technology. We need to automate it. InfoSynth will be an auto-created Wiki with proper attribution about contributors.

    1. ShanaC

      Thank you – I think we need to make a separation though between “stable” and “unstable” texts, which is why I like a wiki. More stable than twitter…

  34. Nic Fulton

    I did Physics. Note taking involved a lot of equations. Not quite sure how to do that in Twitter. My best friend JP pretty much never attended class (and got through his degree via my note taking and his natural capability) but would have appreciated the public nature of the notes. This is an interesting idea. I’d like a Twitter-Note-Taking-App that could quickly toggle from public through friends to private. Many of my notes are “to-self” whereas others are annotations to those who know me. Put this app into a paper/pen-like format and you’ll have me totally hooked.

    1. fredwilson

      now there’s a good reason not to use twitter alonemaybe twitter + twitpic

  35. Martin LeBlanc,

    “then you are saving them publicly, like bookmarks in delicious”It can be quite difficult to find old tweets again and it’s definitely not as easy as bookmarks in Delicious.I wouldn’t recommend sharing notes on Twitter. How about letting all student work out shared notes in Google Docs that everyone can write on like a wiki?

  36. martinowen

    Sorry I am a bit late for thisLecturing is often an abuse of learning – if detail is what you want to deliver then text is a better form of communication.Oratory can be inspiring. Michael Sandel’s lectures on Justice are truly inspiring and given by a master of the art. Sadly the guy teaching Operating System 201 often isn’t see:…Tweeting could allow more than the few who are selected to comment. Voting systems are good additions too.I am a recovering academic. I do my most intensive tweeting in a seminar/symposium scenario. The back commentary is often give wider insight and fills in some gaps with citation. Used cleverly in such systems – having a twitter wall for part of the proceedings gives the presenter useful feedback to ensure that the point is properly received and that questions are answered (hands up is deeply flawed).

  37. Nick Grossman

    My favorite public note taking app is Etherpad (acquired by google, now reimplemented at sites like and http://ietherpad.comWe use it all day long in real-time during meetings — it’s absolutely awesome. Author-specific highlight colors are the distinguishing feature between this and a google doc.My notes are scattered all over the place: twitter, tumblr, gdocs, etc. I blogged about my idea for an “Open Commonplace Book” a while back… I think there’s some of that in this idea.Recently, I’ve been using Greplin to provide search across all my stuff (suggested in the comments to my post) — it works quite well, but I haven’t fallen into a groove using it yet.

  38. Dave W Baldwin

    Did a quick read of the first responders… remember that the Tweets are yours, so if you go over 140 characters, knowing it when you start, you simply Tweet and Next Tweet.The bigger picture is the need of an assistant on your device with real AI that has become your ‘twin’ via interface and being able to link items from the text and/or course outline that gives something to go back to after the talk or someone from the outside to tweet in their opinion.Outside the box guys and gals.

  39. Matthew Crossett

    As a relative newcomer to Twitter, thinking it was simply the status update feature from Facebook for a long time (fairly annoying and mostly useless), it amazing me the spectrum of use and influence that is available by using Twitter, and here we have yet another example of what a simple tool can become when put into creative hands.I think this is a great idea and use for twitter, but only with the use of hash tags to enhance the fluidity of the posts. With this feature, it would essentially take care of the “out of context” problem, by providing a common hash tag to post these under, either a topic of the lecture of the name of the class itself, and from here a tweeter can follow the posts and look up more information where needed.great post fred,

  40. Roger Toennis

    A better technology solution than Twitter for class notes is to not take any notes. Instead take a full video of every class with your phone or laptop and rewatch and do notes later using video pause to get accurate and complete notes. This approach results I. Optimal learning and retention. Note taking of any kind At all should no longer happen in class during lectures.I apologize for rendering this “to tweet notes or not to tweet notes” discussion fully moot.Roger

  41. Aruni S. Gunasegaram

    I think twitter or emails to oneself is a great way to take notes. I know that I referred to my twitter stream when I was tweeting some notes or key ideas during sessions at sxsw interactive when I later had time to write a full blog post. I tweeted some “notes” and I emailed others to myself. Some people may be interested in what you are jotting down ‘notes’ about and some may not be and if they are not, they can just ignore those tweets. My tweeting has greatly reduced in the last year or so but events like sxsw interactive seem to be great places to be that many people are interested in knowing about what’s going on there.

  42. paramendra

    For an event like Fred Wilson at HBS, it is hard to imagine live tweeting not happening. Such are the times.

  43. Shuey

    I work for the Learning House a company that works with about 100 colleges and universities to help them take their degree programs and offer them online. We offer training in best practices an online pedagogy. We are recommending that instructors encourage twitter based note taking to make the course more interactive.We believe the trade off of attention to semi-permanent record and deep student interaction is worth it. If a student thinks it is distracting they do not have to participate.

  44. Rojae Braga

    Human beings are selfish in nature, and if there’s one thing that they all have in common – that is they LOVE TO TALK ABOUT THEMSELVES.This can also be applied to note taking. People used to take notes for personal benefits. However with the revolving world of technology, note taking can now be taken into another level. People can now share what they think is relevant for them – their notes that is, to others who could also benefit from it.I also agreed with Kevin Marshall’s point that doing something that students enjoy [tweeting] can help keep them more attentive in class. However amidst these advantages that note taking on twitter have, it is also good to ask if indeed everybody’s comfortable in broadcasting their thoughts or notes? For some, they may be. But what about for others who are not? I guess it will be better to give students a chance to choose whether to tweet their notes or not.

  45. apartmentsdirect

    I mean, a quantity of my friends & I took different classes, & I kind of don’t need to see their notes in my twitter….villas in lanzarote

  46. Nate Boyd

    The core issue here is why are people tweeting rather than paying attention? Why are people spending their time in classrooms and meetings on their phone or laptop or tablet or …?The most effective people are the ones who stay engaged, listen, and reflect. They are also the most respectful. Notes should be taken minimally and the fastest way to do that in my experience is with a pen or pencil, not tapping or texting.