A stranger’s just a tweep you haven’t met.

This overdue post comes after my first elluminate session, and my first youtube posting of a presentation.  My… how far I’ve come into my digital self over the last two months!

I had the strangest experience this weekend at Learning 2.010 in Shanghai.  For the first time I took my digital self into the analogue world to meet people I had only known peripherally through Twitter.  Actually, I realize that with my mere 668 tweets to their 5720 (@klbeasley), 19320 (@intrepidteacher), and 45604 (@courosa), I know them a lot better than they know me.  A few things came up for me during this first crossover experience, and as I move further into the digital world, I thought it would be neat to record my thoughts on this journey for posterity.

A travel journal of the crossing of the digital/analogue divide

So I walked into Big Bamboo, ordered myself a beer, and sat back to survey the room.  The sports bar, normally filled with tables of expats there to watch the game or play a bit of pool, was packed with teachers.  I have a friend who can tell someone’s occupation at a glance; these folks would look like teachers in the dark.  I was immediately heartened that I had found the right place and would hopefully be able to connect with some of the folks that I know through tidbits of thought, cool links, and interesting apps.  A walk around the pub didn’t present any identifiable tweeps, but I was sure if I sat in one place, they would be sure to find me.  I sat for a bit, but quickly realized that my usual engaging self was cowering somewhere in the corner as I looked around at this sea of un-e-dentifiable faces.

Do I know that person?  Gee, those avatars sure are small, when you think about it.  Wait, do I even remember that person’s name?  Do I remember their @name?  Can you call someone by their @name?  Do we really have anything to talk about?  Hold on a minute…

As people floated by me in the pub I found that I met their eye less and less, staring into my pint that was emptying at an alarming rate.  I was in trouble, so I booked it back to Puxi (West Shanghai), and went to a house party with a friend.

At this house party I was again surrounded by a group of teachers, but this time not only was I introduced by a real-live person, but I also had my ukulele.  It always makes me feel more confident.  People can’t help but smile when there’s music being created.

After the reassurance that I could indeed meet new people, even if they were teachers, I woke up the next day even more determined to make it to the conference before everyone had dispersed for the day.  I wanted to meet my first tweeple, and I had spent the day with my confidence being bolstered by @plind, a trusted source who had “boldly gone before” me in traversing the analogue-digital divide.  She also linked me to @intrepidteacher for a post to validate my feelings of disorientation at avatars and digital representations of self.

By the time I arrived at the conference, my digital self was ready to present. I arrived before the end of the last sessions, and waited in the conference hall, eyes peeled for those tiny little digital faces to appear.  Perhaps if I caught sight of people from far away it would make it easier.  As people started filtering into the room, I began to feel uncomfortable again.  I began writing about my feelings of frustration from the day before as a way to occupy my twitching mind.

Then it happened… I looked up and saw @intrepidteacher across the room!  Nervous, but certain in my resolve I walked over to where he was having a conversation with someone and politely waited to say hello.  In the meantime, up walked @klbeasley!  This was my first digital/analogue handshake and she quickly introduced me as @onepercentyello, @plind’s little sister.  Some things about being the younger sister never change.  I also had the fine opportunity to meet @courosa, one of the first people I followed, and @mscofino who I watched across the firewall in the K-12 online conference pre-note for 2009.  (Oh, how many times I tried to get that whole video to play!  Firewalls suck!)  I even got to meet @jutecht, the organizer of the conference and legendary web presence.  Finally, as with any great gathering I met a whole host of new friends: @betchaboy, @chamada, @dearlibrariann, @melindaalford and a Noice chick that I can’t find her @name at the moment! (@lissgriffin)

And this time I had my ukulele as well, and the musical meanderings continued with @klbeasley’s amazing soprano.

Since this conference I have found my twitter use increasing at an alarming rate.  Even my sister, @plind sent me a #bigsistweet, knowing it was late in China and I was still chatting with tweeps worldwide.  What’s more is that I have deepened my understanding of these tiny squares of faces and their 140 characters.  And through that deepening connection, I have come to meet additional analogue and digital friends like @drgarcia and @amichetti who introduced me to @savasavasava.  Of course the connection does not stop there, though for the sake of coherence, this post really must.

So, next time there’s a tweetup anywhere in your viscinity, take the unique opportunity to meld your personalities.  You can even use @betchaboy’s idea and wear your @name on your t-shirt for easy identification.


12 Responses to “A stranger’s just a tweep you haven’t met.”

  1. Great post. It has been a pleasure to meet you and I look forward to everything we will do together in the future. Awesome picture by the way!

    (Why are my links dead? Just curious.)

  2. What a wonderful description of crossing the analog/digital divide! It was a great experience sitting around that night at the outside table at the bar, listening to you and @klbeasley singing together… you guys really should record something, it sounded wonderful! It was truly a moment in time that I don’t think I will ever forget!
    Great post, great memories, thanks for writing it!

  3. Wow! Not only do you have a great singing voice, but your written ‘voice’ is equally amazing. I know exactly how you felt walking up to people you feel you know, but don’t know!

    That conference gave me the opportunity to turn some virtual friends into real-life friends, and I am always grateful for that.

    I had the best night that night, singing away and chatting about life. Like Chris, it’s a night I will not forget!

    I love our post-Shanghai international band too! Recording with people in 3 different countries blows my mind!

    Thanks for your kind words, your initiative in starting the recording with indabamusic, and for being brave enough to walk up to strangers with a ukulele in hand.

    Keri-Lee 🙂

  4. Of all the memories of a fantastic conference, the most vivid of the bunch include a ukelele and a chorus: either at the Chinese banquet that we ‘crashed’ or our DIY karaoke afterwards.

    I’m glad you took the plunge. Our lives are all richer because of it.

    (And the niiiiiice girl of whom you speak is @lissgriffin!)

  5. It was great and I wasn’t a tweep when I was in Shanghai. Now I twitter daily. Converted. I enjoyed watching all the virtual friends meeting face to face. I did things backwards, met this quality gang in person then started following everyone on twitter. Amazing bunch to start with too. I follow you too! I really enjoyed this post and will watch your blog.
    I tweet, therefore I am (a better teacher). Hmmm, I might put that in my twitter bio.

  6. onepercentyellow Says:

    Oh, look at this fine gathering of people here on my blog! You guys are fantastic. I have fixed the links, I think. Thanks for the heads up on that. And I will have some sweet footage for you soon, Jabiz. I’m working on a music video with a friend who’s visiting as well! So many projects on the go. How exciting.

  7. Reading this post and the subsequent comments makes me realize how real these online spaces can be. Loose connections that were made months ago online and strengthened in person are now being tended to here, in this space, on this screen, in this little corner of cyber-space and that is great.

    This is not a “real” world versus “virtual” life, this is people simply building relationships. This is what the power of the web is all about. It is this synergy that I want to share with my students.

    We will continue to create music together, help each other professional, vacation together personally, and know that we have like minded people scattered throughout the globe.

    I don’t want to get overly sentimental, but thanks guys. I really appreciate your presence in my (not network) life.

  8. That first moment of introduction is always the hardest, I find. At conferences years ago, no one ever began a conversation saying, “Hey, I know you. I follow you on Twitter!” However, now it is very common. Though I’ve attempted that conversation-opener a few times only to receive the response, “Oh, okay. And who are you?” Ouch. Sounds to me like you found the right group of peeps, Leslie. Well, I know you found the right group of peeps… but I might be a bit biased. 🙂 However, I think there’s some evidence in the comments above, too…

    Thanks for taking the time to reflect on all of this. Many people would have just not gone back that 2nd night… but I’m so glad you did!

  9. I wish I’d been able to witness your ukulele talents at the conference. 🙂

  10. […] Leslie was one of those random, (I mean random in the best use of the word), connections who had  joined our newly formed  cohort. For the sake of brevity, I will let her tell you the story from her point of view. She does a great job of writing about it here. […]

  11. […] a variety of people worldwide. School kids in Canada, a variety of online interviews, and of course face-to-face connections. I have been accepted to present at the 21st Century Learning Conference in Hong Kong, and I am […]

  12. sweet. thanks for mentioning my comment in sjphipps’s post in the eci831 webinar. it led me back and then on to this. Internet and hyperlinks are wonderful things.

    I soooo had that feeling of when I walked into a pub to meet a tweep. I told my husband that it’s a guy with two kids and of course as soon as I said that, it felt even weirder. And as you said -geez those avatars are tiny! Still, it all went very well. He was there with his wife and 2 kids so all good.

    Maybe one day we will get to meet face-to-face and who knows, you might even have your uke with you. ha!


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