The Geospatial, Mapping, GIS Community On Twitter: Why & How You Should Join The Conversation

The geospatial community is beginning to embrace use of new communications tools among itself and with the general public. One such tool is Twitter, the hot social media tool, which bills itself as a “micro-blogging” service. The question most have is first, “why should you care” and secondly, “how can you get in on this new communications method?”

What is Twitter?  Where did it come from?
twitter.pngBack in 2006, as a small start-up, launched as a way to send SMS text messages (of 140 characters or less) to a group of your friends in an easy manner, and was mostly used by tech savvy professionals. However, due to its ease of use and being a quick method of distributing information, growth of the service has exploded. After three years, it has become a mainstream communication tool used by professionals, celebrities, new outlets, companies, and more. You now regularly see Twitter “feeds” (embedded threads of recent Twitter messages) on many websites; individuals at meetings and tradeshows sending “tweets” (short term for Twitter Messages) from their mobile phones, and continual pleas from news outlets to “follow” (Twitter term for subscribing) their messages posted on Twitter.

How are Geogeeks using Twitter?
In the last year or two, increased activity by the geospatial/mapping/GIS sphere has began to show the usefulness of Twitter by those interested in geo.  There are a number of possible uses cases and many in the Geo community are already proving Twitter’s usefulness.  For instance you can:

  • Stay on top of the latest & greatest Geo technology, news, & happenings.
  • Learn new ways of doing your job more efficiently, better, & in new ways.
  • Coordinate with fellow geospatial users; for instance: data projects or best practice discussions.
  • Network with & form relationships with other geo people like you.

An Example from NSGIC 2009 Conference

A perfect example of Twitter’s usefulness was the “conference feed” created for the National States Geographic Information Council (NSGIC) conference held in October 2009.  The conference organizers’ encouraged Twitter conversation for the event and asked attendees to tweet using the hashtag “#nsgic2009”. (“Hashtags” are special words prefixed with a “#”. Users include these in their tweets to make searching Twitter for specific topics easier.)  From this, a collection of existing Twitter users (and some who joined during the conference) discussed presentations and hot topics, networked online and then in person, and created a live record of the conference’s key events.  If it was not for Twitter, such interaction would have not taken place and opportunities coming out of that communication would have been lost.

Twitter.jpgHow can I try Twitter out?
Twitter is a free service in which you can have as much or as little involvement as you choose.  Set-up is rather easy, but it is suggested you have a set aside amount of time to get up started properly.  Here is a quick and guide to getting up and running.

  1. Go to and find the “Register” button.
  2. Create a Twitter user ID. This will become your primary handle on the system, so choose wisely. You’ll also be asked to input a password.
  3. If not already, login with your credentials and first edit your “Account Settings.” Be sure you include a brief profile regarding your interests and a weblink to your website.
  4. Then, go to the “Find People” section to find others who are already posting comments on topics of your interest.  You can search for anyone you know is on the system, import friends from a service (like Gmail, Yahoo, or AOL), invite friends via email, or review Twitter’s suggested user list.  (Below we’ll share some geospatial Twitter users you may also want to search for.)
  5. Go back to your Twitter “Home” page to see all of the messages of users who you just followed.
  6. Since half of the value of Twitter is two-way communication, read this article on how to “reply” using the Twitter protocol “@”.
  7. Finally, build your network, meet other Geogeeks, and learn new stuff!

Who should I follow?  What Geospatial Users are on Twitter?
There are a collection of insightful Twitter users who are posting information regarding geospatial topics. An easy way to get started is by using Twitter’s “Lists” feature. This feature lets existing Twitter users create predefined lists of users and sort them into topic areas they choose. It makes finding people you may want to follow easy. Click the links below to be taken to lists created by Twitter users in Geo. When browsing, you can then easily follow any (or all) of the users in their categorized lists using the buttons displayed on-screen. 

Are you ready? Join the Conversation!
Twitter is a unique service which allows users interested in Geospatial, or any topic, to communicate in fast, fluid, and useful way.  Join Twitter today and join the club. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be happy you did. 

What is stopping you?  You already have a friend on Twitter.  Just follow @AerialServices and let us know you are on board.  We’ll tweet with you then!

References & Links:

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