Andyasks , and Hopes for Answers

I’ve been told by a few people that if I want to really understand the power of the microblogging utility Twitter (which I wrote about here and here ) I need to use it more broadly. Up to now I’ve ‘tweeted’ almost exclusively about IT and Enterprise 2.0. I also use the utility to respond to other people’s tweets, and during baseball season (a happy time that seems as far away as Saturn right now) I use it to shoot my mouth off about my beloved Red Sox, but that’s about it.

I don’t use Twitter to tell the world about my day, my feelings, my quotidian vexations and triumphs, traffic conditions, the song that I’m listening to at the moment, etc. And I don’t really want to start. I’ve been told by credible sources, however, that the more you give with Twitter the more you get, and it’s a possibility I want to explore. It’s clear that it wouldn’t take much effort to tweet more; it just hasn’t been clear yet to me what more I should be tweeting about.

And then I remembered that one of my favorite things to do with a group of people, whether or not I know them well, is to ask a question and get everyone to answer it in turn. I always learn a lot, both about the topic and the folk involved, and the exercise usually sparks some lively conversations. People’s explanations for their answers are very often as interesting, if not more so, than the answers themselves. And very often answers lead to good follow-on questions, and the interplay can go on for a while.

I’ve used Twitter a few times already to ask questions, and have been greatly impressed with both the quality and quantity of answers. I was going to have my first TV appearance last Friday (so as not to jinx it I’ll wait until the segment is officially scheduled to air before saying anything more) and, in a panic, asked the Twitterverse for tips on how to avoid screwing it up. I got a lot of valuable advice back very quickly, and tried to incorporate it (I did not, however, follow Lewis Shepherd‘s advice to swear up a storm like the Sex Pistols did in 1976 ).

So I’m combining my penchant for asking questions with my desire to learn more about Twitter, yielding a tremendously exciting 😉 new initiative called "andyasks". I’ll tweet at least one question a day, and people can reply with their answers. In best E2.0 style, the community that forms atop andyasks, and in fact atop each separate question, will be self-organizing. I also it want to be freeform, and so am putting no ground rules or guidelines in place up front; we’ll see if there’s a need for them over time.

If you’re interested in participating, simply follow me —  "@amcafee" —  on Twitter and reply to questions if and whenever you feel like it.

I also want to learn more about hashtags, the lightweight add-on to Twitter that lets us categorize our tweets. So I’ll tag all of my questions with the #andyasks hashtag, and ask all respondents to do the same (participants in andyasks will also need to follow the Twitter user "hashtags" ). This will let everyone track all questions and responses over time by typing "andyasks" into the search box at hashtags.org . If there’s a better way to organize this initiative, please leave a comment and let us know —  as I said, I’m still largely a Twitter newbie, and am eager to be educated.

I have no clear idea what I’ll ask about over time. I’ll try to make andyasks questions varied, and of broad interest. I know that they’ll reflect my interests, which include good writing of all kinds, movies, modern American culture (OK, pop culture), the arts of living well, baseball, technology, and whatever catches my eye in the paper and online.

I imagine that most questions will be lighthearted; there’s more than enough somber material floating around the ether these days. And there will rarely if ever be right vs. wrong answers. This is not intended to be a trivia contest (in the age of Google, how much sport would there be in an online trivia contest?).

I hope you’ll find andyasks to be fun and engaging, and I hope you’ll frequently take the few seconds required to fire off an answer. Leave a comment here if you have any questions or feedback about it.