Harvard referencing a tweet (a guide for students)

Undergraduates often ask “how do I cite a tweet in my work”? There is a very simple answer to this: treat it like a web page, and follow your citation system’s guidance for citing web pages. Students can also take this approach when citing material on other social networks too. A quick google search should reassure students that this advice is solid, and is common enough practice in the academic community. So this post perhaps seems redundant. Well it is and it isn’t.

Why write yet another post about this? Well obviously I now have the benefit of a copy and paste FAQ answer to send to students, so that’s good for me. More importantly there’s something lacking in most of the online guidance on citing tweets (and other material too). I’m going to step back from the question “how do you cite a tweet?” for a moment and ask the students “why are you citing tweets?”.

Why are you citing a tweet?

We can do a disservice to a student by giving them the textbook answer, the very simple formula that they can find on Google. If you’re a student reading this please stop and think about your intention in citing the tweet. What is it you’re actually doing?

There are, I think, three occasions when you might be looking to use material from Twitter in your work (or from Facebook, Instagram… let’s just agree that Twitter is a stand in now for current and future social media). Each of these three contexts leads us to a different answer on how to “cite” the tweet. So let’s look at that.

1. You are studying a data corpus made up of tweets.

OK, stop right there. If your primary work involves analysing tweets you probably aren’t actually going to  cite them as such – not in the Harvard referencing sense. I mean, you might but you probably won’t. The problem of how to cite these tweets now becomes a matter of project design. There will be ethical considerations here: does your methodology require you to anonymise the data? Well then you ain’t gonna Harvard reference that, are you? Take a look at this open access journal article by Ruth Deller to see how she reports anonymised tweets within her work.

2. You are referencing a comment made on Twitter about something important.

Someone who you think of as an interesting scholar or commentator has said something on the Internet! It could be tempting to take that tweet and build it into a literature review. Is that actually the right thing to do? It could be, but look again at what they’ve said.

Have they quoted the salient point from an article and tweeted a link? Consider this tweet from academic Will Brooker:

Well this is depressing – women have to be 2.5 times more ‘productive’ than men to get funding http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2014/apr/15/sexism-disadvantage-women-academics

Although he gives you a headline stat, you wouldn’t quote and cite this tweet. The more appropriate step to take is to go to the article and read it yourself, then quote from it and cite that.

Have they made a comment that they expand upon elsewhere (and in more than 140 characters?). You should follow that up.

Are you 100% sure about the context in which their comment was made? Twitter is conversational, and conversation can take lots of interesting turns. Sarcasm, satire, jokes and retorts are all common and may need to be taken into account. Never forget that while some tweets are curated and published, others are merely snippets of chat that you’re eavesdropping on.

3. You actually are quoting something written on Twitter.

The tweet stands. It is a perfect and self-contained moment. It doesn’t relate to another article where the thought is developed fully. It is truly indicative of the thing that you need to evidence. And it’s not part of your primary research. OK, that’s cool. Go cite it.

How to cite the tweet

As I said at the top of the page: treat it as a webpage, and follow your citation system. In Harvard you’re going to use author and date when you cite and then put the full reference into your bibliography. It won’t need to be separated out into another separate bibliography, it will just be there with all the books and articles, sorted alphabetically by author name – and by author name I mean their name, not their Twitter handle.

So, for example if I were to write:

Website statistics such as those offered by Harte (2011) suggest that it is the relatively banal information that is most useful to hyperlocal audiences.

I would then put something like this in my bibliography:

Harte, D. (2011) My Bournville blog nearing its busiest day ever (3000 visits; usual 250). Combined power of ‘when is Tesco open’ and ‘when are the carols’ [Online]. Twitter. 24th December. Available: https://twitter.com/#!/daveharte/status/150631576189931520 [Accessed 3/1/12].

Note here: Dave never published a blog post about this, this was the only moment when he shared that data, and it does make a nice point. So it is in the third category of tweets in my list above. Also note that were I to quote an organisational Twitter account, I’d use an organisational author – so @bbcnews would be BBC News.

Remember: consistency

There are lots of web pages out there telling you how to cite social media content, and that’s great. However, there are differences in the way authors and institutions apply the rules of Harvard referencing. The reference I’ve put above was generated for me by EndNote, and every webpage in my EndNote database will inherit the same format. If you’re writing these by hand there’s the danger that you’ll take the template for the reference from a website that doesn’t match the rest of your formatting. Just remember: you’re citing this as a webpage, so be consistent with the way in which you are recording all the other webpages in your bibliography.

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I heart Triage: Email First Aid

Photo on 21-05-2013 at 15.03

I’ve just got back to work after paternity leave and I blasted my inbox to zero this morning thanks partly to a nifty app for iPhone called Triage.

The idea behind this app is that you can snack at your emails and nibble them down a bit between proper email sessions; GTD purists will hate what Triage does but I’ve found it a nifty little booster. Whilst I was on leave I had plenty of time sat down with free moments and Triage allowed me to pop into email, read the headlines, bin stuff I wouldn’t need and then move on. It kept me on top of things and meant that today all I was left with was stuff that needed to be actioned. I like that.

I’ve also realised that this is what mobile phone email should be about: I shouldn’t be composing complicated messages on the phone, I should be sneaking a peak, completing small actions if they don’t take more than a few seconds and then deferring everything else to a more appropriate context. For me this is the email app that should have been built into iOS and so it’s now on my phone’s dock with mobile Mac Mail sent off into a folder hinterland.

It costs a few quid and it’s pretty as hell. Go get it.

Hat tip to Pete Ashton for the recommendation.


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#altnational – a thank you

Last week I floated an idea about making charitable donations instead of Grand National bets, and then I set up a thing to do just that.

I was hoping to raise £50, and I ended up raising the limit throughout the day. We ended up with just short of £230 plus Gift Aid donations of £50.

I was hoping for a dozen folk to give £2, instead 3o people contributed, and the donations were much higher. In retrospect the first few donations may have set the tone a little – perhaps if the first bids were lower we’d have had many more donations that were lower, but I can’t know for sure. Either way I’m really pleased and a little surprised by the support the idea got and by the generosity of you all.

The charity that we chose works with retired horses and with children and was suggested by a work colleague. The Just Giving page tells you more about them if you want to learn more about their work.

Although the £250 target was totally arbitrary, it would be ace to get some more donations to take us over that line. If you know anyone riding high with their takings off the 66/1 winner ask them to consider making a donation.

Thanks again for your support. And no, I don’t think I’ll do this again next year, I don’t want to get caught up in doing a “thing” so if anyone wants to take up the idea please be my guest and I’ll have a flutter with you next year. x

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update: #altnational

Earlier I put a blog post up with an idea to do something positive and useful with my general and growing dislike of the Grand National. A number of people gave me some nice feedback on Twitter along the lines of “that’s a good idea” and “yeah I was thinking about that”.

Simon Gray signed off on a name (we tried some puns around totes, and gambling but they didn’t stick so we’ve ended up with): #altnational. It’s not that original but it does the job.

Shona McQuillan helped me choose a charity: I wanted something with racehorses, education and Just Giving enabled so I’ve gone for Greatwood. Cheers Shona!

And now, it’s a real thing: #altnational on Just Giving.

So, if you’re with me this far here are some things I’d like you to do, if that’s OK…

How it all works

  1. Go to the Just Giving page and donate the sort of money you might have put on a horse in the Grand National
  2. Please Facebook and Tweet your “bet”, some suggested text:
    “Just made a bet I can’t lose – I’ve donated to charity instead of betting on the #grandnational http://www.justgiving.com/altnational #altnational

Trios, accumulators and other fancy bets

If you prefer a different charity then go ahead and do that – the important bit is the principle of donating your gambling stake and telling people about it.

Jon Bounds had an idea about running an “alternative sweepstake” where we’d draw the name of one of the people who do this out of a hat, and they get a winner takes it all prize. I’d still like to do that. If you can donate a prize, please let me know.


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ifttt and twitter – rumours of death exaggerated

My friend’s Dad once, apparently, said:

You can’t fit six people in that car, even with your stripy trousers on

I doubt it ever really happened but it stuck and it became a catchphrase amongst us, a hyperlocal meme for the kids of the Prins Estate. He was right, of course, you couldn’t get six people in that car (regardless of your sartorial turn out) because it lacked the requisite amount of seat belts and it would be unsafe to do so. Or was he? It turned out you could – the car was physically able to contain six teenagers and many pairs of patterned pantaloons. And so we did it. Don’t judge, it was the 90s, social values were different then.

Nowadays people say to me:

Yeah you can’t use Twitter and IFTTT anymore

Which is a far less amusing catchphrase, and serves as something of a metaphor for the changes in my life over the past seventeen years. And just like the advice we were given then, it’s partly true but I ain’t going to let it stop me.

There are major changes in the way IFTTT can work with Twitter, that is true. The thing is there are loads of things you can still do that might be useful so stop asking if there are enough seat belts and start asking how much fun it will be to all squash up in the back and sing Oasis songs.

One of the things I was told would not work uh uh no no how was using IFTTT to collect an archive of tweets. Yeah, that works. In the research centre we collect tweets tagged #bcmcr  and save them into a Google Drive spreadsheet. Here’s the recipe, it still works. It works because I use RSS as a trigger, not the Twitter channels that used to exist in IFTTT (which are, per the rumours, dead). Remember kids: Google Reader is dying, but RSS lives!

Autotweets, another popular IFTTT use case, are still possible and again can be based on RSS triggers.  Today m’learned friend Jon Bounds put together a neat little activist recipe that does just that.

So, pop on your stripy trousers, turn up the car stereo, keep calm and carry on using Twitter and IFTTT.

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Tote Amazeballs – a half baked idea for tomorrow

Ok, so I have a half-baked idea and you might be able to help before I actually throw it together.

When I was a lad we always used to have a flutter on Grand National Day. I’ve not done that for a long time now. I’ve become increasingly uneasy with the idea of the Grand National with each passing year to the point where I’m a bit said that I ever took the pound my Mum gave me and chose a horse. The debate around this race and racing in general seems to be picking up too, or maybe I’m just tuned into it now.

Anyway, what I’m thinking is this:

  • Tomorrow I’m going to give a donation to a horse sanctuary – it’s my own each-way bet on the nags, and I think I’ve picked  a winner
  • I thought “if I tweet about that other people might too”
  • I then thought “I could set up a Just Giving Page for it”
  • I then mentioned it to some friends and the idea of a sweepstake emerged, so we could give a prize to one person who donates

Is this a good idea? I dunno. I’ll do a donation anyway. Here are my questions:

  • Does this make sense?
  • Is it useful?
  • What shall we call it?
  • Who can offer a prize?
    • Prize idea 1: a “vintage” Totopoly set from someone’s loft
    • Prize idea 2: a case of booze from a booze brand who wants to do something guerilla to spoiler John Smith’s sponsorship of the event.

Let me know, and I’ll do WHATEVER YOU SAY

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How big is a hyperlocal patch? My final word on the size of a hyperlocale

Over the summer I wrote some pieces regarding the scale at which hyperlocal media production might operate. It involved talking about postcodes, more postcodes and US cable TV and its broadcast footprints. Beyond that, I’ve been reading articles that claim all manner of sizes and shapes for hyperlocal media – up to and including whole US states – and I’ve distilled it all down to this, the cut and keep “how big is a hyperlocal patch?” definition:

Hyperlocal media can be plotted within a macro-organisational scale that describes media-space relations. It sits beneath local media in this scale and is bound to an area (which I call a hyperlocale) that ranges downwards from a UK postcode district. This gives an upper population for a hyperlocale of 22,500 people, though realistically many hyperlocales serve much smaller populations. There is a strand of the literature on hyperlocal media that is concerned with the manner in which many hyperlocales can be represented together within an aggregated service that covers a locality, region, and nation (or a US state). Such services can be described as hyperlocal media, but researchers should be aware of the distinction between the hyperlocale and the overall hyperlocal media service.

Of course, the size of a hyperlocale is one thing, but it’s nowhere near defining what hyperlocal media is.

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Unfamiliar Tools

So, last week I presented my 2nd year new media class with unfamiliar tools in the hope that they would think more deeply about their practice. We aimed to produce a publication that fills the gap left by the lack of an SU campus magazine.

Here’s some quick notes about what they (and I) made of the typewriter and what they did to overcome the limits of their tools:

  1. You need to think before you type. We’re all wired into the idea of having a delete key and of editing after we type. The typewriter doesn’t work like that.
  2. Press harder. Damn you need to push these keys hard. That makes typing quite tiring and makes things take longer generally to do.
  3. We have one typewriter, that’s a production bottleneck  when there are 8 of us trying to work. We need to do something else.
  4. Collage offers a solution: other people’s type is clear and easy to read, we can use that. Immediately after we started two students left the room and raided the SU for leaflets. These happened to offer us lots of clear headline text that suited our own subject matter (the university, the culture of the campus). This also added some subversion to our final piece: we are using the SU’s own publications in our reconstruction of a campus magazine.
  5. A logo: in another act of subversion, the students decided on a name that references the name of the old SU magazine Spaghetti Junction. The students called their publication Alphabetti Spaghetti. A logo was constructed using alphabetti spaghetti which was mounted onto acetate and photocopied to create a photographic image that can be mounted onto all editions.
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MED5008: a manifesto.

The Manifesto

For five weeks my second year students are banned from using the Internet in their new media class. Above is our production manifesto for the first half of the term. What follows is an explanation.

Histories of alternative media* often link the arrival of new technologies with surges of alternative media production. The thinking goes like this: newer technologies reduce economic barriers to entry and afford the opportunity for more democratic access to the tools of media production. So as it gets easier (cheaper) to produce and distribute media texts, media production can be used by more groups. Through this widening of participation new forms can emerge, new stories can be told and we can even, just maybe, start to break down some of that good old fashioned mainstream media hegemony.

The module MED5008 asks second year students to consider the relationship between new media and alternative media production. In the context of the degree programme the students have acquired a number of (web design) skills in year one, and in year two we provide a number of different contexts in which they can apply those skills and learn more about them.

In the past students on this module have focused on platforms and failed to think about messages or communities. We have explained the history of alternative media to them, told them that perhaps their job is to enable people to tell stories rather than to tell stories for people, and that we will not judge their work by mainstream “professional standards” of craft skills. We can do all of those things and yet be presented with conventionally beautiful and technically solid artefacts that do not engage with anything beyond the idea of being a web designer.

Last year as part of Stories & Streams we sought to break this through a different structure. We (Jennifer Jones & I) looked at this as an issue of consumption of education towards the attainment of professional competencies (we have a chapter with Paul Bradshaw on this forthcoming, email me if you want a copy). Stories & Streams was very successful in achieving its aims with journalism students but we still felt there was something missing in the way we delivered this to those on the web & alternative media module.

This year I still hope my students will work with the online journalism class who are being taught through the Stories & Streams methodology but I have separated them from that activity for now – we may drop in later to make some interventions or to work with some of the data they are producing.

What are we doing instead?

To stop students from seeing alternative media as banal and obvious, and producing work with the same qualities, I’ve asked them to produce media to engage a community using unfamiliar tools. Those tools are: a typewriter, a photocopier, scissors and glue.

Through ongoing reflection of this practice – essentially along action research lines – I hope to open their thinking up to allow them to produce much more thoughtful work once they are given back their access to digital tools in Week 7.

Can we build a community and have a discussion through media practice using just paper and glue? What can we make within narrow limits? How had can we push the kit to achieve our goals? How can we hack the tools and hack the system to get where we want to go? And what can we take from that experience and pour back into the familiar world of our known area of practice?

* The definition thing: it’s complicated but basically alternative media might include things like community media, activist media, radical media… it covers a lot.

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Twitter / Profile / REF / Engagement

I’m filling out a form that is being used to capture some information for our REF narrative. Part of that is about my online profile, and part of that asks me to describe how I use Twitter. So this has all led me to distil a few things that I’ve always said about Twitter as follows:

I am active on Twitter, and my feed is a mixture of discussion on my own work and the work of the school, engagement in debates related to our knowledge and research, stupid jokes, swearing, speaking my mind on issues of which I have no expertise and talking about lunch. I believe you need to do all of these things to make Twitter useful.

[this isn't a criticism of the form and the people getting it will not be in the least bit surprised to read those words - I just wanted to share it, apropos of nothing].

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