Sunday, September 09, 2012

I heard it through the grapevine (Musings on transfusion professionals & Twitter)

Significant additions in green below: 12 September, 2012
'What is Twitter and why should I care'
'Examples of fun ways to use Twitter at a conference'
This month's blog is about an item on my wish list:
  • That more transfusion professionals get involved with social media, specifically with Twitter
It's not a request for professionals to join Facebook (which many already have for personal reasons), as FB is too into selling its users to advertisers. I'm not a fan of FB as those who read my tweets will know, as shown by this blog:
The blog's title is from a great pub song by Creedence Clearwater Revival, I heard it through the grapevine.

I'm a Twitter fan and currently have multiple accounts, including
@transfusionnews | @bogeywheels | @eurofutball 
More specifically, the blog is a plea for transfusion service entities* to create a twitter account to share news, initiatives, innovations, thoughts about anything transfusion-related.
* Laboratories - individual or regional labs, preferably the former
* Canada's provincial blood offices or equivalent
* Transfusion professionals (docs, nurses, technologists, recruiters, you name it)
Twitter, created by the guys who created blogger, functions as a grapevine and is a great way, perhaps the best way, to learn quickly about 'what's happening'. For example:
  • Watching the recent Republican and Democratic conventions on television was a blast, significantly enhanced by following tweets in real time on Twitter. I've interacted with journalists from the CBC, Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Star and and others I'd never talk to in real life. 
  • When my favorite UK Premier League team Chelsea plays, it's great fun to participate via Twitter. I'm exposed to many opinions and learn much about the niceties of football (soccer in NA). Reading the tweets of players adds another dimension.
  • Those followed with @transfusionnews regularly post health, laboratory, and transfusion news I'm interested in, and often before it appears in local papers. 
If you're a news junkie, as I am, Twitter cannot be beat. As Number 5 from the movie Short Circuit said, Input, more input! 

See Twitter's creator describe its beginning and many uses on TED.

Consider the possibilities for transfusion medicine. I'd love to learn in real time (or close to it)
  • Current issues and concerns in local, regional, national, and international  transfusion services, unfiltered by the powers that be 
  • What's on the minds of transfusion leaders and trench workers around the globe
And in the process, participate in the extended interactive conversations that Twitter facilitates.

The medium allows people to network beyond their normal social and professional spheres. It's an effective way to connect with people who share your interests.

Similarly, professionals can alert others to web and other resources that can be shared. See my favorite sharing pic.

Yes, I know, 140 characters is limiting. But it's amazing how the need for brevity focuses the mind. And you can always link to photos and existing web-based resources.

If you're into censoring staff and worried about your corporate image, Twitter is probably not for you, at least not without spending time and effort to filter posts through the corporate mindset.

But why not be loosey-goosey, instead of anal-retentive, and credit staff with judgement? 
  • All it takes is to develop a few guidelines on what can be posted without being vetted. 
  • If staff make life and death decisions, surely they can tweet about a technical or clinical problem or ask for advice on what others do or share a resource without corporate approval. 
Many Internet-based  resources exist to help us in our work, inc. e-mail, mailing lists, and web-based forums. Twitter is another that currently is under-used.


Will Twitter be adopted by transfusion professionals anytime soon? I doubt it. Obstacles are many, including
  • Internet skills and fears of some (not all) transfusion professionals;
  • Over-arching control by organizations that want to control an employee's every move;
  • Twitter, a newcomer to social media, is not yet widely adopted by all those who initially embraced Facebook;
  • Belief that social media is fluff, not serious;
  • Elitist tendency to debunk anything that is not evidence based and preferably proven by a RCT;
  • Reluctance to participate, based on view that participating is not worthwhile and has a poor ROI (return on investment);
  • Too busy, the current all-purpose excuse for not doing anything (even continuing education) beyond meeting basic job duties.
It's easy to join Twitter. You can lurk (as most do on mailing lists) and participate as the mood strikes. 

Please consider giving it a try. For those unfamiliar with Twitter (added 12 Sept. 2012):

What is Twitter and why should I care?
In brief, Twitter is a service (mini-blog) to post text messages of 140 characters or less and share information with many people. The idea is to create groups of people ("followers") who are interested in a given topic, indeed any topic, whether it be politics, football, or transfusion medicine.
Message can be just text or include one or more links to websites. You can also add an image.
You can read the posts of Twitter users without joining but you need to know their Twitter names or addresses, e.g., @transfusionnews (
The way to use Twitter effectively is to create an account and "follow" your favorite users for the latest news of interest.
How Twitter works: Your messages (if you make any) - called tweets - show up on your main Twitter page ('profile' or home page). If other users, (nicknamed tweeps) "follow" you by clicking the Follow button on your page, your messages will show up on their home pages.
Conversely, if you "follow" another user, their messages show up on your page. That way, when you login to your Twitter page, you can see tweets from many users at once. You only follow those who post things you're interested in, and you can un-follow someone at any time.
The way to group messages on a given topic, and allow people to find them, is to place a hashtag (#) directly before relevant keyword or topic. For example, you could use #transfusion to help others find transfusion-related posts:
Interesting case study on a student error in a #transfusion service lab resulting in a hemolytic reaction and death
Examples of fun ways to use Twitter at a conference:

  • If it had existed at the 2002 ISBT World Congress in Vancouver: I'd have loved to tweet on which exhibitors had the best hot hors d'oeuvres or where the best inexpensive breakfast could be found at a diner near the convention centre.
  • Exhibitors could tweet on the freebees they offered at their booths, the kind of loot that rabble like me like to gather as mementos.  Maybe it could stimulate even better swag to be on offer?
  • The hashtag #nobgnosh could be used to identify in real time which 'notable nobs' were lining up with which exhibitors and where for the ubiquitous free dinners for clients and which restaurants were on offer. Hmmm. Who did I know well enough to I tag long with? Did I want to gnosh Chinese, Italian, or East Indian and with whom? Choices, choices....
  • Those of us arriving late for the first sessions of the morning (hey, it happens) could be helped if those inside sessions could tweet on which talks still had seats available. As someone unable to stand in one place for long, this would be a godsend. 
  • Would be fun to tweet in real time about a speaker's presentation. The talk and speaker could be exemplary, but here's an example of another type seen all too often at major conferences, e.g., for hypothetical Speaker "A', a way to keep awake: 
  • OMG. He's reading every word on his PPT slides and the bullets are complete sentences. 
  • Never saw so many words on a slide before. LOL 
  • Can't believe he just said, 'I apologize for this slide. I know it's hard to read.'
  • That's the 18th time he's said, "Okay" softly under his breath and still 20 mins. to go. Only 10 "ums' so far. Ringing bells!
  • Would be neat if in a central area or two, there could be large screens with relevant tweets for all to read, e.g., last minute change of venue, which local tours are still open. The possibilities are endless.
More and more people and organizations use Twitter, which only started in 2006 and now has 100s of millions of users. Even diplomats do it: Twiplomacy 

To discover more on Twitter and how to sign up, search for "how to use twitter".

Enjoy these songs, circa 1970, from legends of the era:
Love Tina's version at Rio de Janeiro concert (part of her 1988 Break Every Rule tour) with over 180,000 spectators, one of the largest concerts ever:
  • Proud Mary (Tina Turner, 1988 - 1st 'covered' in 1970 with her then husband, Ike Turner)
As always the ideas are mine alone. Comments are most welcome, BUT, due to excessive spam, please e-mail me personally or use the address in the newsletter notice. Be sure to read those below.