It’s not really news that in 2017, twitter has become a bit of a dumpster fire. Between the trolls, the bots, the constant blare of American “politics” and the nazis, its pretty hard to bear. Yet bear it I still do, because so far none of my attempts to foment large-scale movement to an alternative have succeeded and I guess I find the web a lonely place without others to learn with. Indeed, twitter, for better or worse, still forms the backbone of my “personal learning network” (how quaint.)
Now if you know me from the edtech world or the library world, there’s likely a fair bit of crossover between our various networks. They won’t be identical – they are our own after all, but you’d likely recognize many names on mine as I’d on yours.
Which is all fine and good, but what is more interesting to me are outliers, those folks I follow that almost no one in my network does, but particularly those that bring a huge signal-to-noise ratio to my life. For the sake of alliteration I am calling this practice of highlighting such folks “Weirdo Wednesdays” but please understand, I mean “weirdo” as the HIGHEST of compliments, with its origins in wyrd – fateful or uncanny. So without further ado, here are my favourite “weirdos” on twitter:
@bnroj – who here remembers “Robot Wisdom“? If you were ever a blogger, you owe some of that to this fellow, one the very earliest “web loggers” around. Jorn doesn’t post like he used to, but everytime he does I inevitably end up down some rabbit hole.
@bruces – so Bruce Sterling is not exactly obscure, but I’d have to agree with Mike Caulfield when he says he’s one of the top futurists in the world today. Sterling’s tweets are private and I have no idea what his policy is for approving followers, but pretty much every tweet offers up some new idea around maker culture, drones, the Net (and their relation to geopolitik). If you haven’t read his books, I highly recommend – to this day “Islands in the Net” remians an inspiration of a possible (though rapidly receding) networked future.
@johnrobb – not sure how best to describe John Robb. His work on “global guerillas” is sort of like if Howard Rheingold’s “Smart Mobs” meets a Tom Clancy novel, Or even better, basically the real world equivalent of the lot of the stuff explored in Daniel Suarez’s novels. Reading his is constantly terrifying, but not sure the alternative would be better.
@brainsturbator – Ok, I am not sure what to say about @brainsturbator. I cannot for the life of me recall what brought me to follow this account, and I cannot real say coherently what he/she/it/they is about. Probably the truly weirdest one on this list, but still almost always makes me go “hmmm.”
@loremgibson – not really sure what the policy should be here – I’ve followed this person for years, but they’ve since gone and changed the name (and username) of the account multiple times. I don’t want to “out” them if they don’t want to be outed. So what I will say is – over the years I have appreciated this person’s tweets on Buddhism, on free software, on makerspaces, on Mozilla…
@erik_davis – I had the great pleasure of meeting Erik _many_ years ago, at the Fourth International Cyberspace Conference at Banff in May 1994. Since then he’s gone on to write numerous books and articles. I’ve always found him an interesting observer of technology, spirit and California, bringing just the right amount of ‘woo.’
@DavidBrin – another science fiction writer, Brin is a great source of links to real science as well as insight into privacy and surveillance. His book “The Transparent Society” is a must-read for privacy folks, even if you disagree.
@worrydream – Bret Victor isn’t super obscure, yet I wish his work was better known. You can see some of it here. I think of him like the Seymour Papert of our time. Maybe that’s a lot to wear, sorry. Anyways, he tweets like 4 times a year, and every one of them is gold.
@cstross – yet another scifi writer (spot a trend!). You’ve read “Accelerando,” right? What I like about Stross is his human-ness. He really comes off as this affable, beer drinking guy with cats who writes great thought provoking books but also gets pissed off at politicians like the rest of us.
@jessamyn – Jessamyn West is definitely not an outlier in the library world, but I have her on this list because, until I got in to the library world 4 years ago, I never knew how well known she was. Me, I found her site (I want to say) late 90s (shortly after discovering Barger’s “RobotWisdom”). She was another proto-typical web-logger, and to this day shares often and of high quality. I was super gratified when I joined the BC Libraries Cooperative in 2013 to learn one of our (now decommissioned) servers was named after her. Auspicious.
@obinine – I’ve only met Scott Nelson the one time, at Northern Voice (in I want to say 2011, when I was trying to run a moosecamp think on mindfulness and technology.) He described himself as a “community technology steward,” and idea that’s stuck with me a long time. He’s one of the few people who likes and re-tweets some of the weird stuff I post on twitter, making me feel ever so slightly less weird myself.
@edwebb – I can’t for the life of me recall when or why I first connected with Ed Webb. It was some teaching online/ed tech connection. But since then, he has become my trusted conduit for insight into the Middle East. I don’t pretend to have _that_ much insight, but I appreciate the public scholar role Ed plays by sharing stuff that’s typically outside of mainstream media and a lot closer to the “truth” than stuff you’ll find there.
How about you? Who are some of the outliers, the “weirdos”, you follow, people who help give you a broader picture. I am conscious that my list skews heavily male – who else should I include? (You can see the full list at https://twitter.com/sleslie/lists/weirdo-wednesdays) – SWL