There has been some conversation lately about the purpose of posting chat questions before the chat actually begins. I’m not here to judge or ridicule anyone’s practices. I believe that this question is as personal as the Coke vs. Pepsi debate. But my own practices requires more than a few characters to explain. I don’t usually post questions before any chat that I moderate. There are several reasons.
One reason is that I don’t want the questions I post to bend the tide of the conversation. I want the ideas to flow from the participants. By posting the questions in advance, I feel that I am setting up a set of expectations. I want everyone participating to realize their opinions and resources matter. Just because it’s time for Q3 doesn’t mean that the conversation on Q2 is ready to stop. I want it to be natural. You wouldn’t change the subject in a face to face conversation just because “time is up” on that topic.
I also don’t want people to “pre-load” their answers and not actually be there. I want them to be engaged with each other. The give and take that happens on a Twitter chat is the most important part. That’s the part that leads to the connections being made stronger. Pre-loaded tweets are the opposite of engagement. How can you have a conversation – a give and take – when you aren’t there?
I am not the smartest person on the planet. There I said it. I don’t always know the “right” questions to ask. Sometimes, I am learning about the topic from the others in the conversation. I want to learn and grow just like anyone else. I do my best to have a planning page where I’ve listed questions to use just in case the conversation wanes. If the topic isn’t interesting or the participant group is small, I want to be able to go with the flow. The ability to adjust can (and often does) lead to an even deeper discussion. This flexibility isn’t possible if I’ve pre-posted the questions.
I also teach full time, just like most that participate in chats. I don’t always have the time to get the questions in advance because my students deserve to be higher on my list of priorities. I have many things on my plate, just like everyone else. Every once in a while, I fly by the seat of my pants. It isn’t the best way but occasionally it is the only way I can manage it all.
I fully understand that all of this depends on the purpose of the particular chat. If the purpose of the chat is to help others learn a particular app, then having the questions posted will help others decide if they need to participate in the conversation. It also helps novice tweeters to keep track of where they are in the conversation.
I appreciate chats that post questions in advance. I also appreciate those that don’t. There is no one way to moderate a Twitter chat. That’s a great thing.