It seems to me that the Twitterverse is going to stick around for a while, despite reports of its demise, and that being so it raises many questions on how to exploit it in science.
Last night, for the first time ever for an election, the UK had a television debate between the three potential Chancellors of the Exchequer (i.e. those in charge of the money). For a brief moment the phrase #askthechancellors was in the top 2 on Twitter in the UK, and top 4 worldwide.
Much of the content was relevant to the debate. I went back 12 hours later and looked at the comments coming in. I was surprised. Saturation. Countless people retweeting the same comments over and over again - an unintentional spamming of the system. Kind of turns you away after a while.
Then the LHC came online today and again, for a brief while, CERN and LHC came to the top of the pile. But as a transient event the newsworthiness of the story fell rapidly off top spot and into oblivion. What is interesting, however, is that amid all the noise of congratulations and jokes about black holes and Dan Brown, the occasional serious question was thrown out:
These are great questions, and actually bring the general public into the domain of science communicators. For once the communicator has a captive audience. Yet sadly there were few immediate answers, or references provided. Maybe people replied directly, but it seems there was an opportunity to engage that was missed.
In defence, however, it should be pointed out that no one has really yet harnessed the power of Twitter and it remains to be seen how useful it is in terms of gauging opinion and as a dialogue driven forum.