Every few years, I published a Field Guide to Ocean Science and Conservation on Twitter. Rather than a comprehensive list of the best ocean twitter accounts (a list that would stretch out over more than 500 accounts as of last count), these guides are designed to point readers towards central nodes in the online conversation, from which they could then build upon by following and engaging in conversation. Instead of being a “best of”, the field guides are all about connectivity and how to build it.
I was just beginning to prepare this year’s guide a few weeks ago, when David Lang at OpenROV caught me with an even more challenging question: If you could only follow 5 people on twitter, who would they be? Again, not the “best”, or the funniest, or whatever metric you use to decide who to follow but the five that, if I were absolutely forced to cut my following list down to, would capture the widest breadth depth of the twitter conversations I care about: the most effective community builders, the central-est nodes, the people whose insight is most valuable and who curate and disseminate the most important content. After talking for a while about who the list would include, I was surprised to discover that the majority were people who I followed, but only ever interacted with rarely, if at all.
1. Let’s get the obvious one out of the way, first.
I mean, this one was obvious, right? On top of being the person I interact with on twitter more than everyone else combined, David Shiffman is the undisputed heavyweight of Team Ocean. Following him connects me to such a massive swath of the online ocean conversation that he ends up being the only “ocean” person on my list. Moving on.
2. Xeni Jardin
I love Boing Boing. They cover tech and culture and everything in betweem, from DRM in farm tractors to Life Aquatic pinball machines. But Boing Boing is a fire hose, and I’m not interested in everything they post every day. Jardin’s twitter feeds cuts down on torrent of info and provides valuable additional commentary and insight. She is by far the most engaging of the Boing Boing crew (but, the others are pretty awesome, too).
3. DeRay Mckesson
I started following Mckesson during the Ferguson protests. Since then, his feed has been a constant and eye-opening source of news and context from the front lines of uprisings happening around the country. His first-hand accounts and insight are second to none and he tirelessly cuts through the bullshit that propagates through the socials.
4. Melissa McEwan
If you’re not reading Shakesville, what are you doing here? Go. Go read Shakesville. It’s cool. I’ll wait. McEwan’s site has been covering social and political issues for over a decade, and that experience shows. She takes on big issues with the perfect blend of insight, snark, and sufficient mirth. Her coverage of the 2016 election season is the only thing about the 2016 election season that I’m looking forward to. Her twitter feed is also frequently hilarious.
5. Danielle Lee
Urban Ecologist, TED Fellow, study-er of pouched rats, de-colonizer of space-bros, Danielle Lee won’t shy away from a fight and has an awesome track record of speaking truth to power. She has her finger on the pulse of so many different issues facing science and society that not following her on twitter would be a grave mistake.
So there you go, the five people I’d follow on twitter if I could only follow five. Feel free to add your own list in the comments below.