Angela Cossins is Chief Executive of Cheshire Probation Trust and Resettlement Lead for the Probation Chief’s Association.

 

Getting started

Anyone who knows me would be surprised that I didn’t get into twitter earlier than I did. I love to know what’s going on; meet new people, “network”, debate and exchange ideas. I’m also a tad impatient; not always a good thing I know but … So the short, focused and accessible nature of twitter as well as the blogs and articles shared on it works really well for me.

I use Twitter primarily for work. I tweet as a CE of a Probation Trust and as a member of @probationchiefs with a bio pic from the corporate photo library; (I’ve been told more than once that I’m a lot less “starchy” in person than I look on twitter and should change my photo …maybe one day),  but it’s not a corporate account.

Be yourself

I decided, when I started, to try and be myself which means discussing and engaging; using twitter to share ideas, best practice and academic works as well as promoting the excellent work done by Probation and our partners. But as in life so it is on twitter – it’s not all work and no play.

Although I followed them for work reasons originally, nothing cheers me up more than a one of @borobarrister wildlife bird photos or a YouTube music clip from @bonklesoul.

And I do occasionally tweet about personal things – just not often. If you check my timeline you can relive the Xmas slipper exchange with @cate_a_moore and @KatieMagnet  – not a good look on my behalf I have to admit and maybe a good reason to stick to CJ matters.

Six degrees of separation

I love the range of people I get to connect with and the “six degrees of separation” factor, although it’s often only one or two.

I follow local Cheshire MPs, councillors and others interested in criminal justice and public services; Probation and other CJ practitioners and leaders; ex offenders/ service users; academics, lawyers … and a smattering of one offs just because.

It never ceases to surprise me how often these worlds and individuals collide and when they do it can be quite something. In my first few weeks on twitter, two people I know “ met “ and are now collaborating on a new book.  I also made contact with a long lost cousin who’d been re-tweeted by someone I followed and I’ve re-established contact with a number of people I’ve worked with in the past.

I’ve also met some amazing new people on twitter which has in turn resulted in some equally amazing encounters and projects.

If it wasn’t for twitter would I be a member of the Edge Hill University Professional Advisory Committee; thanks to the lovely Julie Davies @davies_juliet ?

Would Cheshire Probation be working with “Coaching Inside and Out”, supporting @Clare_McGregor to bring her coaching of women in HMP Styal into the community?

Would I have thought to ask @Weaver_Allan and @weaver_beth to our Leadership Forum; one of they best events in our Trust in 2012?

Just a few examples of things that I don’t think would have happened without twitter.

Seven days a week

Because it’s primarily work for me, in the beginning I would follow but rarely tweet at the weekend and when I did, kept it light.

That all changed the weekend after the latest consultation on the future of probation was published.

In fact a lot has changed in the probation twitter community since that day in my view.

There is now a huge amount of traffic about the proposed changes to probation, not just from those of us working in probation but from academics, politicians and others interested in our work.

There seems to be less about work situations and sharing of stories, ideas and good practice; something I miss especially as a CE.

Those early months on twitter had me “back to the floor” in a way I hadn’t been able to do for a long while.

It’s very understandable given such a high level of uncertainty especially regarding jobs and key professional issues.

Twitter has been invaluable for Probation Chiefs, Boards, Trade Unions and others in taking the debate about the future of probation to a wider audience.

I wonder if we will ever get back to just discussing our work rather than feeling the need to defend it.

I do hope so.

 

Angela Cossins

 

Downsides 

There are some down sides to twitter.

I do hate some of the more aggressive arguments and seeing some of the hurtful things people say to each other.

Passions run high often and the 140 character limitation can often serve to make the message more severe than it might otherwise be – or at least that’s what I like to think because in the main I really like the people I follow.

I don’t agree with everything they say.

In fact, I make a point of following people with diverse views – twitter can easily become a self congratulatory and re enforcing of own views if you’re not careful; we’ve all seen it haven’t we?

But I’ve never unfollowed because I didn’t like what someone was saying.

Information overload 

And then there’s the information overload; a back handed complement to twitter and the people I follow but all the same I find it its frustrating not being able to keep up with everything that’s going on.

I tried too hard in the early days to follow everyone who interested me and read everything in real time.

I still do my best but lists are invaluable. I know I should do my own and keep meaning too.

In the meantime I’m grateful to those who do and include me, not least the most comprehensive probation list by @russwebt.

I also email myself links to things that catch my eye to read later and review “Activity” to see who’s been up to what and what I’ve missed – told you I like to know what’s going on …

So, I may be a recent convert but I feel like I’ve made up for lost time since joining in June 2012.

I do and intend to carry on spending a lot of my time on Twitter; what better way to be entertained, informed, amused, and supported?

I hope I do the same for others …. At least some of the time.

 

This is the 37th  post in the criminal justice/legal Why I tweet series. Read the others here.

 

If you’d like to develop your tweeting skills, check out my online Twitter coaching service which includes an individualised profile of your Twitter style.

 

 

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