Six Questions with Todd Sanders

Todd Sanders may be better known by his Twitter handle @tsand by the higher ed Web community. Todd and his Team S teammate John Pederson participated in the first-ever race across the country “fueled” by tweets.

Earlier this year, four teams of two raced across the country to be the first to arrive in the Dallas area just in time for Super Bowl festivities. The Mercedes-Benz brainchild required that the teams rally their Twitter followers. The vehicles “fueled” by points earned by convincing your followers to perform tasks, take photos, shoot videos and tweet like crazy.

For those of us that follow Todd on Twitter and tweeted till our fingers were numb, the hashtag #MBteamS will be forever ingrained in our brains–and muscle memory of our digits. And Todd and John’s victory as the winners by a landslide will always be our victory as well (although our victory didn’t come with sweet new rides like Todd and John’s). Now that the excitement has died down, we decided to pick Todd’s brain about his take on his community of followers, Twitter and higher ed.

Illustration by Lacy Tite

1. In 140 characters or less, can you explain #MBteamS?

Not really, still talking it over in my head. I think it’s better experienced than explained. Explanation dissolves magic, long live Santa.

2. Before your win in the Mercedes-Benz tweetrace across the country, would you have thought quantity mattered over quality of followers on Twitter?

No, it’s never been a numbers game. I’d rather enjoy an 18 oz. ribeye than force down 18 hot dogs Kobayashi-style. To me, meaningful relationships have never been about numbers. I’m happily married to the best wife and mother in the world–finding the right person trumps polygamy every time.

3. What has been the greatest lesson learned from your experience using Twitter—both professionally and personally?

Professionally, twitter has been great at connecting with wicked smart people around the world. I hate networking IRL, I hate ass-kissing, I hate feeling like I’m buying a used car when I shake a hand at a conference. Twitter kind of made that all go away, and the real relationships were allowed to form without the business card mating ritual.

In my personal life, I’ve made the same type of connections. The world of personal, professional and private kind of went in the blender long ago. It’s by no means a smooth concoction, some chunks still hold secrets. Our profession revolves around the social Web, all connections (even personal) that we make through it are somehow related to our professional lives. Be the real you, or become the you that you’ve been pretending to be.

Before I won a Mercedes, I would have said the “give more than you get” thing was the greatest lesson I’ve learned. But now I’m indebted for quite some time.

4. What are your thoughts on tweet-length extenders, like, that allow for tweets of more than 140 characters?

They confuse me. When I click on a link in a tweet, I expect an real enhancement (article, photo, video) not just a thought someone was unable to condense. If you can’t say it in 140 characters, perhaps it wasn’t meant for Twitter. Reminds me of people who abuse voicemail with lengthy ramblings.

5. Do you see any uses for Twitter in higher education that we, as Web professionals, seem to be missing?

Maybe as things evolve, when there is no longer a fear of connecting and sharing. Institutions are guided by fear, healthy relationships are not. If the true magic of Twitter is about relationships, then I don’t think higher ed is currently ready to embrace its power.

Get your iphone bacon case on etsy!

6. Greatest invention of these: personal computer, mobile phones/devices, or bacon?

Personal computer. It straps you to a desk, forces you to dream of freedom. Those dreams of freedom fuel new inventions that allow you to escape… like computers you can hold in your hand while eating bacon.

Interviewed by Susan Ragland