Omnibus prik

The AUforsker Twitter account has gone into hibernation after ten years: "Twitter sucks"

The #AUforsker (AU researcher) Twitter account, which gave AU researchers a platform for communicating with followers from all walks of life, shut down on its 10th anniversary. It’s time to move on, According to the account’s founder Lone Koefoed Hansen, there’s a time for everything, and running the platform has gotten harder. So AUforsker is off the radar. At least for the time being.

Lone Koefoed Hansen started AUforsker back in 2013 together with fellow researcher Carsten Fogh Nielsen, who is now an associate professor at SDU. AUforsker tweeted for the first time on 1 February 2013. Photo: Mai Skou Wihlborg

“AUforsker/inactive. We’ve gone into hibernation. Will give a shout if we wake up.”

This message is the first thing that Twitter users encounter when they visit the AUforsker profile now. Over the past decade, the account has made it possible for researchers from across AU to share their work with a wide audience: the profile’s easily accessible, highly varied content has earned it almost 5,000 followers. In the words of AUforsker itself, the account is a place for “kaleidoscopic research communication”. But that’s all over now.

The creator of the profile, AU associate professor Lone Koefoed Hansen, an expert in digital aesthetics and design, has decided to shut it down. Or in any case deactivate it, as she puts it on Twitter:

“It’s the tenth anniversary of AUforsker! Fun, educational, rewarding, hard and crazy good. Thanks to Carsten Fogh Nielsen (associate professor at SDU, formerly researcher at AU, ed.) for helping me start it ten years ago in the maths dept. canteen over some gravy, a cake and a manifesto. But.  Now it’s over (at least for a while).”

“I really believe that AUforsker has had a useful place in the world. But there’s a time for everything, and the account’s time as a multi-user research communication platform is coming to an end. Mr. Musk’s arrival on the scene really hasn’t done anything good for this app. Twitter sucks,” she writes.

AUforsker: Engagement is down 

AUforsker, which as its co-creator explained was conceived over a canteen lunch at AU, has inspired other Danish universities to create similar platforms: currently, UCPH, RUC and AAU all have active accounts; SDUs account is inactive.

The AUforsker concept was  that AU researchers could volunteer to take over the account and tweet from it for a week at a time – sort of like a relay race. The last AU researcher to tweet from the account before it went into hibernation was AU associate professor of engineering Marta Victoria, who tweeted about her daily life – from research findings to breakfast with her colleagues – for a week in December.

By that time, Hansen was already having doubts about whether she wanted to keep AUforsker going; Elon Musk had overtaken Twitter in late October, which prompted a lot of users to leave the platform and create an account on the rival platform Mastodon.

Hansen told Omnibus that she decided to deactivate the account for a number of reasons. For one thing, she explained, she feels that many of the recent changes introduced by Twitter have made the platform a less attractive place to be. For example, Twitter recently shut down the third-party apps she had been using to interface with Twitter.

“Being on Twitter is more of a hassle now because we don’t have access to the tools we had before. I used Twitter through third-party apps because they were a lot more stable, worked better and gave me a better user experience,” she said.

“The user experience has gotten a lot poorer, so people pick up and leave leave. You have to get through adds and promoted tweets, and it all kind of sucks more now. And it’s a question of habit, I get that. But the apps were optimised for people who used Twitter a lot, and that makes a difference. And after all, I’m also looking at this as a specialist who does research on interfaces and user experience. It’s definitely meant that I’ve spent less time on Twitter myself, and that I don’t think it’s nearly as fun.”

According to Hansen, activity on the platform has also declined – possibly because it’s become more difficult to navigate on Twitter – and so leaving was the obvious next step for her.

“Engagement has really declined. I can’t see the effect of the latest changes on AUforsker, because we were on Christmas vacation at the time. But there was less activity in the late fall, and I can see it on my own account and on the accounts that I follow. There’s been at least a 50 percent decline in activity. And that has an impact on an account like AUforsker, that has a history of broad engagement, and that we put a lot of energy into. If a researcher spends a week on AUforsker, I think there needs to be a strong likelihood that someone will give them something in return. I don’t think it’s at all clear whether it’s worth the energy. So it’s better to stop,” she said.

Inactive - not deleted

As Hansen put it, Twitter’s not a good party anymore, in other words.

“When Carsten and I started it ten years ago, we thought there was something exciting happening on Twitter that no one had gotten picked up and run with. We couldn’t get through to anyone at AU who thought it was a good idea, so we did it ourselves. Because we had a feeling that it would be fun to try it out. Maybe that’s kind of what’s happening now, just in reverse. There just isn’t the same drive,” she said.

But AUforsker isn’t definitively shut down for ever. If anyone at AU asks her for permission to take over the account, Hansen will consider it, she said. And the ‘inactive’ label means she has the option to return.

“It’s very definitive to say: Now I’m shutting down the account. As things look right now, we’re taking a break. We may end up shutting it down completely – and actually, I think we will. But we’ve seen comebacks in show business before. But with the account being inactive, we can can wait and see what happens.”

She also said that she would like to thank everyone who has read, tweeted and re-tweeted over the years.

“It’s been a incredibly rewarding and fantastic place to be. I know a huge number of people at AU now. It’s a really cool space to have participated in and contributed to,” she said.