A couple weeks ago Dan Cohen decided to try a live Twitter experiment in crowdsourcing during his live presentation at a conference. The experiment is described in his blog post summary. was to use Twitter to “replicate digitally the traditional “author’s query,” where a scholar asks readers of a journal for assistance with a research project.”
He posted an image of a historic artifact, then asked people to try and identify it or come up with information about it. Within 9 minutes he had the answer, and within a half hour there were about 100 collective responses providing a “fairly rich description” along with resources and citations.
Of particular note were the conversations and discussions, abbreviated though each post may have been due to Twitter’s limits, that swirled around the topic. Granted, Cohen has quite a few followers and there was a certain amount of excitement in being part of this experiment. Yet the fact remains that in this case Twitter did fulfill a scholarly function.
His summary here: http://www.dancohen.org/2009/04/29/the-spider-and-the-web-results/