Project Overview

Engineers solve problems. But sometimes they need help.

In order to foster collaboration between iGEM teams, the Stanford team this year created a virtual iGEM community on Twitter. We made a list that teams who already had Twitter accounts could subscribe to and encouraged teams that hadn't yet created accounts to sign up. Teams that joined the list could see the tweets that other teams sent out and respond, helping each other troubleshoot projects.

Twitter Terminology

Twitter users must sign up for accounts. Once they have accounts, they are free to post status updates, called Tweets.


To receive Tweets posted by others, Twitter users must click to Follow them. Once this happens, a one-way connection is made between the two Twitter users, where only the Follower can see the Tweets posted by the other.

If two Twitter users are following each other, they both receive each other’s Tweets. However it is entirely possible to not follow anyone but have many, many followers. This means that you would not be able to see anyone’s Tweets, but everyone following you will be able to see the Tweets you post.

One of the features that Twitter offers is that of Lists. Lists make it easy to follow many accounts without having to individually click on each of the account names. Simply clicking to Follow the List allows Twitter users to receive Tweets by all users that are members of that list.

Why Twitter?

Throughout the course of our summer iGEM experience, we realized how beneficial it would be to establish connections with other iGEM teams to ask for help with project designs, experimental troubleshooting, general iGEM Jamboree questions and even just to share ideas and accomplishments.

“Other Options We Considered”

  • E-mail lists
  • Forums
  • Blogs
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Chat Rooms

None of the options we brainstormed compared to the advantages of using the Twitter social network as medium for our iGEM community.
Instant Updates: Status updates posted on Twitter can be ready instantaneously by teams all around the world. Quick turnover of query-response leads to efficient communication of ideas.

Microblogging: Twitter has a 140-character limit that encourages teams to remain concise in their status updates.

An Inclusive Dialogue: If iGEM teams remain connected via the "iGem List," all will be able to see Tweets posted by other iGEM teams.

Ability To Filter: Just like Teams have the ability to follow Twitter accounts of interest, Teams also have the choice of filtering out which Twitter accounts to Follow. They do not receive Tweets from any Twitter account they are not following, leaving e-mail inboxes clean and free of spam.

Networking: Many biotechnology and and venture capitalists have Twitter accounts, creating the perfect opportunity to network beyond iGEM.

Transcribing iGEM onto the Twitter Network

We noticed that some iGEM teams already had Twitter accounts. Our biggest challenge was to convince those teams that didn’t have accounts that signing up for a Twitter account was worth doing.

To reach out to these teams, we drafted an e-mail explaining out goals of the Twitter Project and encouraging their teams to sign up for an account. The e-mail sent out to the teams can be found below. We took the time to retrieve the e-mail addresses of a few team members from the iGEM teams without Twitter accounts to send them this first wave of e-mails. In addition, we included a video tutorial describing the process of signing up for an account and the importance of following the iGEM-2010 list our team set up. Furthermore, we wanted to be sure to include global participation in the Twitter Project and therefore offered the video tutorial in six different languages- English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, and Spanish.

Video Tutorials can be found here


Logos of some of the teams following our list

Our iGEM 2010 Twitter list contains 52 of this year's 128 teams, including 25 teams who had previously not had a presence on Twitter.

We observed several instances of teams conferring over lab troubles and helping each other find solutions. The feeds go in chronological order starting from the bottom-most Tweet.

Results of the Twitter Project indicate that having a centralized network in which iGEM teams can engage in dialogue is very beneficial in making progress in projects. It also creates a sense of community and allows teams to share their great ideas and accomplishments. One of the biggest limitations that we found in using Twitter as a medium for our iGEM community is that not all teams are on the network and miss out on this wonderful resource.
Another setback is that not all teams have access to Twitter for reasons out of our control. In order to insure global participation, we need to find a way to include all teams in the dialogue.

Our experience with the Twitter Project this summer only confirmed our realization for the need of a network of iGEM teams. We propose that next year this idea be taken to a new level. Ideas for doing so are:

  • Encouraging teams to sign up for Twitter accounts at the beginning of summer, via the iGEM Headquarters website
  • Find a way to make Twitter accessible to all iGEM teams
  • Have the iGEM Twitter List be moderated by iGEM headquarters and not and individual iGEM Team

Join us on Twitter!

Hello iGEM teams!

We'd like to encourage your team to follow the igem-2010 list on Twitter.

Stanford iGEM sees a great opportunity in expanding the Twitter iGEM network. iGEM could use Twitter as a means of opening up dialogue between the teams to create an environment where we could get prompt responses to questions about materials, equipment, and protocols. For example, sharing troubleshooting advice on Twitter is a great way for teams to help other teams.

The more iGEM teams we have on Twitter, the more the iGEM community will thrive. To help teams register and join the igem-2010 list, Stanford iGEM has prepared a Twitter Tutorial offered in: English, Spanish, French, Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese. The tutorial can be found below or at

The tutorial will show how to register for an account, the different types of “Tweets,” and the importance of following the igem-2010 list. If you don’t have access to Twitter, please reply so that we can arrange an alternate form of communication (i.e. email list, etc.). If you already have a Twitter account, and wish to be on the 2010-igem list, simply follow the instructions provided in the tutorial (skip ahead by approximately 2 minutes and 20 seconds).

By following the 2010-igem Twitter list, you will be able to automatically follow and communicate with other iGEM teams. Furthermore, since this list is currently under the management of the Stanford iGEM team, we are also filtering out miscellaneous parties not directly associated with iGEM as to reduce spam. With further development, we hope to pass control of the list over to an iGEM team committee or to iGEM headquarters.

Please take the time to seriously consider this request. We wish you the best of luck on all your experiments and hope to see you on Twitter soon!


Stanford iGEM 2010