Twitter, a Second Look

I have been pondering twitter some more after my first post. People like John Dvorak jumping on the bandwagon got me to relook at the issue. I also received an e-mail from someone who suggested that I needed to follow a lot more people to get a better picture of Twitter. And so, I have started following a bunch more. I did have a tendency to choose technology or photographer oriented tweeters although I also added 10 Downing Street just for giggles. I will slowly follow more people. Here are some of my observations so far.

First, the noise to good content ratio is probably 5:1. Certain individuals are better, from some I see very little noise. But as a group, there is a lot of noise, the more people tweeting, the more noise appears. As I add more people to follow, the more noise. I wouldn’t be surprised if the noise ratio doesn’t continually go up as one adds more and more people to follow.

What do I define as noise? Comments like, “I just ate a gilled cheese sandwich and a dark ale” and “I’m sitting at the airport with a stinky guy sitting next to me” are noise. I suppose some people find that kind of thing interesting, I don’t. Now, a tweet that said something like “I just ate a great tasting grilled cheese sandwich and here is a link to the recipe” would be interesting.

So what’s so wrong with the noise? Actually, nothing. Sometimes it is good to see people at their mediocre best. I have found that I can filter out the noise – sometimes purely by how much a particular person tweets over a few hour span. The more they are tweeting, the more mundane the tweets become. I think it is boredom and they are sharing their boredom. After all, it is very hard to be witty and intelligent all the time.

My second observation: the people I hear praising Twitter on blogs and podcasts have a skewed perspective with regards to Twitter because as well known people they get oodles of followers. Ones marketing power is much greater with lots of followers and this is what the podcasters and bloggers see as a huge benefit. Cynically, I could say they are pushing Twitter simply to increase their followers which then increases their readership and listeners.

Also, the more followers you have the more likely you are to get good advice for your questions. With 10k followers, you are going to get someone who knows the answer. Ask for ideas, one will get a bunch. Have a problem with a computer? Someone will probably go over to their office/home to fix it. Those with lots of followers see this benefit and really talk up Twitter but I am not so sure they see that regular folks don’t get that benefit.

Regular people will have a much smaller circle of followers. This does have its advantages and depending on your purpose for using Twitter, can have different benefits. You can communicate much more specific information to a small group whereas a person which has a huge amount of followers has to be a lot more generic – maybe increasing the noise? Hmmm. But regular people are not going to find Twitter necessarily a good thing for increasing traffic to their web site or getting help with a new program they just installed. It all has to do with why you want to use Twitter.

Third observation: adding more people that I follow, the more interesting things I have seen (well duh!). Yes, the noise ratio is significantly higher but if I can filter that noise out I have started to see where Chris Pirillo might be right. Follow enough people with the same interests you have and you will get links to interesting web sites and stories and you can stop doing the RSS thing.

My final observation: I still like Pownce’s capabilities better than Twitter. It is a more complete package and I think encourages more professionalism. Twitter is constrained by its 140 character, text only approach. It also encourages bland remarks. It is hard to say something intelligent in only 140 characters. It can be done but those who do are very talented. I am so verbose, I find it hard for me to want to tweet at all.

If there was one thing I would like to see both Pownce and Twitter do is to have different groups for a single user (and maybe there is a Twitter-like thingie that does this). They would keep the current set up of public, followers, friends automatic groups but you could also create smaller groups for very specific purposes such as a “Lunch Buddies” group and a “Help Desk” group. Instead of sending a tweet to @username or D username you could send a tweet to G groupname which would be seen only by those in that group.

Anyway, I post very infrequently on both Pownce Pownce and Twitter. My name is wereveal on both if you are interested.

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