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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