Monday, July 30, 2007

Twitter: another look

A while back, I posted on Twitter and how I didn't "get" it. In short order, I got several comments advising me to stick with it and telling me that the secret lay in the matter of friends. So I have stuck with it and I have made some friends (only now the terminology has changed, so I'm following people and little over half of them follow me in return).

I began to see a few benefits and encouraged my colleague Mark Berthelemy to sign up. His immediate reaction was about as negative as mine had been. Reading his post, I realised that I have warmed somewhat to the medium, but I still have some issues.

I have been reflecting on these because I will need to write about my Twitter experiences for my dissertation. Here are some of my thoughts:

Picking up useful pointers
Many of the twits will include links to interesting things they have seen or read online. This can be very helpful. Also, they are inclined to publicise their hot-off-the-press blog posts, which is also helpful - especially if the twit isn't someone whose blog features in my aggregator.

Getting me thinking
Some of the conversations that take place stimulate my thought processes, resulting in material added to my MA submissions or this blog.

Choosing whom to follow
Some of the folks I have encountered follow literally thousands of people. I don't get that. How can you possibly keep track of that many conversations in any meaningful way? On the other hand, because you generally only see the tweets of the people you follow, if one of them follows someone else and engages in an exchange with that person, you only get to see half the conversation. So, you are then faced with the choice of ignoring those tweets (which can sometimes seem very interesting) or adding the person on the other end of the conversation to your list of people you follow. Before you know it, you could end up with thousands.

I have decided to restrict the people I follow to learning professionals and related types. Although the conversation is often about things far removed from work, keeping those channels open makes for a more personal relationship. You really begin to feel that you know some of these people.

Following and being followed
Related to my previous point is the issue of imbalance between followers and followees. I guess it's a sad reflection of my online popularity that I follow 34 people, but only 21 people follow me. I can cite a specific example of where this has been a problem: recently Dave Warlick tweeted something that interested me. Because I follow him, his message showed up on my screen. I immediately responded with a question or observation, forgetting in my eagerness, that Dave doesn't follow me. While my tweet, having been directed at him (by means of the @ symbol before his user name) will automatically appear in his replies folder, very few twits bother with this folder. In fact, there was an exchange just today where two people were complaining about the inconvenience of messages that appear in their replies folders from people they don't follow. They were on the opposite end of the inconvenience.

Time zones
One night, when I went to bed, I left my mobile phone on the dining room table, which is directly below my bedroom, with a lot of open plan and no closed doors in between. Well into the night, I could hear the gentle buzz of my phone receiving tweet after tweet. This was very symbolic of the way it goes. Every morning I wake to find well over 30 messages in my inbox. Then, all through the day, the tumbleweeds blow across the space. I follow a few Aussies, a few in the UK, a scattering from elsewhere and a much larger number of North Americans. They're all tweeting when I'm asleep, and the Aussies are sleeping when I tweet. Funnily enough, the Aussies seem to have more overlap with the North Americans than I do. Because of the synchronous nature of the exchanges, there's little point in going back over the stuff that went on while I was snoring, and it's really frustrating when I spot that one of the messages was directed specifically at me, which means I have missed out on the chance to see how an exchange can develop.

So, while I have discovered some value from Twitter, I still feel somewhat on the outside of things. I have yet to identify whether it's just a case of everyone else being satisfied with the status quo, or whether other people's experience differs from mine - hence their higher measure of satisfaction.


AndyR said...

Well I managed to make one friend through Twitter - Karyn!

It happened because you responded to a couple of my tweets using the @username convention. I noticed that after a while - not straight away - when I viewed "replies" in twitter. So then I got curious and viewed your homepage, which is a blog, and noticed you had explode in the sidebar so I added you there and subscribed here.

Pleased to meet you.

Anonymous said...

Pleased to meet you, too, Andy-the-watcher-of-fish ;-)