Malleable Musings

January 11, 2009

Why do I follow, what do I seek, what should I say?

Filed under: Twitter — Brendan @ 10:12 pm

Anyone who knows me will know I’ve no desire to work at the cutting edge.   I’d rather leave that to people who have more time on their hands than I do.  However I do like to know what’s going out there, and when tools are becoming ready to cross over out of (or maybe even into) early adopter territory.

So Twitter is something I’ve been following for a while – I’ve had specific Twitter searches as RSS feeds for about a year, and an RSS search of Google News output for “Twitter” to see who was talking about it.  At first this led me to classify Twitter as for uber-geek early adopters. However over time I’ve found myself clicking on more and more links from these search feeds (still not a huge number but enough to convince me that Twitter is about to make a transition).

A couple of months ago I decided that Twitter as a medium was about to reach a stage where it could begin to become important and could have an impact in what I do on a day to day basis. Therefore reluctantly I got on board.  Part of my reticence for joining Twitter is that it’s certainly every bit as addictive as I knew it would be.  The other part is it’s a new community, with its own cultures and customs, that I knew I would have to learn. I also was reticent because I know some of my colleagues will simply not get how I may have to change my behaviour in the office through using Twitter.

I’m definitely still learning and I think I’ve made the typical newbie mistakes that everyone playing about in a new environment does. (P.S. If anyone is looking for a good intro to Twitter I’d highly recommend a few of the posts on SEOOptimise – and the Twitter section on Mashable.)

However I think it’s time to reflect on what I’ve done, what I expected to happen and why and how it might impact on the way I do things in the future.

I thought it was worth getting some thoughts down on paper, especially given that Twitter is becoming a media darling in the same way friendsreunited and facebook were, before they took off.  I thought it was especially important given events like #daniela (or the search on Twitter) and how coverage of these sort of events might be interpreted by people who don’t know better within my work environment.

I can just imagine some of my senior managers seeing headlines like “How to raise $10000 in a day with Twitter” and then wanting to incorporate Twitter as a tool for fundraising.  For a reason why #daniela worked and for a summary read this excellent blog post – and set of comments.

My 3 Twitter accounts

I have three Twitter accounts.  Two work related – one personal. I set the accounts up in the following order:

  1. @fawcettbj – my personal account
  2. @LondonU – intended to let me get an insight in to students lives, probably the best description at the moment is that it’s a badge of pride
  3. @LondonUNews – intended as a news feed

This post focusses on my personal account.

From this I started by following UK universities (I was just interested to see how they were using it, I didn’t expect to learn much other than maybe figure out some quick wins and work out what the expected base-level should be – more on that later) and people posting stuff related to the iPhone.  After a week or so of that – and noticing I was capable of handling – the signal-noise ratio that tools like Twitter generate, I then graduated to following people like @Mashable, and then I followed a couple of people where I’d read a few of their blog posts and had been impressed.  I was more likely to follow if I saw that there were more of their thoughts on Twitter, or if I thought that they would be the sort of person I’d like to engage with (off-blog).

Luckily one of the blogs I’d been impressed with in the past is Logic + Emotion, so I was following @armano when #daniella kicked off (although because of the time difference I slept through quite a bit of it.

I also followed a few people who followed me (but only if they either were in a role I could relate to and/or I thought that they might be useful for networking purposes or if they were posting insightful comments or links).  Through looking downstream from these people I then found a few people that seemed to be posting things that I agreed with so I followed them as well.

From this account I’m not going to go overboard with my following.  In fact I’m beginnning to start to unfollow people now simply to keep my tweetstream (is that a word) at a level I’m comfortable with.  Also at the moment who I am following and my current list of RSS feeds are interlinked to prevent information overload (if I follow someone I’ll often drop their RSS feed if like most people they tweet new posts or other content).

I think I might eventually put other filtering in place – i.e. follow some people via a Yahoo pipe, FriendFeed or RSS but I haven’t had a lot of time to explore this recently.  However I think its what lots of others are doing (see this entry from a namesake).

At this point my Twitter use is still a bit random and I’m still finding my feet. In terms of my tweeting strategy, initially I thought of Twitter as a micro-blogging platform, that it would be an extension of this blog (which I use as a way to keep my thoughts in order, helping me to find things).  However it feels more personal than that.  I think I’m gaining a social conscience.

And this is a good thing as it is what I think I want Twitter to be all about (at least for my personal account).

I’ve started thinking about my followers. Who are they, why are they following me, what do they hope to gain from this burgeoning relationship.

I also started thinking about what I think is good tweeting and what I think is simply annoying. For example I don’t mind re-tweets as long as they are clearly marked. However one thing I hate is getting something I’ve read before redressed in a different comment with a different URL – unless there’s accompanying commentary that makes me rethink the content – as the second time around it’s simply noise.

This has caused me to rethink my “what I’m reading” behaviour.  Instead of doing this, now if I’ve picked something up via Twitter I’m marking it as a favourite or occassionally RT’ing it (although I’ve still got to get around to properly changing my Yahoo pipe for favourites).  However this does mean I lose the tracking which is a shame – I’m happy for this to happen on my personal account although I wouldn’t be so happy to do this sort of thing on my work account.

So I’m probably going to change the way I do things, I don’t know how yet, but a sample size of one (me) is no use so I’m guessing I’m going to be offering the opportunity to Vote for Change!

Feel free to comment below, tweet or email fawcettbj (on gmail, yahoo, hotmail).


1 Comment »

  1. Nice post here covering the topic of usefulness:

    Comment by Brendan — January 12, 2009 @ 10:54 am

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