April 17, 2008

3 Months Into Being a Twitter "Nice Guy"

This coming Sunday, it will have been three months since I did what I once said I would never do, when I signed up for Twitter, enabling me to send short messages out to the world in 140 characters or less. And while I still haven't immersed myself as part of Twitter Nation, preferring not to bore friends and strangers with my most minor thoughts and activities, I have found it a useful tool to keep updated and interact with others quickly, if not always efficiently.

As with any communications tool, Twitter can be abused or used well. There have been recent discussions of spam accounts increasingly signing up and "following" everyone on the planet. Elsewhere, aggressive social media leaders like Robert Scoble and Jason Calacanis alternately complain and embrace the tens of thousands they've added to their Twitter stream. Some post song lyrics they're hearing on the radio. Others ask questions to their followers. Some use profanity for emphasis. Most do not.

My note from this morning... (link)

At its base, Twitter is a tool much like instant messaging, but permanent, and searchable. In the space of 140 characters, I can share URLs I've found on the Web, highlight my own recent blog posts, or talk publicly to people from around the world. I largely use my Twitter account to alert followers to blog posts ahead of the RSS feed (if they are subscribers), or adding comments to conversations that have developed, whether they started in Twitter, on FriendFeed, or in our blogs. Less frequently, I'll say if I'll be traveling, or if I've achieved a new milestone, like 500 Twitter followers or 1,000 RSS subscribers.

A favorite comment from Shyftr's Matt Shaulis (link)

Not exactly the most exciting of all streams, if you ask me. But what I have tried to do is not flood the system. I don't want to be the guy who "tweets" too much, or becomes uninteresting, so when I do comment, I want it to have substance, or call attention to something that does. On Wednesday, I was impressed by a well-written piece from Dan Blows on his blog called Twitter: The Web’s Playground, where he noted people can adopt different personalities on Twitter. Some are nice guys. Some are bullies. Some are seniors, and others, fashionistas. I was included, in addition to Mathew Ingram, and Scoble, as one of the "nice guys", and that's a great crowd to be part of.

Over the 90 or so days I've been a Twitter user, I've, so far, sent fewer than 300 updates, about 3-4 a day. And while I started out being very selective as to who I chose to follow, I've updated my stance, now reviewing each new "follower" and seeing what they have to add. Now, by default, I follow them as well, and can always unfollow them if they get too off-topic, too noisy, or just aren't my type. As Scoble has mentioned a few times, some of the real power in Twitter can be how many you follow, even more so than how many follow you - so long as it doesn't become too overwhelming.

I've even started using some tools to help make sense of the Twitter kingdom:
1. Tweetscan: louisgray or "Louis Gray"
2. Tweetclouds: louisgray
3. Alpha Twitter: www.alphatwitter.com
4. Twitter Karma: http://www.dossy.org/twitter/karma/

A fun find through Tweetscan. (link)

Responding to Twitter via FriendFeed has also added to my using Twitter. From FriendFeed, I can post both on that site, and have it act as an @reply on Twitter. The only downside so far is that FriendFeed doesn't yet make sure I stay within Twitter's 140-character limit, so when I mess that up, I look pretty silly. But I'll live, and expect they'll fix it soon, just like they have with so many other small issues in the last six months.

So, with three months of Twittering under my belt, it's not been the evil I once thought it was, and yet it hasn't been this panacea that changes my life for the better either. It's a tool for quickly sending updates and talking with people. And in the end, there's nothing wrong with that. You can find me at http://www.twitter.com/louisgray.