Still Not Getting Twitter

I’m currently working on a fairly technical project (Good APIs) so last week under went some ‘geek’ immersion therapy by attending both the CETIS conference and Mashed Library. Both great events.

At both events everyone seemed to be using Twitter. Twitter for notification about the event, Twitter hashtags for live blogging and Twitter for chatting about the event (before, during and after). I’ve seen it before at other events but this time I started to feel a little left out…

For those who aren’t familiar with Twitter it is:

a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple question: What are you doing?

As someone recently explained to me: every tweet is a bit like a haiku! What a creative bunch the Twitterers are!

For those more familiar with Facebook it is like the updates bit on its own, you ‘follow’ people and they can ‘follow’ you back.

I had a go at writing a few tweets during the events but previous to this my last tweet was 7 months ago. As one colleague put it:

intrigued by @mariekeguy tweet pattern… “back to watching the Gadget show” on Apr 28th, then nothing until 5 hours ago! hell of a show!

Oh dear…

When it comes to Twitter I’m just another one of those people who “doesn’t get it…”

I think the main reasons for this are:

  • I spend a lot of time offline and I have a pay-as-you-go phone (OK embarrassing but true – 3 small children cost money to keep) so I don’t want to do updates via my phone.
  • I like the status updates on Facebook because you can do them every couple of days and it doesn’t seem odd, but with Twitter you feel like you have to update it a lot. People have compared it to an open chat forum; I just think I’d never have enough to say. One blog describes Twitter as “a weird animal that seemingly only exists to feed one’s ego” (though you could say the same about blogs…). Perhaps I don’t have the ego?
  • Twitter isn’t mainstream yet so a lot of the people I know don’t use it…I’m not sure if this is a proper excuse…
  • I’m not very good at having to restrict what I have to say. I’d probably go for an email or skype chat to fill in the detail.
  • I don’t seem to have the time (or the inclination) to get my head round how you use it. What’s are @replies and nudges anyway?
  • I think it is mainly work people who use Twitter but still the work/home boundaries can get very blurred. Last week on Facebook updates I put that I was off to the CETIS conference and a couple of my friends mentioned extraterrestrial life (they obviously thought I was going to a SETI conference!). I’d be concerned about scaring friends with work information and boring colleagues with home information!

That said I’m concerned that I’m going to miss out. Those who are into Twitter seem to be first with the news and first on the scene. My colleagues rave about it (Brian Kelly – UK Web Focus , Paul Walk, eFoundations)) and I keep thinking maybe I should just persevere.

And then I get distracted by something that can’t be described in 140 characters….

Any advice?


6 thoughts on “Still Not Getting Twitter

  1. I wouldn’t worry about not “getting” Twitter. I don’t “get” soccer, opera, moustaches without beards, non-alcohol vodka and a massive range of other things. But am happy with that, and the fact that some people do “get” them (shrug).

    I’m now on my third Twitter account and I do *get* it. It’s all in the followers, basically. If you don’t have many followers, or they are quiet, then there’s really not much point; you’re effectively just microblogging. Once the number of followers of mine (I am @joe_librarian) went over about 80 they seemed to start going up without much effort.

    Now I have a very concentrated almost live-news summary of what’s happening in the various sectors I’m involved in. And other stuff that’s fun and/or interesting. Amount of effort on my part; very little, especially for the torrent of interesting, and useful, stuff I get back.

  2. I am twitter user, but I agree with much of what you say. I definitely have some of the work life/home life issues you mention. I found all the incessant twittering about the CETIS event a total waste of time. It was generally just people quoting the speaker and, as so many people were twittering about the same event, there was loads of repetition from various people I ‘follow’ (I wish they’d ditch that term as well). I just bailed out as it made twitter useless that day.
    Cheers, Ade

  3. Marieke, it was Twitter that brought me to your blog today (tho’ you’re also in my feed-reader) – so it’s definitely useful for some things! I joined back in Sep ’07 but didn’t start tweeting regularly until July this year – and judging by this tweet, it was the fact that other people started ‘following’ me that made me carry on.

    When I was working in an office I used to share things I noticed with the people around me (much to their irritation, I’m sure!). Now that I’m working from home I think of Twitter as a way of continuing to do that and of listening in on other people’s streams-of-consciousness. I like the way that Twitter is used to share information, too. How else would I have found out the price of mincemeat in UK supermarkets yesterday?!

    Now I think I’m addicted. Personally I think there’s too much football-related discussion, but then I used to find that when I worked in the real world too…

  4. Long comment, sorry:

    I find Twitter useful, and perhaps even more than that, enjoy using it. Definitely the community I am related to on Twitter is key to both usefulness and enjoyment. Some people I know relatively well, and some I only know through online interaction. I started by following people I knew already – and by this I probably mean people I had met, probably several times, in the flesh. By browsing their followers I found people that I knew, or possibly had met once, or knew of.

    At this point I was following a small number of people, and had a few following me.

    I then noted that people were ‘conversing’ (using ‘@’ in front of a username so it appears as a ‘reply’ in your feed) with people I didn’t know. I was a bit reluctant to start following these people I didn’t know, feeling it could be intrusive. But gradually I relaxed, and started following some of these people.

    Since then my ‘community’ has grown generally either when I’ve been followed, and decided to follow back (I don’t do this automatically), and when I met people at conferences.

    Interestingly I started to follow quite a lot of fellow delegates when I went to ALA this year, but shortly after I returned I unfollowed most of them – as I found that waking up in the morning to large amounts of twitter was not useful or interesting or fun!

    As an example, I ‘met’ John Kirriemuir on Twitter through a Friend-of-a-Friend type connection, and although I don’t feel quite like I ‘know’ him perhaps in the way I would if I had met him in the flesh, I do feel that initial barrier has been broken down.

    I think that the comment about gaps between updates is slightly unfair – although I update frequently, I don’t expect other people to do the same, and some that I follow go days between updates. This is a different type of use, but no less valid I don’t think. I also tend to treat Twitter as a 2-way medium – I don’t think I’d be so interested in updating by SMS a large proportion of the time if I wasn’t seeing the reaction/replies. However, I think you can just update when you are online, even if that’s just a short time each day.

    I think the home/work thing is an issue, but it is also a strength I think. I’m a bit more ‘home’ in Twitter, using it to say things about my family and home life as well as about my work. I hope these aren’t off putting (and I was generally inspired to do this when I realised that I actually quite enjoyed hearing other people’s ‘home’ news, even when I didn’t know them that well) – but someone did mention the other day that they sometimes felt a bit ‘voyeuristic’ reading my Twitter. This is clearly not the intention, and I hope I generally get the balance right – but it is a balance.

  5. I’ve just joined twitter in the last fortnight or so, and I’m addicted already. I only do it from my laptop, not from my phone.

    I really like the feeling of community chat: seeing people I know sending @messages to other people I know is somehow very satisfying and somehow reinforces my online social network.

    At the moment I only have work people on twitter, whereas facebook is a mix of work and home. I had thought my work/life boxes needed to be strictly seperated, especially once I became a mum, but actually I’m loosening up a bit. I find I quite like home leaking into work (but I’d rather avoid work leaking into home!)

  6. I think Owen (someone who, incidentally, I only really “know” through Twitter!) has said pretty much what I would say, and I went through a very similar process of slowly following ppl I saw my existing contacts replying to.

    I suppose I’d just add that Twitter is now probably my main work-related social networking tool, and a (to me) valuable source of information and opinion. It’s easy and “light” and “does one thing well”. You can follow ppl who don’t follow you and vice versa, without feeling any pressure to “reciprocate”.

    I don’t feel any particular expectation to update a lot, or have any expectations about other ppl’s updates, and the frequency of my posts varies a fair bit depending on what I’m doing, or how I’m feeling!

    I have some sympathy with Ade’s point that being on the remote receiving end of event-related posts can become a bit tiresome if they are coming thick and fast, and you have fifteen ppl saying pretty much the same thing at the same time. I think some of the clients, like Tweetdeck, have filtering options that might help in those contexts, but I haven’t played around with them enough to say whether they solve that problem.

    The work v non-work boundary is a bit of an issue, and I now consciously read/update less at evenings/weekends than I used to. But, otoh, (again like Owen), for me, part of the appeal of Twitter is that “personal” dimension: I don’t want to hear about work stuff all the time, and I enjoy hearing ppl talking about current news items or watching the footie or listening to music or going to the cinema or cooking or whatever.

    Within reason, obviously: I don’t want a minute-by-minute commentary on some ghastly television programme that I’m doing my best to steer clear of. But that is more an issue of “overload”/”spamming” than the topic itself. And I think ppl generally do develop a feel for what is “acceptable” – and even if they do occasionally go over the top, hey, in half an hour it’s over and done.

    Having said that, I’m also conscious that the informality and the feeling of being “amongst friends” does make it very easy to forget that one’s smart-arse one-line put-down is going to be public and persistent, or to give out more information than perhaps is wise. Mostly for that reason, I recently opted to “protect” my posts (which means that ppl have to request to “follow” me in order to read them and I don’t accept those requests willy-nilly). That means that my posts have a smaller audience, but I’m quite happy with that – I have no interest at all in figuring in the “Top 10 Twitterer lists” which seem to be flavour of the day – and it has made me feel a bit more comfortable with the context (though of course, yes, the one-liners are still “out there”….).

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