I Don’t Understand Twitter

March 24th, 2014 by Potato

A little while ago a social media guru in our pubic affairs team said that you had to maintain a “presence” on Twitter by posting at least three times a day. We just wanted a place for people to get updates on a new project, which with lecture announcements might mean one quantum of content per month.

John Scalzi said that he was culling his follow list by removing the people who rarely tweeted.

I don’t get it. I check my Twitter feed about once a day, and though I only follow 36 people my screen is always full. Those accounts are carefully curated so that I usually want to read to the end of a day’s updates — but the general signal-to-noise on Twitter is atrocious. What finally got me to write this rant was friend of the blog @barrychoi tweeting about a new post on his blog eleven times in a single day! When people have really active Twitter accounts, especially with high levels of noise (like live-tweeting just about anything in depth, or just seeing half a conversation) it really turns me off. Following a couple dozen accounts like that and unless I just camped on the Twitter app I would start missing content — even at a miserly 140 characters the tweets add up.

And maybe that’s the problem: so many people are so swamped by the uproarious nature that they just sample their Twitstream at random intervals, which forces people to re-post their tweets again and again hoping to catch the eyeballs of their so-called subscribers, which exacerbates the high noise level. Ugh, that’s just not a game I can play.

Maybe it’s because I use the default web-based interface rather than a 3rd-party app with more capabilities (i.e., doing it wrong). I believe the way people use Twitter is to politely follow anyone who follows them first, then mute them with the list functions of the 3rd-party apps. Or else there’s something I’m just not understanding about the whole thing — which is likely given how incredibly difficult I find expressing anything in 140 characters. Seriously, my whole stream is basically poor-man’s-RSS announcement of new posts, and tweets full of [1/3] multipart markers.

As long as I’m ranting: hashtags are really annoying. When used sparingly they can be used to tag tweets, particularly when trying to tag that tweet to something in particular that might not show up in a general search (such as #becausemoney for questions and commentary directed at the podcast). But just adding the symbol in the middle of a sentence makes it harder to read and doesn’t help at all with the intended function — no one is out there searching for highly generic terms like #money or #Canada… and if those words were in the tweet anyway a search would pull them out without wasting a character and reducing readability. Without careful, conscious application, hashtags just become more noise. Oh, and “via” means “by way of; by means of” and is usually used to indicate who sent you a link you’re passing along to your followers — putting via [yourself] is like talking about yourself in the third person, it’s weird and off-putting.

7 Responses to “I Don’t Understand Twitter”

  1. saverspender Says:

    I am on Twitter but I am not fanatic about promoting my blog on there. Honestly, I just post random stuff here and there (things I find on the web or like), reply once in a while to some tweets if I see them pop up and that’s it. Otherwise, I’m not too fussed about being on there all the time “interacting with readers”.

  2. PK Says:

    Twitter’s more of a “talk to journalists, bloggers, celebrities, and news junkies” forum than anything else. I like to air my snark out in public… and talk to other people who share this strange blogging hobby with us.

    I wouldn’t say it’s a huge service for the readers – you do get some people following you that don’t tweet, but they’re there because you’re doing something interesting, really.

  3. Ben Says:

    I have a copy of Twitter for Dummies if you’d like to borrow it. I’ve been to at least 3 “social media seminars” at various conferences over the past couple years, and I always walk away incredibly frustrated because they really didn’t teach me anything, even the last one I went to that was supposed to be “advanced” for people already using some or all of the various platforms. I think the problem is that twitter is great for people with constant verbal diarrhea, not people like us who (unless we’ve been drinking) talk only when there are important, well thought-out, things to say, not simply for the the sake of hearing our own voice. What boggles my mind is that many many many people now have full-time, well paid jobs just to tweet! The CBC-KW morning show has a woman who just carries on twitter discussions with listeners in the background as the show goes on on the radio, and periodically they check in with her and she reads aloud certain tweets on the radio (which I really REALLY hate).

    On a “WTF” side-note, I saw on twitter last night that you can now hire someone to “live-tweet” your wedding day, for a mere $3,000. For who? All your friends who are AT your wedding?

    Also, have you seen this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57dzaMaouXA

    PS I agree with the hashtag thing, I have a few ppl on Facebook actually who essentially #put #a #hashtag #after #every #word #and #then #make #a #bunch #up #too, #thursdaymorning #garbageday #upatseven #sittingatmycomputer #stillwearingpjs #haventshoweredyet #tmi

  4. Potato Says:

    Glad to see I’m not the only one who doesn’t get it!

  5. Potato Says:

    Thanks Ben, that was spot-on!

  6. Joe Q. Says:

    I agree completely with you about the signal-to-noise problem that Twitter has, and also agree completely with the “talk to journalists, bloggers, celebrities, and news junkies” angle.

    One good use I do find for Twitter is in getting things like traffic reports, TTC service notices (I’m in Toronto), various official bulletins and updates that I need to get on-the-go. For everything else, real websites and RSS feeds are preferable. IMO.

  7. Vic Reeves Says:

    I definitely hear ya, I’m also old school like that, relying on rss feeds and mail updates for anything important I’d really like to follow. I used to think it was kind of cool to sum things worth sharing in just 140 characters, but now I see it’s of no real use, and like very few other people I know – I guess I just don’t get twitter.