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Monday, 30 March 2009

The Twitter Experiment

In a fit of experimentation, I signed up for Twitter at the end of February. I must confess it seemed a bit silly, but I try to live by "don't knock it till you've tried it" and similar platitudes (they're cliched because they're true).

I've now been 'tweeting' a little over a month, I have nearly 100 followers and have posted nearly 200 updates. So I thought it was time to share some of what I've found.
  • One of the things that really took some getting used to is the use of @ replies - a message beginning @username is treated as a reply to that person, but still sits in your stream of updates along with the 'real' messages which aren't addressed to any specific person. This creates a signal-to-noise ratio which makes it quite hard, when you encounter a new person, to work out whether they're worth listening to. Imagine that when you first visited my blog, you got all my 'outbox' emails as well as blog posts. To start with I tried to avoid sending these (for that reason) but by doing so, you miss out on the great conversational aspect of Twitter. I still wish there was a way to filter them out of the mini-feed in my blog's sidebar.

  • There's also the facility to send direct messages but only to people who are following you (so far as I can tell). The 140 character limit still applies; this is handy if you want to reply to something in private or simply keep down the number of @ replies.

  • There are lots of spambots which (I'm guessing) follow all new accounts. They're annoying insomuchas you think you've got a new follower but it's not a real person, but they also seem to be harmless. Thankfully the bots are not (yet!) sending @ messages with directed spam.

  • I'm using a site called twitterfeed to push links to all my blog posts on to Twitter. A few new people have found my blog that way, and it means the links between blog & Twitter are bidirectional.

  • Writing such short messages is good discipline, especially for someone like me who's prone to go on a bit. It's probably kept down the number of short and/or link-filled posts on this blog, because if I can think of a way to write something in very few words I'll now tweet it instead.

  • I've also got useful recommendations, recipes and article links from the people I'm following, and had lots of interesting conversations with some great people.

  • The ability to tweet by text message was handy when I went away for a week. I set up scheduled blog posts, but I could also tweet in real-time about my holiday, so I could keep in touch (a bit) even though I couldn't read replies from my phone.

  • My main concern is that Twitter is one company - as contrasted with blogs, which can be hosted on one of a number of free services (like Blogger) or on your own website. I would predict that Twitter will have less longevity than blogging for that very reason. If Blogger closed tomorrow I could reinstate my blog somewhere else, but if Twitter closed then that would be the end of that, for the moment at least. I wonder whether that will change.
In conclusion, I'm enjoying my experiment - it was worth signing up to find out what all the fuss was about. And I'll certainly stick with it, well, for as long as it continues to be interesting and useful.


Diane said...

I have to admit, I just don't get it. I read some of the Twitter updates on peoples' blogs and think to myself, "I could live without that info" (nearly every single time). Of course, people probably think that about my blog posts, too :). I think I just don't want to be that connected. It's the same reason I keep my cell phone turned off unless I want to make a call.

Lynda said...

Thanks so much for this, I've been thinking of "Twittering" for a while now, but wasn't quite sure - as it is I hardly have enough hours in the day ;) but great to hear your feedback on the whole experience ....

Chef E said...

HELP because I cannot figure it, I told people I had my foot up into the pan, which translate...I am cooking some good food today, lol

Kazzy said...

Twitter is really cool. My husband uses it like a tool to stay in touch with scholars in his field and to build his online presence in other areas. I am hooked.

Jeanne said...

I'm curious about Twitter's business model -- how do they make a profit? Blogger, presumably, makes its off ad revenue, and of course it has Google's deep pockets to fund it, too. Do you see ads in the tweet-stream?

Blue Rose said...

wow! nice to hear that you did enjoy twittering.

actually, i've been thinking of signing up to that twitter but i still wasn't sure about it - as i don't go online regularly.

oh by the way, thank you so much for dropping by at my site.

Lilly said...

I admire you but I have tried too and just cannot get it either. I feel like the odd kid out....but found your post interesting nonetheless. Who knows maybe I will have another shot at it one day soon.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I have a twitter account - but I rarely use it... It always feels like I'm arriving at a party late and everyone is in the middle of in depth conversations I don't understand. Then I "tweet" something and it just gets lost in the crush. I'm not ditching it just yet - but I don't really use it as much as I should.

Domestic Executive said...

I've signed up but done nothing with it. Interesting to see your take on it. When winter sets in for real I think I'll sit and get organised. Finding time for all this social networking makes you very antisocial!

Pam said...

I'm on the fence about it. Blogging already takes up so much of my time, I'm afraid with twitter, I would get nothing done.

julie70 said...

I signed up to Twitter a month ago perhaps, but did not found (yet) the use of it, so much time everything takes!

Blogs to write and to read, photos to look at, publish and comment, groups to participate, learn and teach, all those only on web!

Besides, of course the different Meetup groups and places to meet in person other people or photographers or people wanting to learn to speak better in public, and the time goes - no it flies - but, perhaps, some time I'll understand the use of twittering too.

I put this blog as link in mine, I hope it is ok.

phd in yogurtry said...

Thanks for the short hand. I have a twitter account but it's been defunct for months now. I didn't use it, just kinda played around, didn't try to network, didn't figure it out, basically. I do wonder if I would get ANY work done if I was twittering. But I recognize for some, it helps them with their work. Wouldn't work for me, I don't think. But then again, I don't really know it's possibilities.

phd in yogurtry said...

haha, I just now read Pam's comment. Yup. Ditto that.

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