@smiffytech – The Twitter and I

Important Note

As of 15 August, 2009, my Twitter identity changed from @smiffytech to @smiffy. The @smiffytech account still exsists, but with a message referring to the new one. Followers/following not affected.

Preamble

Until fairly recently, my only encounters with online social networking were with the professional networking site, LinkedIn. I have to confess that my impression of the other social networking utilities out there was “kids’ stuff”, “silly” and the like. Now that I have delved into these utilities, I have gained considerable respect for them – in concept if not in execution.

There are two main reasons for me looking into and taking up with various online social networking utilities. These are 1) my clients use them and 2) they are web applications; as a web applications developer, I need to keep current with applications being used at large.

I have decided to take up regular Twitter usage because, even in the short space of time that I have been using it, I have made some valuable and interesting contacts. Despite its limitations, Twitter is a valuable tool and, from a business perspective, only a fool would ignore it.

Twitter

The history and actuality of Twitter are a matter of public record so I feel no desperate need to regurgitate a load of facts in this article.

These are what I consider to be the key points of Twitter:

  • Posts are limited to 140 characters. I know the reasons for this, I don’t like them and I don’t like the restriction. But that’s what Twitter is, I don’t see it changing so one must put up with it.
  • Twitter has a publicly available API so anyone can develop their own add-on, value-adding or whatever software. I consider this to be a very important feature.
  • Threading is limited; whilst one can reply to a “tweet”, the reply appears to be linked only to the parent, not to an entire thread.

Usability/Accessibility

Accessible Twitter icon

Twitter has in common with every social networking utility I have seen so far – the web interface is crap. I’m not knocking the developers here specifically – it still seems that only a minority of those developing for the web have even the faintest clue when it comes to accessibility or web standards. However, by offering an API, Twitter gains itself Brownie Points because this allows others to develop better, more accessible interfaces. Step forward Dennis Lembrée, the creator of Accessible Twitter. (Dennis is @AccessibleTwitr on Twitter.) Whilst this service is only in alpha at the time of writing, the work done so far has been truly excellent.

Followers and Following

Whilst one can sample the random noise that is the Twitter live feed, to get any sense out of this vast flow of information, one needs to “follow” specific users. For me, the first people that I follow are those in my own “tribe” – those that I know in real life – friends, colleagues, associates, etcetera. Others that I follow are those who follow me; I choose these based on a certain set of criteria – more of that later.

So, do I just follow everyone that follows me? Absolutely not! Whilst Twitter is important to me as a network builder, I don’t want to spend excessive time looking at it or suffering from information overload.

My “following the followers” are:

  • If a new follower has too few posts that are of interest to me, I don’t follow them.
  • If a new follower has posts of moderate interest but is posting a vast volume, I don’t follow them. Until such time as I have written my own Twitter-reading code to help me sort through posts, I need to keep the incoming volume down to what I can easily handle manually. Twitter may get me new business, but looking at it doesn’t get my work done.
  • If a new follower is following many, has few followers, has no posts and not completed their profile, I will block them straight away.
  • If a new follower is following many, has few followers, has no posts, has completed their profile, but still has no posts after 24 hours, I will block them unless I have good reason to believe that they are genuine users only just getting started.
  • If a new follower has only made spammy posts, I block them straight away.

It’s a Game!

Er, no, I don’t agree. It seems that there are those that use Twitter as a means of self-gratification, measuring their “success” by their number of followers. I believe that any form of success in social networks is the number of meaningful relationships that one establishes – quality being significant rather than quantity.

But each to their own. I want to build professional networks, others want an ego-trip. Twitter appears to be able to provide both.

Further Reading

 

Cheers all!

Smiffy, aka @smiffy

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