Twitter For Me = IM + Link Blog

About a month ago, I wrote about how I was conflicted about yet professionally obligated to spend more time on Twitter. It’s a month later, so I thought I’d check in on my adoption progress.

Something that Todd said in a comment on that post resonated:

I found myself thinking that broadcast was the wrong word for twitter, as it tends to start working more like IM over time, only not as isolated.

Looking back at my Twitter stream, most of my tweets (I’m still displeased by that word) are replies to other people, or links to something. I’m not sure why, but I’m disinclined to post tweets that answer the default Twitter question, “what are you doing?”

21st Century IRC

I used to hang out in a Skype channel that included 30 or 40 Vancouverites from the tech community. I’d let in run in the background, and remark on some tech news or bemoan the Canucks as the mood struck me. Twitter has replaced that as a kind of 21st century IRC.

I have a link blog in the sidebar of this site. It’s a kind of clearing house for stuff that interests me, but doesn’t merit a full post on my site. A couple hundred people subscribe to it, and I really don’t know how useful people find it (I’ve never asked).

Now every time I spot a link I’d like to pass on (such as this blog of things that look like a duck), I have to decide whether it goes in Twitter, in the link blog, or both. Both takes too long, and I have yet to develop criteria for what goes where.

I asked, on Twitter, about just streaming my link blog into my Twitter stream, but I got a couple of negative responses. Understandably, people (presumably they were link blog subscribers) didn’t want to get repeated content. When I first signed up for Twitter many moons ago, I did that with my blog’s RSS feed, and somebody told me it wasn’t kosher.

They’re probably right–I find little value in tweets that read “New Blog Post:”. If I want to read your blog, I probably already subscribe to it. Obviously the etiquette on all this stuff is still emerging.

The number of people I follow is up from 33 to 58. The increase is mostly due professional interest (I’m following some top tech bloggers). I tend to give people a trial run, and if I find what they’re writing about interesting, I stick with them.

No Debate Team at This High School

The major frustration that I’ve found on Twitter is that it inhibits debate. I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to have a cogent argument that doesn’t devolve into sound bites on the platform. I love debate–it’s one of the reasons I spend leisure time online. Twitter seems to act a bit like high school in this regard–either people hurl insults or just talk nice (I know high schools have debate teams, but that’s where my analogy breaks down).

So, the experiment continues. Any suggestions on how I should handle the link blog vs. Twitter issue?


  1. I think part of the issue is that twitter really isn’t close to real time (the website might be considered as such, but nobody I know still uses it that way) – that is, most clients are polling with 5 minute intervals. So having a debate, or any real time discussion, just isn’t feasible. I look at it as more of an “asides* feature, more along the lines as short-term bookmarking. In that regards, your website link-roll is obviously more long-term.

  2. A few years ago I finally deleted IRC from my computer because it wasted more time than I cared to admit. The connectivity was cool but it was a bit too convenient. It was like hanging out at a coffee shop in the middle of a library. You’ll never run out of things to talk about. At some point you have to get up and *do* something.

    re: Blog posts vs. Twitter – no offense, but it is unlikely I would find your twitter feed interesting compared to your blog. There is much richer and more thought-out content here, which is why I return frequently. Twitter is the antithesis of that idea.

  3. I’m not sure how much the real-time aspect comes into it. People have all kinds of debates, with varying levels of civility, with much more asynchronous formats like discussion boards and email.

    As far as links in the twitter stream, I was one of the negativistas, but only because I read both blog and twitter posts. If I could vote for anything, it would be picking one link a day or week out of the crop posted on the blog. For me, it comes down to treating each channel with respect to what makes it special.

  4. One of the things is that it can be hard to follow a tweet discussion particularly if you don’t subscribe to (follow) all the people who are discussing. I’m seeing people use FriendFeed to discuss tweets instead, it provides the ability for people to comment on any of the posted content.

  5. I have used Twitter for slightly over a month, and I’m up to 2,000 tweets, which could definitely make people consider me Twitter-spam (I’ve had people unfollow me as a result).

    However, I have found that even if people subscribe to my RSS feed, they still feel inclined to read my posts as soon as I feed them on to Twitter (with TwitterFeed, which unfortunately doesn’t feed them instantaneously). That’s why I do it.

    I’ve changed my Twitter etiquette in two ways. First, even if I don’t follow someone, if they send me an “@” reply, I’ll try to engage in a conversation and at least read their blog and post a comment or two. Second, if I see that the conversation is getting big (and I follow this person reciprocally), I switch to DMs.

    I still post way more tweets than what I really want to, but I have yet to find a way around it.

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