Ever Feel Like You're Being Followed?

I've been using twitter for quite a while now, around a year. And so far, its not going brilliantly.

The problem really is that I don't "get" twitter. I am not online 24/7 so I often only look at my feeds once per day. The conversation in twitter moves faster than that so I rarely reply because usually I've missed the moment. Friends in various timezones also don't help that situation. I haven't really worked out what to do with twitter ... I linked my facebook status to it so that updating one would cause the other to update, thinking I might eventually understand what it was all about.

The only thing that's really changed since I started using it is the number of followers I have, there are more than I really expected. To put this in perspective, I follow twelve people. But seventy people follow me! Not many are complete strangers, some are colleagues, others are online friends. Some of them I would like to follow myself but they are too noisy and since I don't keep up with updates in real time, that doesn't really work for me. I do rather feel like I'm addressing an audience though, slightly spooky.

My twitter timeline is public - this is the point of twitter, its a mass collection of one-liners. It allows clever tools like Summize to show you all posts with given text in it, and things like that. Which is useful if people are talking about you, as I discovered when I was a conference speaker. But it does feel a bit, well, public.

The bottom line is, I'm fed up with twitter, I don't know what to do with it and having more audience is actually making me post less (a bit like being syndicated on the php-planet feed really!) and its so unreliable that half the time when I remember to update, I can't. There's lots of talk of moving to a rival but nobody seems prepared to make the jump. I am completely prepared but I can't find anything to jump to! I looked at Plurk but I have accessibility needs and it doesn't come close to being usable for me. At the moment I think my favourite is FriendFeed - which has the added advantage of being configurable to be private other than to people I approve. It also syndicates people's blogs, flickr accounts, and all sorts of other things, including twitter - so if we all moved to friendfeed then everyone can choose their own twitter replacement, or change it every month, and nobody needs to know because each user manages what goes into their feed that other people see.

I'm not sure if I'm moving away from twitter, stopping using it entirely, or what. Suggestions/comments/experiences are all very welcome!

5 thoughts on “Ever Feel Like You're Being Followed?

  1. My initial experience with Twitter started and then stopped. I actually ended up deleting my account. I felt too much need to follow all the people I know through conferences, etc. I couldn't deal with it and didn't "get" it, so I packed it in.

    As someone who struggles to keep up with feeds at all, Twitter has actually become a nice digestible alternative to some of my feeds and/or mailing lists. However, there is an awful lot of noise. Now though, I feel no remorse for stopping following someone.

    So, for me at least, Twitter has become modal. I have Twhirl running when I feel I can deal with it, but the rest of the time it's ignored. It's also useful for staying connected when at conferences or meets. So, I'm keeping with Twitter for now.

    My tweets are also protected because I like my tweets to be more of a friendly "hey" or a passing thought to share with my friends rather than yet another form of publishing myself to the Web.

  2. The fact that I miss a lot of the conversation doesn't bother me, in real life I'm also not in constant contact with all of my friends. But when I am online, I like the fact that I can see a bit of what the people I know are doing, reading, finding out etc.

    Many of the articles I read or websites I check out, I got from someone's tweet, rather than a blog post. Personal news also travels faster over twitter.

    I also discovered that twitter in combination with a phone makes it more useful. I occasionally read tweets on my phone, and I can post updates through text. I track a few keywords that are sent as sms, so if people talk about certain things, or people address me directly, I'm notified. (unfortunately, this hardly ever works, after a few days twitter just stops sending sms's until I completely remove and re-add my number).

    I'm following about 100 people and I've discovered that this gives a good signal to noise ratio.

    What I like:

    - it's less noisy then irc, yet has the
    same feeling of 'connectedness' to
    your friends.
    - it's ok to miss out on tweets,
    similar to how it's ok to not hear
    people when you're not around, but
    still it's fun to hear them when
    you are.
    - it's more efficient than reading
    blogs (for news and interesting
    links)
    - the relevancy of links is higher
    than blogs, since I'm only getting
    things from people I actively
    follow.

    What I don't like:

    - The fact that sms notifications
    break all the time.
    - that there's no filter to ignore
    certain statements. (e.g. if several
    of my friends are at #someevent,
    and I'm not, their updates might not
    interest me at that point.

  3. I'm actually (weirdly) feeling better about twitter now ... going to be posting more technically interesting and random stuff there, and perhaps less of those things that make me wonder who is reading it! Its a great way to share links and broadcast information to people.

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