Just a maintenance post, and a chance to get something off my chest about twitter.
People seem to be using it all wrong.
OK, I know that's hardly fair: there's no "right" way to use something like a messaging service. And I'm following some very inventive feeds using it in clever, non-obvious ways. But it's medium that leads people to become egomaniacal and arrogant (especially as their follower numbers mount - which I think causes a form of Messiah Complex). Let me give an example.
A well-known specialist journalist of my acquaintance is a heavy twitter user. He likes it so much, he's said in the past that it might replace, for him, email and RSS feeds as a means of staying in touch with his interest groups. But subscribing to his twitter feed has been a painful experience. (He's not the only culprit - I've unfollowed lots of people for the same reasons I've ditched his twitter feed.)
There are three huge problems. First, as a twitter fan, he uses an awful lot of twitter shorthand. For those of us not au fait with the jargon, that makes them impenetrable. (New tweet conventions seem to spring up every day - some obvious, others positively runic.) I think that's unforgivable for a journalist. As professional communicators, what we write should be clear, direct and concise. The 140 character limit on twitter rewards directness and conciseness - but it torpedoes clarity in many tweets.
SOLUTION: tweet a lot less. Blog more - where you can write to the right length, then perhaps use clear, plain english tweets to flag up new posts. (Note: this journalist blogs plenty and does tweet new blogs... in between screeds of unintelligible tweets that make my head hurt.)
Second, twitter is a broadcast medium. But it encourages person-to-person communication. The number and proportion of this journalist's tweets directed with the "@" sign to specific individuals is huge - and most of them are utterly uninteresting to me as a result. Because I'm only seeing part of the conversation - and have no interest in following everyone my colleague follows - the signal-to-noise ratio gets even worse.
SOLUTION: tweet a lot less. If the conversation is one-to-one, for god's sake email. If it's a relatively narrow interest group, why not go to a group or chat-room - try using this for hot topics: http://www.tinychat.com/. If you tweet, you tweet to all your followers, and it seems rude not to address them all in that case.
Third, twitter is an over-public medium. Think of the internet cloud as a giant pub. If I want to talk to someone I know quietly in the corner over a beer, I use email or IM. If a small group want to chat about football or politics, hugger-mugger in a booth, it's a chat-room or perhaps a comment thread. If I have something I want people to read, I might leave a flyer on the tables or in the loo - put up blog post or a web page. Twitter, however, is the equivalent of the bloke in the pub who won't leave you alone. He has to tell everyone he's ever met there exactly what he's been up to - IN A RATHER LOUD VOICE. And he'll often bore you with stories about conversations he's had with other people (often people he barely knows). He's slightly shouty and a bit of a boor and he thinks everyone really likes him. (Let's just be clear: I'm not saying my journalist friend is like that - just that heavy twitterers can come across that way.)
SOLUTION: tweet a lot less. Why not do it only when you have a very open question that anyone in the pub might be able to answer? Perhaps use it as an online equivalent of shouting "there's a fight in the street!" - a public service to those in the pub: clear, unambiguous, concise and useful. Then if someone rushes out with you to take a look, you can discuss the brawl one-to-one without annoying anyone else.
In short... tweet a lot less. I'd like to follow more people - I like people, lots of people have interesting things to share - but there's a limit to how many tweets I can plough through in a day. If that limit is, say 200, and everyone puts up 5 tweets, that's 40 people I can keep track of. If two people stink up Tweetdeck with 50 a day each, then my twitter population halves.
I still follow my journalist's blog entries via RSS. He's interesting, well-connected and informed. Articulate, even. But his twitter feed is dead to me. My favourite US political journo, now a White House correspondent, is next... unless she calms the frick down. (Sadly, her blog is less frequently updated.) An expert in global accounting also need to re-learn the value of email, IM and texting (especially when she's being flirtatious) or she's on the block. (Her RSS feed is good, thankfully).
As the late great Frankie Howerd might have said: "Twitter ye not!"