Mar 23, 2009
Look, I don’t want to tell anyone how Twitter should be used – each to their own; it’s a big web and there’s room for lots of different experiences, so please yourself and all that.
However, that being said, it’s my web experience as well, so as a point of reference, it may be worth mentioning that there are a few things/habits/behaviours on Twitter which are pretty much guaranteed to make me unfollow you – temporarily or permanently – and that’s my right, too.
UPDATE, because people keep reading and linking to this as RULES FOR HOW TO USE TWITTER: These are not rules for how to use Twitter. Use it however you want. This is simply a list of habits that bother me – in varying amounts and at various times – when other people do them a lot. This is a list of things that might make me switch off from following someone, just as certain formats or personalities on the television bother me and make me more likely to switch off from watching.
You may not agree. You don’t have to agree. You don’t even have to stop doing them. If you like doing any of the below, or think they’re completely fine to do, then great; please carry on. No-one’s judging you, and most of all, no-one’s telling you what you should or shouldn’t do. Use Twitter however you want.
(For the record, I don’t much like celery, either. If you do like it, then great. I’m not judging you on your celery consumption, I don’t think you’re a horrible, person, or an idiot, and I certainly wouldn’t dream of stopping you eating crunchy vegetables, because that would be weird and inappropriate. But if you invite me over for dinner, and tell me you’re going to be serving celery stew followed by celery pate with a celery gravy, you’ll understand if I don’t eat much, or choose not to come, or maybe just meet you for drinks later, yes?)
- Endless retweeting without adding any value or original thought in between. Or at all. If you retweet more than once a day, especially from the same source(s), I’ll likely dump you and follow them instead. NB, this is even more irritating when I already follow the person you’re retweeting.
- Posting link after link after link even if they’re to really interesting articles and sites and things you’ve spotted on the web. I appreciate that this is a retro thing to say these days, but: Get a blog.
- Saying good morning, hello, good night to your followers. This is not your personal radio show. This is not an AOL chatroom from 1995. We’ll know when you’ve woken up, because you’ll start twittering. We’ll know when you’ve gone up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire because you’ll have gone quiet, or possibly will have indicated something circumstantially relevant before you went (e.g. “Bugger this, there’s nothing on television: I’m going to bed”). Even though your mother brought you up well and it’s good manners generally, there really is no need to say “good night”. Except if you’re @JohnBoyWalton.
- Going to an event and liveblogging it via Twitter. Does what you’re communicating need to be communicated to this group of people, immediately? If not, then you could probably use a blog, and twitter once to say you’re covering it over there. NB This behaviour marks an interesting shift in people using Twitter as communication medium with known group to people using it as a microblog, so I see why it’s increasingly happening – but it’s infernally spammy if you’re not interested.
- Using it to organise an event or rendezvous with other people who happen to be in your twitter list. Use email. Use direct messages. Use the telephone. Or invite everyone. But using a public medium for a private conversation is most vexatious and supererogatory.
- Flooding the screen by updating 84 times in rapid succession. This matters, when you’re abroad and paying for every bit of data downloaded. A stream-hog is like a roadhog: inconsiderate and difficult to ignore.
- Referring to people as “tweeple” or “tweeps”, questions as “twestions” or “twask”, adding someone to your list as a “twadd”, use of “tweet” or any other kind of meaningless derivative which is wholly unnecessary and infantile. People are still people, even if they’re on twitter. Questions are still questions. I realise that language evolves and new words are constantly being coined, but this stuff just makes me want to tweam and tweam and tweam until I’m twick.
Also, there are four things (features?) I’d dearly love to see implemented somewhere, which would help to manage some of the above and some additional twirratations (gah! I’m doing it now!):
- When someone (public) replies to my (private) Twitter stream, please don’t show it in the search, dearest darling Twitter.
- Let me put people on pause, occasionally – or rate limit them. Sometimes you need a holiday from your friends.
- If I’m private, let me shout (public message) as well as talk to people I know. Or if I’m public, let me whisper (to an identified group of followers). Call it semi public/semi private.
- Let me ignore (or opt into) following particular hashtags. If someone twitters something including “#guardiancommunity”, I want to know about it, even if I’m not following them – let it break through into my consciousness. On the other hand, even if my closest friends twitter using a hashtag like “#spurs” don’t show it to me. I love them dearly, and value their friendship, but I’m just not interested in the topic.
I’ve touched on some of this stuff before, as Twitter has evolved over the last three years or so:
- Breaking the news: Dear Twitter friend
- Twitter ye not: further thoughts on an evolving medium
- Twit by name
- Musings on Twitter
- The seven deadly sins of Twitter
Interesting (to me at least) to note how the “sins” in the latter link there have mostly been resolved by people adapting to the tool, but that new behaviours and rather annoying tics have taken their place (see above).
Incidentally, you can find my public twitter stream at twitter.com/megpickard. I have a private one, too – but that’s mostly for people I know in person, have ranted with in pubs, and for whom the conversation is off-the-record. It’s never that juicy, though. (Sorry).