Yesterday, danah sent me and a bunch of other Twitter users a few questions to answer about our Twitter usage. Here are my answers to her questions.
1 Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?
Twitter helps me stay connected to my “tribe”. I get little snippets
from them about what’s going on in their lives or minds, and they get
the same from me. It gives me the same kind of “in touch” feeling as
hanging out in an IRC channel, but with the added bonus that it’s “an
IRC channel populated by my IM buddylist” (well, not exactly of
course, not everybody is on Twitter, but close enough). And it’s IRC
I can dump thoughts of the moment into it which are two short for a
blog post, and find them again later (micro-blogging). It’s an easy
way to let people know what I’m upto, as I publish my feed on my blog.
I like the people who hang out on Twitter. Most of “my important
online people” (people I like, those who count, in my world) are
there. I like being able to send messages to Twitter whether I’m
online or offline. I like the 140 character limit.
I don’t like the current “all or nothing” way of dealing with people
you follow. It makes getting twitters on my phone impossible, there
are too many of them. I’d like to be able to define groups, and
follow/unfollow certain groups easily on my phone. I don’t really like
the “all or nothing” privacy system: sometimes there is one message
I’d like to show only my friends, and not publish on my website like
the rest of my twitter stream. Or show a group of friends.
Oh, and I don’t like that direct twitters almost systematically come
up as two text messages on my phone.
But these things are are missing are “nice to haves” for me. What I
like most is that twitter sets out to do one thing (let you send short
status messages), and does it (in my opinion) pretty well.
2 Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.
At the beginning I kept my twitters/Tweets private. It felt too
IRC-like for me to make public. But then I realised that I wanted to
include the feed on my site, and that for that I had to go public. I
had a good think about this, also because I realised that if I started
out private, I was going to put private stuff in Twitter, and that
would prevent me from going public in future, as it would reveal my
past private twitters. So I decided the “safer” option was to go
public straight away (make sense?)
So, my main, most active audience is the people who are following me
on Twitter. I know many of them (my “friends”) but there are also many
I don’t know (“fans”?!). As my Twitter feed is published on my blog, I
know anybody who reads my blog or lands there can read them.
My attitude towards twittering (what do I twitter? what don’t I?) is
the same as with blogging: I assume everyone and anyone can read my
twitters, or is likely to at some point, whether friend, stranger, or
as-of-today-offline-person. So I make sure I’m reasonably comfortable
with anybody reading what I twitter, and balance risks when I’m saying
things about people. I’m aware that things I send to twitter have less
visibility for the “non 2.0” crowd, so I know I can get away with
certain things, even though the risk of being read is there.
I’m more “personal” in my Facebook status, for example — because I
know that (normally) future clients are not my friends on Facebook.
But I assume future clients read my blog 😉
As I mentioned in reply to your first question, I think selective
privacy would be a great thing for Twitter. Maybe I’d like my twitters
to be public by default, but every once in a while I’d like to send a
twitter which is visible only to my friends, or (if there is some kind
of grouping feature) to the group of people I’ve tagged “my
3 How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?
I skim twitters of the people I’m following, at regular intervals
during the day. Sometimes, I’ll click on a single person’s Twitter
page and read the last 10-20 they sent. There are a few people I’m
very close to for which I’ll do that a few times a day.
I usually follow people I know (and not strangers), though by the
magic of one-sided conversations on Twitter, I have come to add people
who were friends with a friend of mine (one could say we were
twitter-introduced), and who have since then become “my friends”.
There are a few people I follow “as a fan” — I wouldn’t expect them
to follow me back — but those are not the most important people in my
4 What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?
I guess my answer to the second question is also relevant here. My
twitters are public, so I’m not going to twitter stuff I would not
generally consider “blog-safe” (ie, I don’t speak about my love life,
I don’t comment on arguments I might be having with people who are
close to me, I’m quite careful when speaking of others in general, and
I don’t usually give details of my last visit at the doctor’s).
So, yes, of course I’ve found myself wanting to send something to
twitter and deciding against it — just like it happens every now and
again with blogging, on IRC, or in a conversation with a friend.
Sometimes I decide it is best not to say what I am tempted to say,
because it is not appropriate for this situation/relationship/medium.
But it’s not an attitude I relate to Twitter as such.
5 Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?
They’re public, for the reasons I explained in answer to question 2. I
adapt my twittering so that I’ll be comfortable with the audience it
technically makes available (ie, “everyone”, strangers and friends —
online or off — alike). Just as with my blogging.
6 What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?
I’ve heard quite a few complaints about people who twitter a lot
(which can be me, on some days). I think the ability to be more
selective about whose twitters one receives on phone/im could help
with that (it’s already possible to unfollow a person from the phone,
but it’s a rather drastic “general” action, instead of saying “I’m
following him, but don’t give me his twitters on my phone, thanks”.
I think it works because it’s simple.
I think it “doesn’t work” for many people before they ever start using
it because it’s hard to “get”. Many people out there don’t “get it”,
because they reduce it to some kind of totally egocentric
micro-blogging spewing messages which have no value to the world. So
it can be rather hard to bring in people who are not familiar with