Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Twitter Experiment Continues: Weeding the Feed

I'm now about six weeks into my Twitter experiment. I've thrown myself into this thing with enthusiasm because I would really like to better understand why some social media works for folks, and why others do not. But I haven't exercised much intellectual rigor here. Instead I've chosen to generally kinda bumble around as time permits to get the lay of the land while I try to figure it all out. For the most part, I continue to find myself less impressed by Twitter than I expected to be. I still expect that this may be a matter of working out better following lists and better mastering the tools. We shall see.

As near as I can tell as a six-week Twitter veteran, sheer volume is the king on this platform. Tweeters who tweet 30 times a day far outdraw once-a-day Tweeters. In part this is probably because the odds that they spit out something worth retweeting in those 30 posts is pretty decent, and that's a good way to eventually build a following.

Celebrity outside of Twitter is certainly a big currency here, too. In fact, that was my biggest worry, that I would just find a bunch of feeds with celebrities tweeting about how ridiculous it was that they had to stand in line at the rental-car counter. There's some of that, but it hasn't been as bad as I expected. Perhaps because I have consciously avoided most of those from the start.

News feeds are also big. I can really see why Twitter seems to be much more beloved among journalists and information specialists than the rest of the world. It does make it easy to follow a lot of sheer volume on a particular topic. That sort of unfiltered flow is irresistable to the news media. But unless it's your job to follow the news full time, the noise-to-news ratio that I have so far discovered is pretty discouraging.

As an information professional, I can assure you that obtaining a huge quantity of information on nearly anything is pretty easy these days. Distilling the raw data to a concise and informative format is the real trick. As a consumer of information, I don't always want filters. But I don't want to be blasted by a huge fire hose of information every day, either.

So with all that in mind, I took it upon myself to spend my lunchtime weeding out my Twitter garden. Here's what I thought about some of the flowers and weeds that I found.

The Best: The crown jewel of the Tweeters that I've picked up in the last month or so.

Astro_Soichi (Japanese space station astronaut Soichi Noguchi) -- He mostly tweets pictures that he's taken from the space station, and most of them are truly fantastic. If you're on Twitter and aren't following this guy, you should. Even if half of his tweets are in Japanese.

Keep: These Tweet monkeys were all keepers for me. Don't feel discriminated against if you don't find yourself here. I was mostly judging the high-volume Tweeters today, and these are a few that I made a conscious decision to keep.

Comics and fantasy/SF writers
catvalente (Catherine Valente) -- Usually interesting comments on the writers life. Plus she lives on an island in Maine and has the occasional interesting tweet on that, too.

tobiasbuckell (Tobias Buckell) -- had especially interesting things to say about publishing during the Amazon/Macmillan kerfluffle.

scalzi (John Scalzi) -- A reasonable volume of interesting and original Tweets.

NSAuthors (Night Shade Books) -- Retweets for lots of their authors. Generally an interesting assortment of links to blogs.

Local comics guys
elephanteater (Ryan Claytor), DeanStahl (Dean Stahl) -- Well worth following if you're interested in the Michigan comics scene or indy comics in general.

Mavericks_Surf (Maverick's Surf alerts for MavericksSurf.com) -- Okay, so it's probably only useful once a year to let us know when the annual big-wave contest has been called. Watching this year's contest live via Internet on my plasma TV made it all worthwhile.

Cut: Bad Tweet monkey. No banana.

Most of these Tweeters were victimized by having a noise-to-news ratio that was waaaaaaay too low. If I have to wallow through 20 or 30 of your tweets per day to dig out the one or two that might amuse or inform me, it's time for you to go. It's possible that I may go back and try to redeem a few of these who do occasionally Tweet some nuggets by putting them in a list, but not "following" them. That way they won't clog my usual feed, but I can see whether they might amuse me if I pull them up once a month or so.

OGOchoCinco -- It was fun to follow the strange, frequent and occasionally funny self-centered tweetings of Chad "OchoCinqo" Johnson (or is it Chad "Johnson" OchoCinqo ... I've kinda lost track) for a day or two. But really, a little bit went a long way.

SI_PeterKing (Sports Illustrated's Peter King) -- A sentence or two in the Monday Morning QB column about attending a hockey game or being stuck at the airport adds flavor. Fifteen tweets about these things just clogs up my Twitter feed.

Celebrities and Entertainment
neilhimself (writer Neil Gaiman), ThatKevinSmith (director Kevin Smith), and rainnwilson (actor Rainn Wilson) -- I picked them up when I first signed up because they were under some category (presumably "lots of followers" or somesuch) and I figured I'd give them a whirl. They're all occasionally interesting and funny, but I think I'll stick to their creative work that gets some editing first.

Editing. Our friend!

DailyShowClips -- I love the Daily Show. But I don't need five tweets a day telling me where to find clips from the show on the Internet.

Comics and fantasy/SF writers
neilhimself (writer Neil Gaiman) -- Naw, I only cut him once, not twice. However, although I lumped him in with "Celebrities" because that's how his tweets read. He supposedly belongs in this "writers" category. Based on his tweeting, that could be shocking news for him, so I hope somebody breaks it to him gently.

mattfraction (comics writer Matt Fraction) -- I've concluded that he's speaking a language in which I am not conversant. I give you an example Tweet from today in its entirety: "psychocrat herculeez b. pussyfiend". Farewell for now, Matt. Editors are your friend.

globalenergywar -- Sort of a central exchange for an odd variety of news posts, some of which are related to the energy industry. Whoever's running it seems to be more interested in building sheer traffic than in a coherent point of view. It seemed like literally 50 retweets and web links a day, 49 of which left me thinking, "Why did you retweet that?" Oh, it's because you're building a spam service. I get it.

GStephanopoulos (George Stephanopolous) -- mostly seems to be plugging interviews that I'm not interested in watching because they generally come across as platforms for unchallenged blather. Reminder to George: I know you started your career as a PR flack, but if you're supposed to be committing journalism, it's okay to let your viewers know when somebody on your show is spewing factually incorrect bilgewater.

On the Bubble: Dance for me Tweet monkeys! Dance! Did I mention that your jobs are on the line?! These tweeters and feeds are in danger of feeling the cold cut of the garden hoe.

mortreport (ESPN's Chris Mortenson) MoveTheSticks (former pro football scout Daniel Jeremiah) -- Both of these guys provide really good, detailed pro football information. But I'm not sure I need that much information during the NFL offseason. They may eventually get bumped from "following" to some sort of "good football reads if I have the time to kill" list. Their bubbleness is not through any inherent fault of their own, and I may find their volume easier to take after I've weeded out the worst of the noise-to-news offenders.

nprnews (National Public Radio news) and MichiganRadio (Michigan Radio news) -- Lots of interesting stuff, but they seem to repeat themselves an awful lot. I'm not sure what following them on Twitter is getting me that's better than visiting their web site on occasion. And I'm not sure that shortening the news cycle to minute-by-minute tweets is all that good for my general state of mind.

I'm beginning to think that this is not the most efficient way to get my public radio news, but am willing to hang on a bit longer with them to see what I think in a few more weeks.

NYTimeskrugman (economist and columnist Paul Krugman) -- The Chad OchoCinqo of Nobel-Prize-winning economists. I think I'm finding that I'm really only interested in his pronouncements about once a week or so, when I read his column in the Sunday New York Times.

Celebrity and Entertainment
StephenAtHome (Stephen Colbert) -- Not quite making it right now. But I'll hang on another week or two, to see how I feel he does in the weeded-out feed.

Comics and Fantasy/SF writers
TomBrevoort (Tom Brevoort, from Marvel) -- I haven't yet concluded if he's just shilling, or putting out genuinely interesting and insightful nuggets. Shilling seems to have the upper hand for now.

And that's today's tweet-weeding report. Stay tuned to the Patio Boat blog for all your 140-paragraph bloviations about 140-character tweeters.


  1. Noticeably missing from the garden would be any feeds referencing "haiku', "beagle", or "Katie". 'Fluffy rice", too.

  2. I have a Twitter account solely for beagle haiku and blog contests. I'm just not that into Twitter.

  3. Thanks for the mention, John. This was a great run-down of the feeds you follow. Lots of interesting stuff. Tried to check out Astro Soichi, but none of his images were working. I'll have to try again later, maybe twit-pic is on the fritz.

    Ryan Claytor
    Elephant Eater Comics

  4. I also yanked @demonsheep from the list. I enjoyed the snarky Demon Sheep comments for a few days after that crazy ad came out, but it had long since lost momentum.

    In a related move, I took one blogger out of my blogspot account's "blogs to follow" list here, because I decided he was so prolific that all the new blog postings -- 5-10 per day, which were mostly reposts of news items and graphics -- clogged up my blog listings. So I reckoned that made him better followed via Twitter, where most of those postings got links, anyway.

  5. Wow, so that's what you've been reading while we watch the Olympics....

    This is actually a very interesting post and has given me a far clearer idea of what Twitter is all about than I had before. Nothing like getting in there yourself to see what it is all about, if you don't have a wonderful partner to do it for you!


  6. Ditto.

    Well, a wonderful brother-in-law!