Tag Archives: Twitter

So Long, @Croisan: Five Twitter Lessons

23 Feb

I am putting my Twitter persona, @Croisan, out to pasture. After two years and 10,000 tweets, it’s time to quit and reflect on what I’ve learned along the way.

The first lesson I gleaned from Twitter was to tweet about “Five Amazing…” or “10 Great Ways to…” or any number combined with a superlative to entice someone to view a link or retweet the offering. Though I rarely applied the lesson to my own tweets, it’s ubiquitous on Twitter, so it probably works.

I lied about the other four lessons.

This is not to say I have nothing to impart to you. I do. But @Croisan (For the curious, it’s pronounced “kroy-zin” like poison.) can’t be summed up in a tidy curriculum that you follow to become a Twitter god or goddess.

Fact is, I’m not a Twitter deity of any kind. I’m a middlin’ tweep. I follow around 780 people and have about 1,275 followers. And now that @Croisan reached my goal of 10,000 tweets, as promised, I’m pulling its plug.

I do not plan to remove my account or delete tweets. They stand, for good or ill, as my testament to microblogging. If packaged between the covers of a book, my tweets and retweets would run more than 600 pages. (Estimating five characters per word and 100 characters per tweet equals approximately 20 words each post, totaling close to 200,000 words, easily filling a thick book.) Granted, it would be a strange, context-free, mostly unintelligible tome. Like Bob Dylan’s Tarantula. 😉

Better left unbound, free, lost in the inexhaustible timelines of Twitter, those tweets. That’s where all my or anyone’s postings belong. Book writing and tweeting are not the same thing, naturally, but both require a creative, consistent, and egocentric effort. And time.

Nothing wrong with that, kept in perspective. However, just knowing how much effort has gone into my Twitter persona got me thinking, frankly, that I might have different things to do with my time. Maybe read more books. Maybe write one.

Hey, that’s a second Twitter lesson: it’s a time sink.

Of course, no matter what I do, whether riding my bicycle, reading books, tapping on a keyboard, or having heart-to-hearts with Cathie, time, my limited time on this good earth, is draining fast. If Twitter is one way to watch it wash away, so be it. Yet, as much as I’ve enjoyed my beguiling Twitter experience, it’s too insubstantial to continue as @Croisan.

For example, I never physically met anyone via Twitter. Oh, sure, I made contacts through Twitter. But never have I actually met a new person face to face through the service, you know, like you would do with a real friend. Never shook a hand or studied a new face. Not once. Even pen-pals get to meet each other now and again. That’s not the case on Twitter, despite thousands of virtual encounters between me and others none of them evolved into an actual encounter.

So, while I have enjoyed interacting with people through the service and will miss their wit or wisdom, I can’t say I have added anyone as a dear friend. There’s no one I found through the service who I would loan money to or drive hundreds miles to visit or call and talk to all through the night. There’s no one I have encountered on Twitter whom I can say that I love.

Likewise, when @Croisan stops posting to the wonderful Twitter information firehouse no one will or should care. It’s merely the demise of an idea of a mere part of someone somewhere who has moved on.

Say, come to think of it, that’s another good lesson: virtual friendships are not true friendships.

Although lacking in love, Twitter is an exceptional place to gather information on a given topic, particularly if you want to keep up with breaking news. Whether democratic movements in the Middle East or those that happen in Wisconsin, Twitter delivers the most timely information available. Of course, some of it is just rumor, innuendo, or lies.

Let’s call this a lesson, too: Pick your tweeps carefully. Many are simply bullshit artists. Unfollow and block others regularly to keep your content Timeline free of plain ol’ crap.

Finally, Twitter can give you a false sense of “doing.” That is, my tweeting and retweeting everything and anything on an important issue, such as health care reform or the environment, can convince me that I am somehow doing good. When, in fact, I would do more viable good by calling my elected representatives, attending protest marches, campaigning for the best candidates, or whatever was a true, more meaningful action for the cause I supported. Instead, by racking up a few dozen tweets about one thing or another, I can believe that I have actually done something to further a cause. Tweeting about Tahrir Square or the Capitol in Madison is not the same as being there.

Maybe that’s the last lesson: the real world remains real and important and vital, while the online realm remains only a reflection. It’s wise, then, to allot your limited time accordingly.

So, I did not lie, after all. That’s five lessons. Just like the headline promised.

And they were all learned by me.

Class dismissed.


Twitter, Knowledge, and the New Ethical Corporation

22 Nov

There are many reasons to bring social networking tools into your business. Proponents will list dozens of reasons from productivity gains to cost savings to justify spending money for tools like Socialcast Inc.’s Reach software. One thing they don’t brag about is that social networking products open up an organization’s ethics for all to see.

Reach is embedded into as many network applications as possible within an enterprise. According to CEO Tim Young like-minded workers in different departments can use Twitter-like services inside their existing apps to recommend, comment upon, share,  and track information with interested parties. Anything that is known to an individual can be shared, securely inside controlled groups or widely to all stakeholders.

This got me thinking about business ethics. Corporate crime costs the United States more than what we call street crime by far. Cutting down corporate crime would be a boon to the US economy.

Services like Reach create a level of transparency inside companies that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Remember Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, and the other poster corps. for criminal and unethical behavior in the past decade? Well, if they had used social networking tools like Reach, I’m guessing their illegal scams would have been more difficult to pull off. With more people knowing more details inside of a business, there is an overpowering instinct among people to do what’s right not what’s necessarily expedient and certainly not what’s downright wrong. By letting more people know what’s happening inside an enterprise, the social pressure is enormous for the business to act ethically.

Reach and other social network products don’t lead to a lack of security, just a wider awareness of issues inside the organization. It’s not the fear that your company’s lack of ethics will be on page one of the local newspaper, but that it will be discussed in the company lunch room.

For example, let’s say a company is using Reach during a product development cycle within the R&D group responsible for the new product. If everyone involved is using Reach and product flaws are discussed, the odds of releasing the product with the most serious flaws will be reduced because of the number of those who know about the problems. If there were only a smaller, more tightly-integrated team aware of the flaws, there’s a greater likelihood that they would hide or play down the problems and the product would more likely ship with ultimately more image-damaging flaws. While using Reach might have forced the product development team to either ship their product late or scale down their ambitions to get it done right, in the long run the product would be less of a costly headache for the company.

I’m not saying social networking products will force a company to act ethically. But they will make it much more difficult to hide their ethics, good or bad.

I Am Product

18 Oct

If I were a product I’d probably be part of a recall. A defect from the norm. Or so I would hope. Who wants to be part of the crowd?

Yet, when I think about it, I am a product, and not such a unique one, at least as far as the boardrooms of Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, and the rest of the social network empires are concerned. I am part of the noisy crowd that comprises those companies’ product. Without me and millions of others like me typing away, attaching links, posting videos and photos, generating more and more content, there would be no product for social networks to sell.

We are all product.

But, I ask you, what kind of company can succeed in the long run when it does not own, control, influence, or manage its own product? As I’ve said here before, the faddish nature of consumers and their likes and dislikes of online services make any social network ephemeral, which is why I swing between astonishment and amusement when supposedly sober people value, say, Facebook at $33 billion. For what?

Once upon a time capitalists, so-called captains of industry, aspired to own real things. Ironworks. Railroads. Steel mills. Oil wells. Baseball teams. Something they could point to and say, “That’s mine.”

What do the capitalist captains of social networks point to when showing off their accomplishments? The leased servers in the hosted data centers where the “secret sauce” of their proprietary software runs? Maybe, but it’s rather pathetic when compared to the real value created in the real world by the business titans that preceded them.

My concern is not that the fortunes of new billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg are built upon shifting sands. Rather, when (not if) fickle users of today’s social networks shift their gaze to the next shiny thing, I fear current and future investors will be wiped out. I also worry that as a nation, the United States seems to be obsessed with building an economy based on virtual products (me and you) and not real things with value in the real world. Social networks are the reflection of an economic engine, not an actual one.

Facebook, Twitter, and the rest won’t help the USA overcome its ongoing economic woes. The best they can do is distract us from them for a while. But only for a while.

Culling Strategies in Twitter

23 Jul

In Twitter’s highly dynamic social network, it’s important to have a culling strategy as a way to connect to only the best, most interesting people. Here’s mine.

I start when someone wants to follow me. First, I don’t automatically follow people back as many do. In fact, I don’t automatically let them follow me. I review their bio, if they have one, and read a dozen or so tweets. If they are hardcore SEO “experts” I block them. If they are pornbots, I block them. If they are kids tweeting about their inane lives, I block them. If all their tweets are in a language I can’t read, I block them. If they don’t tweet, I block them.

So, yes, my culling strategy starts by cutting down the number of people I permit to follow me. A few people protect their tweets initially, forcing users to ask

permission to follow. I believe that limits the number of potential interesting people in your network. I say, let strangers, even the downright strange seek me out, then let the block function do its magic if need be.

Next, like most folks on Twitter, I follow those whose content I appreciate. But, as they say in investment circles, past performance is no indicator of how those I follow will act in the future. So, I regularly review those I follow. Occasionally, my initial impulse to follow someone was misguided and I discover that I no longer appreciate their content, so I unfollow. But my main reason for dropping people is that they have ceased tweeting. I allow for a hiatus of a month or so, but if their quietude goes beyond that I figure they have quit, got bored, maybe even died. Who knows? Doesn’t matter. They’re gone.

Finally, once in a while, I return to my followers list and review folks against the criteria I apply when I learn someone new is following me. Occasionally I will discover someone who has sneaked through my filters or has changed their spots and become a tweeter I do not appreciate, so I block them.

Having a good Twitter culling strategy for both those you follow and those who you let follow you requires a bit more effort, but it makes for a much more enjoyable social network.

10,000 Tweets: A Goal That Is Also a Limit

18 Jul

In Outliers, the most recent book published by Malcolm Gladwell, he wrote that expertise, genius even, is skill multiplied by 10,000. That is, a person gets very good at something–software programming, hitting baseballs, writing music, whatever–after simply doing it 10,000 times or, say, for 10,000 hours. For some unknowable reason, Gladwell’s research reveals that 10,000 is the magic number that a person needs to achieve before mastering the task as an expert.

With that in mind, I’ve decided to achieve expertise in Twitter. I have set a goal to tweet 10,000 times.

Then I will quit.

Currently, after more than a year and half using the social networking service, I have sent out 5,842 tweets. Like many Twitter newbies, I did not hit my tweet stride for many months. It took nine months to barely reach 1,000 tweets. Now, according to TweetStats, I’m in the 400 tweets-per-month range, so I should reach my goal of 10,000 sometime next year.

I realize that 10,000 is not such a big number when compared against true Twitter experts like @RayBeckerman (130,000 tweets), @paul_steele (75,000), @mlomb (111,000), @TLW3 (71,000), @SgBz (16,000), @mparent77772 (87,000), and @shefaly (20,000), just a few among the 628 people I currently follow who are well past 10,000 tweets.

But by putting a hard, fast cap on the number of my tweets I am changing my relationship to Twitter. Before this decision, each tweet held the equivalent value of zero to me. I’d post anything and everything that tickled my fancy. I retweeted marginal items because I was in the mood or simply because it was from a new person on Twitter. Now each tweet has value because the supply is no longer inexhaustible.

This does not mean I will eschew back-and-forth banter with @ggSpirit (10,000), @JosephLane (21,000), @VariantVal (56,000), and others. That’s some of the best fun there is to have on Twitter. And I will still retweet, though with a bit more discretion, such as not passing along the popular @badbanana (12,000) tweets, funny as they can be. But I still intend to post new items as they strike my fancy, at least until my finite pile of unused tweets are gone.

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person. It helps me focus. But sometimes the best goals in life are also limits.

The Complete Tweet

3 May

Not long ago I received a direct message from a fellow Twitter user. Unlike most of us who simply click the unfollow button and forget about it, she wanted to explain why she was dumping me.

>>Unfollowing due to too many controversial tweets (politics, religion, etc). Thought they’d be mostly about writing as in your description.<<

My Twitter description says: Writer, Editor, Bicyclist. So, she’s correct. I tweet about much more than those three words indicate.

I post thoughts on everything from my frustration with President Obama’s kowtowing to conservatives to priestly pedophile perversions. I sound off on the precariousness of the economic recovery and the fragile condition of our planet. Although I do not consider myself a humorist, I link to those who do make me laugh with either cute gags or crude comments. I also comment on college basketball and Major League Baseball.

Oh, and once in a while I will tweet about writing, editing, and bicycling.

Like my disgruntled former follower, I glance at the descriptions people post about themselves. But I seldom make that the criteria for following. I look at their actual tweets because that’s where I learn the truth about who they are on Twitter. Most of these mini-bios are not helpful, except from those who use the microblogging service as a way to make money. Those folks, for the most part, are up front about how they exploit Twitter and so they are easy to avoid.

Other Twitter users who tweet on only one part of their lives–politics, the environment, religion/atheism, sports, music–many of whom I follow, are only revealing a small slice of who they are to the rest of us. They might as well be an impersonal, but reliable news service. In fact, it is how they want to be perceived. There’s nothing wrong with that, it only means they are one-dimensional and might as well be an old teletype machine clacking away in a closet.

But the rest of us, the majority of us, are different. We use Twitter to express who we are and what interests us. And, despite the description about me, I am much more than a person who writes, edits, and pedals a bike. I make no apologies about it.

What’s more, I suspect, if I remain a Twitter user, I will change. Maybe I will obsess less about politics and more about sports. Maybe I will focus more on my photography or post more items about health. Who knows? I am not the same person I was even a few years ago.

The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Likewise for the stream of tweets flowing from my keyboard; and the same holds true most everyone else. Our tweets change because we all change as the world we live in wobbles on its axis, which, by the way, just shifted from a major earthquake. Nothing is constant.

For me, the full, multi-dimensional, users of Twitter are many things. They are angry, sad, political, satirical, holy, heretical, and everything in-between. They are complete people in their own way. That’s the joy I find in using the service. It reveals our complex natures tweet by incomplete tweet until a total picture of a person is drawn for each of us to see in our own minds; a picture that is smudged and erased and redrawn time and time again.