Irritating Twitter Behaviors

Twitter reminds me of MySpace a year ago: it's a fundamentally bad application and worse implementation that's won on the basis of capturing critical mindshare. All the cool kids are there now, but someday they will begin to leave Twitter—just as many groups have migrated en masse from MySpace for Facebook.

There is only one compelling reason to microblog at Twitter as opposed to some other place, such as identi.ca It's not the features. It's simply because the people are there now. That's the only thing keeping people from leaving for a better platform or service. So, someday, when that "better enough" service emerges, they will. Community lock-in is not a viable long-term strategy. MySpace learned that lesson the hard way.

In the meantime, we soldier on. Some days I wonder why. There are a number of behaviors that I find annoying. Sometimes, they bug me enough to cause me to "de-follow" people. At some point, I suspect they'll convince me to leave completely. (Or, at least, modify my behavior, such as limiting my Twitter contact to a small handful of local friends that I want to follow for status and coordination information.)

Here is a list of some of the things that happen on Twitter that annoy me.

Live Tweeting

I don't get live blogging—this idea that you post a blog entry and make frequent updates as an event unfolds. It's a bad fit for the store-and-recall medium of a blog. Moreover, live blogging isn't interesting. It usually turns into a long stream of vapid off-the-cuff responses and snark masquerading as analysis.

Live tweeting may be a better fit to the medium (tweets tend to be more ephemeral than blog posts), but it's no more useful or interesting. Moreover, the volume that emerges from live tweeting an event drowns out all other people. This has been an issue, for instance, during last week's Democratic National Convention.

On the other hand, as with any rule, there are exceptions. My wife, a New Orleans expat, found the live tweets during Hurricane Gustav from New Orleaneans to be valuable, informative, and, at times, reassuring. But only the live tweets by the displaced New Orleaneans. The live tweets from other sources, such as those here in Austin, were almost completely unhelpful.

Here is another exception: when Chris got stuck in an elevator for half an hour he live tweeted it. Or, maybe it's not an exception. I certainly was amused by it (it was a non-threatening event and Chris took it in good cheer), but others may not. In context I think it worked, so I'll give it a thumbs up.

Otherwise, stay away from live tweeting. If you must live tweet, consider creating a dedicated channel. A tweeter at the local daily newspaper started live tweeting Gustav, but quickly moved those updates to a dedicated channel. That's a great idea. Those interested could follow, while those of us not were spared the annoyance.

Excessive Tweeting

The live tweeting problem really can be generalized to any form of excessive tweeting.

Unlike conventional blogging, microblogging is a zero sum game. (At least, it is on the Twitter platform, and that's another one of its big deficiencies.) You can sort, organize, and prioritize your conventional blog feeds. Not so for microblogging. All tweets flow into a single boat. Each added tweet pushes out one other tweet. A flood of them threatens to swamp the boat.

One thing that I see leading to excessive tweeting is items that don't fit into 140 characters. Somebody will feel like they have to do four, five, ten tweets to make their point. Well, don't do that. If you can't fit your point into one tweet, maybe two, then that's a sign it isn't appropriate for microblogging. Put it in email or post it to your blog.

Another thing to watch for is returning to your desk, and feeling like you have to catch up on every conversation you missed. Really, you don't.

If you are the most interesting person in the universe then you get a pass. Otherwise, stop being a boor. Your flood of tweets is crowding everybody else out of the conversation.

Responses to Protected Tweeters

There is nothing quite so irritating as reading a tweet in response to somebody, and when you click to view the original message you are told:

This person has protected their updates.

This failure is Twitter's fault. It could give some indication that the person you are about to respond to protects their tweets, but it doesn't. It could limit distribution of responses to just the people who can view the original, but, again, it doesn't.

So, yeah, it's not your fault, but it's still annoying. Try to be aware of it when you make a public response to a protected tweeter.

Tweetouts to the A-List

Never get mentioned on boingboing? Can't get the famous people to list you on their blogroll? You may not be one of the cool kids, but thanks to Twitter you can now name drop with the best of them. Step one is to find and follow some net.famous person. Step two is to start responding to their tweets.

That's it! You're done!

So-called famous person may never even see your tweets, but that doesn't matter. All your friends will, and they will be oh so impressed that you are now on a first name basis with such a celebrity.

Actually, they won't. They'll think you are a pathetic tweet whore. Sorry.

Whinging about Bad Tweeters

There are so many ways Twitter is deficient and so many ways people misuse it. It sure gets annoying. But here's the thing: it's not like anybody is holding a gun to your head and making you read it.

If you don't like the way somebody tweets, then un-follow them.

Another possibility, for the utmost in passive-aggressive behavior, is to complain to the world about other people's Twitter transgressions. The best part about this approach is that you don't even have to un-follow people. You can simply whinge about it in your tweets.

Or, on your blog.

Comments

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Whinge? When did you become

Whinge? When did you become British?

Good rant, but

can identi.ca make boring people interesting? If there's an application that can, please tell us. :)

There is nothing quite so

There is nothing quite so irritating as reading a tweet in response to somebody, and when you click to view the original message you are told:

This person has protected their updates.

This failure is Twitter's fault. It could give some indication that the person you are about to respond to protects their tweets, but it doesn't. It could limit distribution of responses to just the people who can view the original, but, again, it doesn't.

If you're using Twitter's own interface, and you're logged in, you never see tweets in response to people you don't follow yourself on your own Twitter feed, so I think Twitter has that covered. As far as I can tell, the only way this scenario can happen is if (a) you're viewing when logged out, or (b) you're venturing outside your own page and asking to view an unfiltered list of every Tweet from a specific person, whether or not it's to somebody you follow. In the latter case... well, that's what you get. I don't really see the problem here.

I just double-checked...

I just double-checked... while the default setting (under Settings > Notices) is, indeed, to show only "@ replies to people I'm following," it's possible to change this to show "all @ replies" or "no @ replies". In either of the latter cases, you get what you asked for. :-)

confirmed

I see that setting, and I indeed have had it set to "all @ replies".

I just switched it to just see "@ replies to the people I'm following".

More info here: http://help.twitter.com/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=85

Thanks.