Thursday, 10 January 2008

Are Twitters twits?

I’ve written many pieces about social networking over the last few years. “In the interests of research” I became an early user of Facebook when the site was opened up to non-college users. I have to admit I have enjoyed the experience. I have hundreds of Facebook ‘friends’ and I sign in once a day for my ‘fix’. I’m also on LinkedIn but have to say that I find FaceBook far more user friendly and useful – even in a business environment. Over 80% of my FaceBook ‘friends’ are business oriented.

I think the most interesting by product of having business friends on Facebook is how they use it to tell me REALLY confidential/private stuff – thus by-passing any vetting they might get if they use their company email. A very useful information source when you are an analyst!

But the aspect which I am less impressed with is how my FaceBook friends are now embracing Twitter. (see Wikipedia) Most of the Status updates I now get on Facebook originated via Twitter. About 3% of my ‘friends’ are responsible for 99% of my Status updates.

The three worst offenders all have extremely responsible and highly paid roles with the tech industry’s leading players. Yet I get a stream of the most banal Twitter messages from them. I’m told they are packing for a flight, held up at the airport, have arrived to heavy snow, are about to have dinner, have just eaten a wonderful Italian, are putting the kids to bed, can’t sleep and so on and on and on.

JP Rangaswami (currently MD at BT Design) is one of the most prolific twitterers and bloggers I know. His output on both is huge. He recently wrote an interesting post Musing about things I can do with Twitter that I couldn’t easily do before Twitter. One of the comments he got back was from Enrique Dans who had used Twitter whilst a moderator at a conference interviewing Biz Stone; the founder of Twitter. He had asked the 500 strong audience to submit their questions via Twitter which Dans says had the advantage of limiting them to 140 characters. How really sad! I must admit I find the comments from the floor usually far more interesting than the speech that has just been delivered. And, by the way, that includes my speeches too!

Maybe I’m just missing something? But I’d really like to turn off Twitter-produced Status updates on Facebook but don’t know how to do it! Any views gratefully received – even via Twitter!


JP said...

Hi Richard, sorry you're getting swamped by my Twitter-fed status updates.

The best thing for you to do is to hit the Preferences tab to the right of the News Feed title line on the Facebook landing page. Then select Less of these friends and name me.

You will still have me as a Facebook friend, but my updates will no longer appear on your news feed.

The best solution would be if Facebook offered Twitter-based updates as a slider option. I will ask them.

That's the best I can offer you without suggesting you de-friend me... Hope that helps regards JP

Bob K Mertz said...

I wrote some things about Twitter a few weeks ago that I think might give you a little bit of insight.

Wade Rockett said...


I think the problem is that your "friends" are in quotes. You don't really see them as friends, but as sources of tech industry news and views. Therefore you don't care about the details of their lives.

There are plenty of people I follow on Twitter that I feel the same about. But there are also people who are real friends of mine. I like getting little snapshots of their lives throughout the day. I care that they're stuck at the airport, sympathize when they're having a tough day, and share their amazement when they look out the window and see snow falling.

Because these services don't draw a hard line between personal and professional use, the two get mixed together all the time. I think one of the biggest challenges of social media use going forward will be adapting to that reality.

If your "friends" were bombarding you with e-mail messages about what they had for lunch and how their nose won't stop itching, that would be intolerable and you'd have a right to insist that they stop. But you're choosing to consume streams of content that they clearly see as vehicles for personal as well as professional communication. Do you throw the baby out with the bathwater, or grit your teeth and stick with them in hopes that they'll drop some piece of tech insight that makes the personal stuff worth your time?

Susan Scrupski/ITSinsider said...

My dear Richard...

Man-oh-man, you're just wrong here, sorry. I want to convince you, but feel defenseless in a comment box.

Twitter is weaving in real 3-D dimension to our relationships around the globe. Unlike other social networks, it has economic, political, social, environmental, & u-name-it value for all of us. It's the difference between 90s contacts/sources and real friends and real relationships, as Wade commented already.

Twitter, as platform, has changed my worldview on issues I once felt passionately about-- like the Iraq war-- because I was able to see it through the eyes of a dead soldier/ blogger. I was alerted to his POV from a leading thinker-- David Weinberger-- whom I would never have a chance to "know" in this way if not for this unique 24/7 parade of humanity that is just there for the taking on Twitter.

Richard, before you dismiss it. Try it. Let it surround you. You'll get it; I know you'll appreciate it.