Today marks my ten year anniversary on Twitter! There are few other web services I have been using for ten years. Sure, I have been e-mailing and blogging for longer, but those are activities — like browsing — and not specifically tied to one service (e.g. Gmail is just one of many mail services). And after ten years, Twitter is still a valuable and fun addition to life online. But it takes a bit of work to keep it fun and interesting.
- Twitter is your Bonsai tree: cut and trim.
- Use the Search tab, it’s awesome!
- Stay away from political discussions.
- Be nice! No snark.
- Bookmark all the things.
Twitter, the protocol
Twitter, of course, provides short synchronous one-to-all updates. In comparison; mail and blogging are asynchronous. Their feedback loop is different and they’re less instant. And WhatsApp or messaging are forms of one-to-many communication and they’re not public (so not one-to-all). So Twitter takes a unique place among these communication options.
Effectively the service Twitter provides is it’s own thing. Because Twitter is more a protocol, or an internet utility if you like. And more often than not, protocols or utilities tend to get used in ways they weren’t supposed to. I’ve written about Twitter many times before. And I love blogging and RSS but Twitter for me is still the place for near real-time updates. This post is part celebration of Twitter and part tips how I, personally, use this protocol to keep it fun and interesting.
Twitter can be many things to many people. For some people it can be the number one place to get their news on politics. For others Twitter is all about comedy (Twitter comedy is certainly a fun place!) or sports (I do follow quite a bit of NBA news). And some people just jump in, enjoy the moment, not caring about what came before and logging off again. And that is fine, but that is just not how I roll. When I follow you, I care about what you have to say, so I make an effort to read it.
So I am careful about following people that tweet very often. When I check out a profile page, and see a user with 45,978 updates, that’s usually an indication that I will not follow that account. But, this is me. I see my Twitter timeline like a bonsai tree, cutting and trimming is an integral part of keeping things manageable. Because when you’re not careful, Twitter can become overwhelming. Certainly when you’re a strict chronological timeline user, like I am. But, sparingly following accounts can make you miss out on great stuff, right?
My solution to this problem is the Search tab (available on the app and mobile). Because this tab is actually pretty good! Twitter knows my interests based on a cross-section of accounts I follow, and in this tab it makes a nice selection of tweets that I need to see. It is my second home, my second timeline. Usually I catch up on interesting things of otherwise loud Twitter accounts (i.e. lots of tech accounts that I don’t follow). So Twitter helps me to point out things that I still would like to see. I get the best of both worlds. It’s great!
There are few subjects as flammable as politics on Twitter. So I try to stay away from politics and try not to get involved in political discussions. That doesn’t mean I am not aware of things going on, or that I am not interested in politics. Quite the opposite! I just don’t think Twitter is the best place for political debate. The new 280 character limit was an improvement, but it’s still too short for real discussions or nuance (maybe this is true for the internet as a whole). Sure, certain threads can provide insight, and some people really know what they’re talking about. But I will think twice before personally entering a discussion. I do follow quite a bit of blogs/sites on politics and Twitter helps me to point to those things. These places usually help me more in understanding things that are otherwise hard to express in 280 characters.
It is very easy to be dismissive or negative on Twitter. But very little good comes from that. So I always try to add something positive. I recently came across this tweet, and I think this sums it up rather well:
Like stated Twitter can be many things to many people. But from day one, for me it has always been a place to point and get pointed to interesting things. The best Twitter for me is Twitter as a jump-off zone. My love for Twitter comes from the experience of being pointed to great books, movies, blogs, (music) videos and podcasts. And I am a heavy user of the bookmark option. (I tend to like very little on Twitter, which is more of a thank you nowadays.) But I bookmark all the things. Usually I scan and read my timeline on mobile, bookmark the interesting things and come back to it later in the day on a PC.
I had been blogging for a few years when Twitter came along. So I have never been able to shake the feeling of seeing Twitter as a micro blog for everyone. (Which is just one of its uses.) I am also aware of concepts like micro.blog, matrix.org or Mastodon. Services that, at the very least, have been inspired by Twitter, and build further on the idea of a communication protocol. But the thing is, Twitter was first, and Twitter is where everybody is. It’s part of the plumbing of the internet now, I don’t see it going away soon and that is all right by me! Cheers!
Also published on Medium.