Why I use Twitter

"TWEET!" "Officer, This Lady is Loitering!"

I regularly mention Twitter to colleagues and friends. Most of the time, their reaction is “uh? I already do not have time to read blogs, why do you think I should waste time on Twitter as well?”

That reminds me of the time I was trying to tell my acquaintances about blogging or even (a long time ago) about this new thing called “the internet”. No, Twitter is not that useful. It is not going to save world hunger or give you a new job. But still, you should give it a shot. Here is my attempt to organize my thoughts a bit.

In theory, on Twitter, you are supposed to tell about what you are doing right now. For many, it means telling the world about the coffee they are drinking and other trivial things. This is not how I use it.

There are 3 types of people that I follow:

  • friends and colleagues: Twitter offers me a way to keep in touch with them even though I don’t meet them in person frequently or even call them. From these people, I enjoy both work-related tweets (“I got XYZ to work, it rocks!”) and mundane ones (“My little one is just one year old!”). Twitter is a low-friction way of talking with them, what Jeffrey Fredrick calls a replacement for a beer. Often, I miss what they say when I was not connected but that does not matter. Twitter is not a chat system. Sometimes, I respond to this type of people, or even DM them (ie. send a direct message). Anyway, as long as I get news occasionnally, I’m happy.
  • thought leaders and people I want to hear more: many figures in the domains I’m interested in now have Twitter accounts. Often, I already read their blogs, but that is not enough. Blogs are infrequent matters (less and less frequent as they embrace Twitter), and only well-formed thoughts appear on them. This is all good, but Twitter is where they talk about their day-to-day work. Sometimes, they would post half-formed thoughts (“what would happen if we stopped doing X and started doing Y instead?”). Sometimes, they would tell short things that do not deserve a full-fledged blog post (“Theory X is probably the most interesting thing I heard about this year”) or give links to page (“Check out this article — I recommend it”). Very occasionally, I would respond, or, more commonly, RT (re-tweet) their post so that my own followers are aware of things I find interesting. Like the others, the people I consider thought leaders also tell about their life. That is not so interesting, but unfortunately it is not easy to filter them out. That’s is the biggest drawback.
  • competitors: in a way similar to the friends and colleagues, I am interested to learn what they are working on. Obviously, I can only learn about what they are willing to tell. Still, it can be interesting. And over time some of them tend to the “friends & colleagues” category.

Over the months, I have built relationships with some people, learned the opinions of thought leaders on Fit, ask for help in selecting a mobile phone, followed Uncle Bob’s progress on Fitnesse/Slim, publicize various events that I was involved in… and arrange for a Twitter board to be displayed during a conference.

All these things can, in theory, be done via blogs or social networks sites. But the low friction of Twitter makes it so much more easy to use.

My advice is: get your own Twitter account and follow people you know. If you have things to tell that are not roo mundane, by all means, tell them. And do regularly clean up by stopping to follow posters that have a high signal/noise ratio.

Feel free to follow me, if I meet your own criteria for Twitter.

About Eric Lefevre-Ardant

Independent technical consultant.
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3 Responses to Why I use Twitter

  1. Hi eric,

    I found one more useful way of using twitter since I started using the Nambu client (I’m sure that some other clients do it also). You can follow twitts that contains some key word. Every time some one write a twitt containing that key work, you see it. It’s like having a keyword has friend.

    I remember that Tom Jedusor used it with the word “voldemort” to rapidly find Hary Poter ! :-)

  2. Nambu is a very good client, but it is possible to do the equivalent with a simple RSS Reader. For example, in my case, I monitor the mentions of the ‘citcon’ keyword. It is quite easy to do that: just go to Twitter Search, type the keyword, copy the query link on the right-hand side, and paste it in your favorite RSS Reader.
    Nambu does make it much easier, though.

  3. Have you considered using identica? It has a great tech culture, and a
    decent number of thought leaders. Plus, its community is growing quickly,
    and its gaining features rapidly.

    Identica runs laconica, which is Free software. Anyone can run laconica,
    and other sites do… all laconica instances federate over a protocol
    called open microblogging, that other microblogging sites and engines
    (such as Jaiku) have vowed to support.

    You can find me at http://identi.ca/candrews – I hope to see you there!


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