Twitter, the good the bad and the ugly...

I’ve been using Twitter for a while now…at the last count I had posted 1415 Tweets, am following 110 people and am being followed by 112 people. Recently though I’ve struggled to understand the true value of Twitter (and I don’t mean in US Dollars).

To clarify just how important is Twitter for Information Professionals?

If you’re not currently using Twitter but have heard about or have listened to someone rave about it you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just about reporting the minute details of your life, this does happen and is an important aspect of Twitter. But Twitter should do much more than this…Twitter should be a place for asking questions, for being alerted to new resources and useful websites and in my case to post things which I either don’t have the time to put on my blog or don’t feel are appropriate for my blog and for the people I'm following to do the same, at least this is my expectation.

Recently Charonqc wrote a very thorough review of Twitter, which is well worth reading but what interested me was a point he makes quite early in the post where he says “there is a fantastic amount of output out there and it is very easy to get buried in a mass of information, noise, comment , social chit chat and spam. The basic idea is that Twitter is a real time communication tool, enabling you to receive information from those you follow” My problem with this is that the people I follow are usually people I either know because they work in the same sector/field as me or they work with Web 2.0/Social media as a result I generally expect their Tweets to be relevant to the work I do and serious in their nature…but this is far from the case…

Lets take a relatively recent conversation that occurred on Twitter, I have changed the names of the individuals involved to protect their innocence and please remember this is just a reconstruction so the actual conversation will have been different.

Follower X – What a lovely day I’m thinking about eating a cream puff
Follower Y – Oy oy I fancy a bit of your cream puff
Follower X – Oh you naughty boy
Follower Z – You promised that cream puff to me
Follower X – We can share
Follower Y – Can I watch?

How I wonder if this valuable, should I just ignore it? Remonstrate? or unfollow these people but then as Charonqc says there are some issues associated with doing this…”be warned…I tried to unfollow some spammers and ended up unfollowing some people I wanted to follow…so I had to refollow them” What happens if I unfollow someone and the next day they post something really useful that I would be interested in, is this just the risk you have to take? Is clearing out who you’re following on Twitter a bit like clearing out RSS Feeds you’re no longer interested in or don’t find valuable anymore?

Perhaps I should also lower my expectations of what value I’m actually going to derive from Twitter. It is after all a Social Networking for individuals not for people working within a company so of course there are going to be frivolous and social tweets, so is it a case of just blocking or filtering these out using tools like Twhirl or Tweetdeck or organising my followers so I derive more value from the Tweets they are posting?

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    # by DeanM - Thursday, December 18, 2008

    As someone that knows very little about Twitter I can only offer the outside perception, i.e. the 'unuser' perspective (as we are making up words I thought I would join in). Twitter's PR has not gone well as it comes across as something of little or no value and is just the muse of a select few who have nothing better to do. Perhaps, like James, I should lower my expectations (significantly), learn more about it, or look to filtering tools. Hopefully, it's value will eventually be realised and I will gladly jump on board.