Monday 15 June 2009

Twitter and my other social networks

Online on long

For someone who first went online some 15 years ago with a CompuServe [1] account and having been online literally non-stop since June 2000, I am not particularly enamoured by the many social networking fads and there are quite a few.

I started blogging over 5 and half years ago and did because I felt I ruminated a lot about events and issues around me but never really have a forum in which to express myself or air my views.

Probably, I should have been political, but after a brutal encounter with student union politics where the authorities interfered with anyone who dared have independent thoughts, I felt the game was just too dirty for my sensibilities – however, when I did politics, people knew I was in politics that was 25 years ago.

Links to strange places

There are so many social networks they are as comforting as a scratch to a rash, but one does really wonder what real purpose they serve, but each to their own.

The only mainstream social networking site I am registered to is LinkedIn [2], this is a professional setting for networking with people you have associated with in your career.

As I entered details of my work life, I began to make connections with people I had worked with over the years, we commended and recommended each other based on memories of our experiences and before you know it, you have a self-referencing career profile.

Someone comes across your LinkedIn profile and finds that you are connected to other well known persons, that can be taken at face value or more inquiries can be made – before you know it, you are connected if not working through the connections made within the LinkedIn network.

Though, I have not yet secured an opportunity yet with LinkedIn, I know as a self-employed consultant that in the last 10 years, all projects I have been on have come about through undocumented networks, LinkedIn in my view can take that further sometime in the future, I think.

A commitment to Blogs flagging

Blogs can be difficult to write and it could take time to incubate and then appear as an opinion, I have held issues for months at times before I felt the time was ripe to write with inspired fervour.

Somehow, my blogs are not short, they are fully referenced, attributed and painstakingly researched, well, I try, it might not be as thorough as one would like it but my write-ups are not academic treatises.

The advent of Twitter [3] has somehow changed my blogging perspective, as system whereby you condense a topic, a reference and your opinion into 140 characters must test anyone’s abilities in concision, precision, brevity and context, you bet, mine have been tested.

I have been quite a purist about Short Message Service (SMS) messages, I hate abbreviations and what is known as SMS English, I once received such a message from my kid sister, I politely told her I could not understand what she had written – it took my mother transcribing it to traditional English for the penny to drop.

The Twitter spirit is fabulous

Anyway, I do like Twitter, it makes you think about how to put it all together in one Tweet making allowances for a reply or a ReTweet. This means you Tweet must be at least 2 characters plus your Tweeter identity short of 140 characters. Sometimes, you have to rephrase a Tweet and still maintain the original context, but I wonder what this would make of communication.

Would we all become masters of the soundbite, earnest purveyors of the dramatic put-down or scribblers of putative one-liners?

I am not sure that Twitter would radically affect the seeming verbosity of my blogs but this outlet is very useful; in 140 characters, I could be serious, silly, salacious, sceptical, sanguine, sarcastic, probably scandalous but never seditious.

A toolbox of Twitter spanners

Beyond that, Twitter came in useful when I found myself the only passenger on a boat, I sent a Tweet announcing where I was and one announcing my arrival on terra firma – it offers public insurance with private assurance.

There are so many Twitter tools out there but I have selected three for their ease of use, basic functionality and follower management capabilities.

I use the PowerTwitter Add-on to Firefox [4], it automatically expands the shortened URL to the source and shows pictures and video links if the short URL points to those elements. I can immediately see who I am following and who is following me.

My Swiss-Army Twitter knife

Twhirl [5] is easy and portable, the reply, ReTweet, favourite and direct message icons are available when the mouse is moved over the image of the Tweeter. I use the URL shortener because it gives the shortest URL and only this weekend the sequentially generated part moved up from 4 characters to 5 characters.

Then suddenly I got all this following from lewd profiles, those I did block but I also ended up blocking some profiles I should have just stopped following – I found out how to better work the system over time.

Just like my blogs the general theme of my Tweets is also about things too concerning to ignore, so really, I am not interesting in some other get-rich- quick Internet money making idea – if the ideas were so good, the purveyors of such Twitter Spam would be serial entrepreneurs making money not part of the nuisance of online noise.

Between friends, acquaintances and hobos

Just like I learnt with ICQ over 10 years ago, in the first day, I was connected to 50 people who did not say more than “Hello”, I was so clueless about who they were, what their interests were and they had not bothered to fill in their profiles. I cleaned out everything and ended up with just 5 connections. The same logic has applied to all my other networks, I engage with people who engage me because there is no point taking traffic you cannot use. It is already a jungle out there.

So, this is where Tweepular [6] came in useful, it shows mutual follows, unrequited follows and followers – in fact, it is a crude tool I use every other day based on the last time a Tweet was published and the content of that last Tweet to decide whether to follow or not – so that the point in time when I check Tweepular my decision is a hammer and that momentary Tweet is a nail.

The developers of Tweepular are such fun loving crazy people, as it generates your data the progress bar has the Twitter bird moonwalking – makes me smile everytime.

What I would like

I would like to see a proper reference to Tweets I have replied to so the thread is consistent and if necessary one should be able to easy expose a thread to public viewing.

I have published my Tweets on my blog, on the left there is a full-colour Flash based record of recent Tweets and to the bottom right of my blog, you can find a list of my last 50 Tweets.

Tweepular intends to create a feature to show Recent Unfollowers, but really, are we that bothered? In the end, the ideal TwitterVerse is to be followed by just the same people you want to follow, we would never get that ideal but people are getting on my list the more their one-liners have content, context, sense and probably some humour too.

I am not on FaceBook, I am just not persuaded of its usefulness at all and Flickr handles my photographs efficiently, in fact, I have had a few published in forums, guides and journals.


[1] CompuServe - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[2] LinkedIn Home

[3] Twitter - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Power Twitter : Add-ons for Firefox

[5] twhirl | the social software client

[6] Tweepular Login

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