how do busy people deal with identica/twitter?

I’m an anti-social denter/twitterer. I publish irregularly (to, apparently, several hundred people) but read at best daily and at worst weekly, and at that, I read basically only direct replies plus (by twitter standards) a handful of people’s dents/twits.1

This is primarily because the signal/noise ratio is not very good, and (worse) the presentation of that high-s/n ratio is generally a constant, distracting flow. I only barely had time for that when we called it ‘IRC’; I didn’t have time for that in law school; I certainly won’t have time for it when I’m a practicing lawyer. (The other option is to read it in bulk, say, once a day, but if I were following all my interesting friends that would probably take hours, and you lose the conversational aspect to boot.)

That said, I can see that there is signal in there; lots of interesting discussions seem to be happening (and sometimes amusing ones too, which matters.) And I’m a firm believer that ‘part of my job’ is to stay current; I spend 60-90 minutes on an elliptical trainer every morning reading blogs so that I have an understanding of what is going on in the world (both professionally and for entertainment purposes.)

So I’m willing to devote at least some time to reading dents/tweets… if I can figure out how to do it in a way that isn’t maddeningly distracting or a complete time suckage. And that is what I’m asking for here. :) How do you tame the flow? How do you extract value out of it?

Options I will not look at:

  • anything that amounts to ‘suck it up’ or ‘just treat it like the distraction of email’. If anything, I’m trying to move away from that model for email as well; one of my August projects is to move as much email as possible out of my inbox, either by unsubscribing, by moving it to my RSS reader, or by other means. The cognitive cost of this stuff is high; not so high that I want to get rid of it altogether, but high enough that we need to start tackling it with sophisticated tools rather than the naive models we’ve been using so far.

Options I’m going to experiment with:

  1. Historically, I followed a dozen people on twitter and 40ish on identica; those numbers have both gone up as a result of experimenting for this post. []

21 thoughts on “how do busy people deal with identica/twitter?”

  1. Monday, August 3rd, 2009 by William Lark 0   Add a Comment I’m an anti-social denter/twitterer. Original post: Luis Villa: how do busy people deal with identica/twitter?

  2. Myself? I completely ignore twitter.

    For communicating with people I actually care about, I use Facebook.

    To read regular news about subjects I care about, I use Google alerts.

    I’ve got tons of Twitter followers — more every day, even though I don’t use it at all — but I never post anything, at all, ever.

    I understand, in the abstract, how Twitter could be useful. But for me, it’s just a net minus. If you figure out how to make it useful for you, let me know what your tools and workflow are, and I’ll be happy to try it out.

  3. I saw some software once which would turn twitter into an IRC channel that you could join in your IRC client. Tweets from others would become messages to you, and things you type would get tweeted. If you want to use twitter, you might try that.

    Personally, I don’t see any more value in it than hanging out in a random IRC channel.

  4. I myself have found that I have not been around (as much as I have an Tweet account, it’s remains a feeder from my and is generally ignored) often for the same reason.
    The noise that these sites generate is just astonishing, especially anything that clones the twiter model. If anything, I really go on to see what others might have to say and even then is somewhere around once a month.

    If anything, and maybe the one thing that I would like to see on (or anything else using Laconica)…. is the use of FILTERS. Maybe something based on tags or what not, but some way to give people the power to mange the torrent flow of information from these places generate. (did a quick look at Laconica and it seem to be a coming feature { } for the 1.0 release, since updates their servers REALLY fast on the next release of Laconica, it’s really a matter of getting it done)

  5. Another thing that would be useful in servers or clients is a ‘temporary unfollow’ kind of thing. That is, I follow someone, but I want to not receive their notices for a period of time, eg three days while they’re at a conference and tweeting every single talk, or two weeks while I’m really busy.

  6. follow or subscribe to hundreds or thousands it does not matter the exact number. use a desktop client that sorts out the @’s and DMs so you can see when there is a conversation involving you.

    next, forget about reading all of the stuff that comes through, only what is right there when you decide to dip into the stream. this way you will get what is currently being talked about in a few minutes time and you do not have to sink a great deal of attention into acquiring all the back stories that lead to the moment unless there is a completely gripping story which you absolutely must follow back.

    i like to think of it as “what is happening in my social world right now” other web tools such as facebook do a better job of tracking close associates.

  7. A couple sites I follow post highlights of their twits for readers. I’d like it if the more worthwhile twits and dents were syndicated on people’s Blogs in batches. Sigh.

  8. I’m with Greg and Chris on this one: I ignore twitter, and make sure all my friends know that I do. (I do a similar thing for Facebook, where my profile states I check it at most once a month.) If it’s important, someone will find me. People still make the best content filters. ;)

  9. Here’s an app you can train to filter Twitter based on your preferences:

    Personally, I’m like Blizzard (above) – I put my Twitter friends feed on my Planet Venus site that I sample only when I’m bored. I use a separate reader to track things I really care about. I’ve also tried the technique of having Twitter updates pop up in an “ambient” app where they pop up, stick around for a while, and then scroll away when new ones come in – but I still found that distracting.

  10. Like Blizzard, I sample.

    I read all DMs and @’s and I randomly sample the people I follow during the day. Occasionally I’ll click on someone’s name to see what they’ve been up to.

    And I search. Some searches I read all references – others I just sample during the day, like a search on “gnome”.

    I highly recommend using apps – I use Twidroid and Gwibber. (Thwirl and Tweetdeck are also popular and pretty good.)

  11. Sorry, but the answer is “suck it up.” Or more precisely: what Nathan Eckenrode said. The value of Twitter comes from the serendipity and the real-time interaction. Treating it like RSS destroys that.

    So if running your twitter client (you do have a Twitter client, right?) all the time is too distracting, turn it off when you’re doing serious work. Turn it on during your lunch break or when you’re on a boring conference call. Never go back and read old tweets (other than @replies and DMs).

    I’ve found Twitter to be a good filter for my blog reading. The most-discussed blog posts tend to linked to from Twitter. I don’t have to read every blog post, just the ones that someone I trust recommends.

  12. Howdy,

    These three things help me balance a busy schedule with my need/desire to stay in touch:

    (1) Add RSS feeds of interesting Twitter searches to Google Reader How: Visit , perform the search, and the results will have an RSS feed.

    (2) Limit the people you “follow” to just those whose Twitter usage is compatible with your own. e.g. no conference-twitterers, nor twitter-spam-bots, etc.

    (3) Use a good Twitter client on your smartphone, and disable all SMS updates. Use this to check Twitter when you’d otherwise be unavoidably wasting time; e.g. in line, in an elevator, etc. On the iPhone, I suggest LaTwit or TwitterFon Pro. On Blackberry, I suggest TwitterBerry or SocialScope.

    good luck,


  13. yeah, its just hard to catch tweets…i mean you cant just sit there and read the whole day. But there are some cool random tweets though. it helped me once though, just by accident while i was looking about outsourcing and there it appeared just out of no where from someone’s tweet. but after that it didnt served me well.

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