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. []