Monday, January 11, 2010

Twitter: It's Over Five Thousand!

As I'm writing this, I'm about to hit 5,000 tweets on my twitter account. According to, I've been tweeting for 1 year, 9 months, 2 weeks, 5 days, and some change. I started on March 23, 2008. It's not quite two years. Now, I'm fairly certain that the utility either checks when the account was made or checks when the first tweet was tweeted, so there's little regard for frequency, so you'll have to just trust that I've been tweeting mostly at a steady rate ever since I got the account. Anyway, I'm writing this post about my experiences with and on twitter.
Initially, the concept seemed quite useful. Twitter asks "What are you doing?" as its proposed question, and one answers in 140 characters or less. Applications using twitter were in development (and new ones continue to be produced), so my plan was to get onto twitter, wait for things that would allow my twitter account to interact with AIM/MSNIM/YIM/Gmail Chat/Pidgin, and interface them so that I'd have a one-stop shop for my current status, rather than having to edit my status on each of those things separately.
Well, for various reasons, that didn't quite work out. Among them was that twitter has become a social network of sorts. I can follow people, basically saying that I'm a fan of theirs or that I consider them my friends. People can follow me, saying that they're fans of mine or that they consider me their friends. And, of course, mutual following amounts to mutual fandom or friendship. For those who don't know, on twitter, one's main page has a feed of one's own tweets plus tweets from those that one follows, lined up in temporal order. Unfortunately, if I want "mentions" of me, including those from people that I don't follow, I have to go to a separate thing. It's easy to miss communications that way, but I'm in the habit of, rather than refreshing the page, clicking the replies link, then clicking the home link again, to check both.
As I'm writing this, I'm following 108 people and I have 140 followers. Also, to the best of my knowledge, I've only been blocked by one user, for reasons unknown. Wait, I'm following 108 people? That sounds like a lot. On reviewing that list, though, I see a few things. First of all, accounts can belong to companies and organizations, so I'm following, for instance, @CERN and @diradio (belonging to CERN and, respectively). Also, some people don't tweet that often, so following them doesn't clutter up my feed that much.
Some features have been added to twitter since I signed on. For one, retweeting has been quite popular, where one says "ReTweet @UserName ", or "RT @UserName " for short. However, that only works for tweets that are shorter than [135 - [UserName.length]] characters long. To "solve" this dilemma, twitter itself added a "ReTweet" feature, which works alright, except that it doesn't allow the addition of comments to the ReTweet, which was one of the advantages of the old way with very short original tweets. The other notable new feature is lists. I follow various people for various reasons. Now, I can sort them into lists, if I wish to look at a specific topic for some reason. Also, other people can follow these lists to follow a whole group of people at once. Among other things, I have lists on the topics of atheism, steampunk, conventions, and scifi. I will say, though, that I have yet to follow someone else's list. I've seen only a few, and they generally either include people that I don't want in my feed or include so many people that I fear an overcrowding of my feed. Also, I've just checked, and all of my lists are followed by either 0 or 1 users. I'm also on 9 lists, but 4 of those are my own.
Of course, the question is also begged: How did I get 139 followers? Well, I'll admit that several of them are spam accounts. I stopped bothering to remove them a while back. Basically, I think that they follow people in the hopes of getting followed back so that they can direct message them. (Direct messaging is only available between people who follow each other.) So, they don't actually hurt me, and I don't feel like culling my followers regularly. Of course, plenty of my followers are legitimate accounts who follow me because... actually, I don't know why. I guess that they just like what they see.
I've followed people and I've been followed, sometimes by the same people and sometimes not. I've made lists and I'm on lists. I've met people and people have met me. I've entertained people and I've been entertained. Overall, this twitter thing has been a positive experience, even if it didn't work out for my original plans.
I'm planning to announce this blog post for tweet number 5000.

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