That didn’t work (Twitter edition)

Well I’ve screwed that up…

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So at the start of the year I wrote the following:

So in the New Year (I’ve largely started already) I’m going to try and resolve these. Firstly, I’m going to wholeheartedly embrace engagement. There are a couple of changes here. Over the last year I’ve periodically gone on unfollowing rampages to try and keep the information flow fresh. People view unfollowing in all sorts of different ways on Twitter and it’s clearly not conducive to engagement. So I’ve been writing some code (which I shall post at a later date because this is already quite a long post) that will keep track of the twitter ID of everyone who replied to me or retweeted me – that way I should avoid any accidental unfollowing of that group of users.

So the two pledges here are:

  • I pledge no unfollowing of engaged users
  • I also pledge to reply at least once to everyone who messages me.

How am I going to resolve this with my nice clear Twitter feed? By using code. I’m going to write a bit of code that downloads and stores all of my tweets – then whenever I do a pruning of my feed I’ll also post a link to where people can find a record of the deleted tweets – that way I still get a nice clean twitter feed, but I remain accountable. (I plan to mainly remove time-relevant tweets rather than conversations – so chatting will stay but observations on last week’s Doctor Who are probably not worth keeping).

It’s six months later, and I am duty bound to admit that the approach failed.  It failed big and in several ways.  It thought it was worth sharing my experience.

First of all I did something slightly different than the above (because I wrote the wrong thing) instead of “no unfollowing of engaged users” I followed every user who replied or retweeted.

This meant I ended up with lots of tweets of the form:

One of the more hideous mistakes I’d made was that I’d presumed that only a small percentage of people on twitter engage actively.  That turned out to be very wrong.  Actually quite a high percentage of people engage, but they all do so fairly irregularly.   So I’m now following 1500 people and I honestly can’t keep up at all. I like to think I can process information with the best of them, but that’s just too much information for it to be in any way fun.  The eventual effect of this was that sooner or later I just gave up, and I’ve barely looked at my timeline (or tweeted) for the last month or so. Which frankly is a waste of a good resource…

The second part of the plan was this:

I also pledge to reply at least once to everyone who messages me.

Which is fine, I got a lot out of it actually – it was nice to chat, to follow up on things. Interestingly, looking at the numbers – being chatty doesn’t make people more likely to message you – they message you when you’ve done something interesting and not because they are just looking for conversation, which I think reflects well on this particular part of the twitter population.

The ‘reply to everyone’ was occasionally a bit of a problem though, because there are some fairly unusual people on the internet.  Occasionally things appeared to call for the reply “Excuse me, are you being racist or did you type the wrong word?”, which isn’t really what I was looking to have to do.

Where this became a problem was this part:

The other problem is that I like to keep a very tidy twitter feed, and generally every few weeks I go back though my tweets and delete anything that isn’t directly informative. This is with the view that someone browsing my feed should find information rather than personality (I get a lot of RT’s from weeks or months ago that appears to support this). The problem with this, is that the engagement I do often vanishes and that’s probably annoying to the other half of the conversation….

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  • I also pledge to reply at least once to everyone who messages me.

How am I going to resolve this with my nice clear Twitter feed? By using code. I’m going to write a bit of code that downloads and stores all of my tweets – then whenever I do a pruning of my feed I’ll also post a link to where people can find a record of the deleted tweets – that way I still get a nice clean twitter feed, but I remain accountable. (I plan to mainly remove time-relevent tweets rather than conversations – so chatting will stay but observations on last week’s Doctor Who are probably not worth keeping).

This was a problem because I hadn’t realised that if I’m tweeting ten times as much, it’s actually a lot harder to tidy up the feed. In truth I haven’t had the inclination to do *any* pruning of the feed at all, which has left my feed full of ‘thank you’s and ‘that’s great’s.  And that largely stops it from being a decent resource of interesting things.

A number of people have voted with their feet (fingers) on this.  Before I started, I had 17.1 followers, now I have 16.6.  Most of the loss was in the early stages, which either means that everyone who was going to go went early, or that I’ve annoyed nobody in the last month because I’ve not been tweeting.  (I suspect actually that I normally lose that many people, I’ve just not been attracting replacements because I look like a ‘normal’ rather than ‘useful’ account).

So, in summary – I’m abandoning the experiment.  I’m going back to just promoting good content that I think is useful for people to know – this is what I wrote last time and I think it still stands:

Here’s what I like to think I give back.

  1. Information, specifically regarding disability, technology, and particularly anything involved with both. I have a (genuinely) scientific background and I like to think I’m pretty good at digesting, collecting and rerouting information that is relevant for people in the fields that I care about. I’ve got a number of very personal connections to disability and the major reason that I believe something is relevant to people is that it gets an emotional reaction out of me.

  2. A commitment to try and raise the level of the debate, this means trying to avoid rabble rousing (I’ve been guilty of this in the past) in favour of rational and data-driven content. This doesn’t mean I don’t get angry any more, it means that I try to get angry precisely and that my anger is generally based on peer-reviewed publications… :)

So I’m going to start doing various things to bring me back to where I was on Twitter – going to be tightening up my Timeline a little, and doing some pruning of my sources list based much more on informational exchange.  It will be a gradual phasing over. I’m glad I did the experiment – it was worth confirming that I’m information-focused rather than socially-focused.

One thought on “That didn’t work (Twitter edition)

  1. Linsey
    May 22, 2014 at 10:36 pm

    Insecure much? Who gives a crap. No wonder why nobody comments on your shitty blog. You’re a loser.

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