What’s New, Pussycat? Twittering or Navel-Gazing?

Patrick Altoft of BlogStorm, who always writes great articles, suggests joining Twitter now or regretting it. Though I can’t understand why. Am I dense? James Mowery suggested here the other day that Twitter is the blogger’s new sidekick. But despite being an opinionated blogger who needs to write about the stuff I believe (in), I still feel no compulsion to use Twitter regularly. I am either too private to Twitter, or too dense to see any value that won’t be regarded as “gaming” or even “spamming”. Or both.

And despite not having used my Twitter account for nearly a year, I’m getting emails everyday about all the new people following me. So help me out here. Are you following me? What the heck are you following me for (or anyone, for that matter)? Seriously. I’m sure you don’t want to read tweets of the “must shave back of hand again and tweeze unibrow by Friday” variety. Would you want to to see links to articles I’ve written wherever? Or are you after my deepest, darkest thoughts? Or are you hoping I’ll follow you too and see whatever it is you have to Twitter? What exactly are you twittering? Why should I follow you, too?

These are actually serious questions. I already have to divide my day up into reading, writing, coding, film/video work, obsessing over site metrics, pretending my cat is my psychiatrist, using sock puppet accounts to promote crappy articles that my online friends request, and other very/ self-important tasks. So what am I going to get out of following you on Twitter? Many of the top bloggers I already follow tweet some of the most inane belly lint I’ve ever seen, and it’s actually the reason I stopped bothering with Twitter.

I figure that Twitter users fall into several catgories, though not necessarily mutually exclusive:

  1. [added] Utility twittering, such as the LAFD have done, which shows fire events in the LA area.
  2. Lonely girls (and boys)who find a few lonely minutes while working at home and want to “communicate” with others.
  3. Social media marketers who basically only tweet their article links.
  4. Really clever types that add something amusing (comedy, poetry) to the Twitosphere.
  5. Navel-gazers.
  6. Real celebrities such as Henry Rollins, who give us a brief look at what’s going on in their life and tour dates.
  7. Fake celebrities. By that I don’t mean Paris Hilton, but rather the “Fake Steve Jobs” of the Twitosphere.
  8. Politicians.
  9. Straight out spammers who follow EVERYONE they can.

Take your pick. (Did I miss any?) Which categories are you in? Personally, I’d rather be blogging. Unless Twitter started allowing us to embed videos or audio – in which case I’d start twittering again, embedding all kinds of crazy fun videos, or maybe music video set lists. (Ain’t Tom Jones infectious? And Justin Timberlake thinks he’s bringing sexy back. Boyo, you don’t even come close. Watch the last video below of Tommy boy dancing and you’ll understand why women threw panties at him on stage. Feet don’t fail me now.)

9 thoughts on “What’s New, Pussycat? Twittering or Navel-Gazing?

  1. Shane: Yes, yes. That’s more of what I wanted to hear about how to enjoy Twitter. Some people are better at the 140 character form. I suspect, however, that because I’m an addictive personality, if I try to use it the way Merlin Mann is using, I’ll spend all my time trying to perfect my twittering and wouldn’t be able to blog. Since I don’t have another day job…. On the other hand, I love following a couple of amusing Twits and a celeb or two (to see what they’re up to). For me, it’s kind of cool reading what Henry Rollins has to say, in brief snippets about his life and goings-on. For example, he mentioned something positive once about actress Janeane Garofalo (whom I like) and it’s like a window into his mind. I’d like to follow more “Twits” like Henry Rollins, but I’m not sure who else is out there like him. (Doesn’t have to be a punk poet like him.)

  2. Just for a second I’ll pretend you’re being serious

    I don’t use Twitter to follow the navel gazers. As much as I never thought I would, I use Twitter to network *gasp*

    Since reacquainting myself with Twitter a few months ago, I’ve become hooked in to the local online community in my city (I didn’t realise there was one until then), I’ve been introduced to a very cool recruitment firm who can help me find a job when I move cities at the end of the year and I’m finding more and more people I can relate to all around the country.

    The unintended side-benefit of Twitter is where else can I have a number of conversations with my current favourite tech writer Sarah Perez without any introduction, or discover that Maki from DoshDosh and Allen from Center Networks are interested enough to follow me unprompted (ie they followed me first! Totally flattering for small fry like me 😀 )?

    I didn’t get Twitter for the longest time but once I started following the right types of people for me, it all seemed to click into place.

    Martin is right. You need to find people that are Twittering the right type of information for you. Just because someone is an interesting blogger/writer/member of the commentariat doesn’t mean that their twitter feed is going to be interesting – and vice versa. Be choosy and follow only what fills a void – make Twitter fit your life, don’t fit your life to Twitter.

    As a final point – if you were only going to follow one person ever, I would suggest follwing Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – he elevates the 140 char limitation to a pure artform.

    (btw Raj, I suspected you were having a friendly dig but it’s sometimes much more fun to take your digs at face value 😀 )

  3. James: I think Chris knew what I was up to. Honestly, even though my questions about why people are “following” me on Twitter were serious, the post was actually written in humor. I had hoped that mentioning “pretending my cat is my psychiatrist,” would have given that away. I’m surprised you saw this as an attack on people that like and use Twitter. Not at all, at least not in my mind. What I was getting at is that if some of the blogosphere’s top bloggers are twittering digital belly lint, why do I want to follow more people? Will not-so-top bloggers twitter something more interesting? Maybe, maybe not. I just didn’t want to spend time looking. I DO NOT dislike Twitter. I simply haven’t yet seen a use for me. (Keep in mind that I AM an addictive, type-A personality, but I’m not a Twitterholic.) I think there’s also an interface issue – it could be more optimal.

    I had hoped that someone would enlighten me with the amount of passion that you did. As you and Brian have pointed out, I’ve obviously missed some categories.

    Brian: Thanks for the compliment. Call me a geek but your stream is exactly what I DO want out of Twitter. It has data I can process in a Yahoo Pipe and/or plot to a Google Map. So I need to add a category above for “utility/event streams”.

    Martin: Thanks for enlightening me even more. I guess the key is to filter out the noise. It’s time to drop the belly lint creators and seek more interesting Twitter streams.

  4. Hi Raj,

    For me, what I find most useful about Twitter (and this is why it’s so useful to bloggers) – is that you get to see quickly what people are talking about and passionate about right now. It makes a lot of sense to write articles about topics people are actively discussing and are showing some passion about, rather than pull an old idea out of the cupboard and try to jazz it up for an audience that may have already argued back and forth about it on some blogs a few weeks ago.

    It’s also a great way to get instant getting feedback on virtually anything you can (or can’t) think of…

    As a marketer/blogger – it’s not a tool for posting about your stuff and hoping someone will listen (if that’s all you post, no one will listen), and spammers who just follow everyone don’t really do much either (they can’t spam you if you’re not following them). Twitter is a two way conversation, and until you use it like that it’s hard to see the benefits (another one of its charms is that it is incredibly easy to be a part of that conversation).

    Yes, the noise can get a bit high at times, but you don’t need to read every tweet that comes in, since everything is kept to 140 chars max, it’s quick and easy to dive in and out for a few mins at a time (unless you’re like Scoble and seemingly spend every waking minute on there, lol). Follow every interesting person you can find, most will also follow you back and you’re instantly part of a large network that is really quite inspiring to just sit back and watch.

    You can follow me @martyj

  5. Raj,

    As we like to think of ourselves as mainstream if not conformist, I was hoping we’d fall into one or more of the above categories.


    So where would you put us?

    Thanks for the great content, which makes your feed a daily must-read!

    Respectfully Yours in Safety and Service,

    Brian Humphrey
    Public Service Officer
    Los Angeles Fire Department

  6. Oh yeah, I get to see what Chris Garrett talks about! That is awesome in its own right!

    Still, you should follow me! I need to catch up 😉

    Oh, but I am sure this article is going to get a ton of views and comments. So, even though the argument is wrong, it still works. Which is odd in its own self 😛

  7. Twitter is like Bovril/Marmite, you either love it or hate it and it is something you have to try, nobody can explain it

    (although I think it is more like IRC than anything else)

  8. Unfortunately, Raj, I must disagree with your rant. Although some points are valid, you really must realize that all your complaints are solved by simply not following a person.

    Many bloggers really enjoy the service.

    You just have no idea how much great content I have found through Twitter. It really is a tool that can be made to do great things if used properly. You must follow the right people. I mean, do you remember all those people on Facebook that sent you those annoying application invites? It is the same concept here.

    All my points in my previous article hold true, and all of your points are valid as well, but you ignore the fact that Twitter can be used for good.

    Oh, and I don’t fall under any of those categories, which is kinda unfair, and seems like an attack for enjoying the service. *I’m sure plenty of Performancing users have Twitter accounts as well*

    Shameless plug time: http://twitter.com/jmowery.

    It is also a glimpse to a chaotic stream of live information. You can’t blame Twitter for this, it is only the beginning to what many people (even if incorrectly) desire. Therefore, this argument is improperly aimed.

    This is going to be the problem with all social networks. I would have appreciated this article more if you addressed attention data and social networking as a whole, instead of an attack on Twitter and the users.

    Regardless, I have found it a great tool of information, and I am following bloggers, book authors, and magazine writers. I get the story before mass media does. I get alerts when web conferences are going on. I am getting insight and opinions to news stories. It is just amazing in my opinion. I also got to Tweet about the tornadoes that hit Virginia. It is like live news coverage to my followers, and that is something amazing in my mind.

    However, I am an outgoing person, and I love to connect with readers. So, again, maybe it is not your cup of tea. Then again, I love this stuff as I used to write about it non-stop.

    It is exactly where we are going. I might write an article about attention data and social networks in the near future. Unfortunately, this article is improperly aimed at Twitter. It should not have been.

    It is like blaming YouTube for having to take down videos, when it is really the DMCA that requires them too. It is not YouTube’s fault! You are just overlooking the true issue, and the issue we will all face in the future.

    Now, if you meant attention data and social networking as a whole. I can get where your coming from, but seriously… It is not fair to blame Twitter for this. It really isn’t, and that comes from a journalistic viewpoint.

    Damn, this was practically an article all in itself.

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