Monday, October 7, 2013

Twitter problem: Dealing with tweet overload

I find Twitter to be a very useful service. I use it primarily as a news feed that provides weblinks to articles of interest to me.
To make my Twitter feed manageable, I only follow 20 accounts. Of those, nine are tech and media news sources, four are entertainment news sources, three are comedy sites, two are friends and two are companies I follow.
I find it curious when I see people following hundreds or thousands of Twitter accounts. It’s not possible to stay on top of what all those people are saying. Most are doing reciprocal following to boost each other’s follower counts. Follower counts are a superficial metric. They’re a popularity poll, not a sign of Twitter’s utility. It’s a carryover from Facebook.
TechCrunch writer Josh Constine wrote a thoughtful article that touches on the problem of following too many people on Twitter. He called it the “unfiltered feed problem.” If you follow too many accounts, the service becomes less enjoyable and useful and might cause many members ultimately to quit.
Some commenters suggested that Constine didn’t give enough weight to Twitter Lists. But the Lists feature is buried. It also doesn’t carry the same weight as “following” someone. Including someone on a Twitter List is like stealth following them.
I agree with the commenter who suggested that Twitter copy Google’s Gmail setup and create tabs for following different categories of Twitter accounts. That way, I could keep my main Twitter news feed and add tabs for family and friends, tech analysts, colleagues, and favorite celebrities.
Yes, I could put those people into lists. But that’s a chore and I wouldn’t check it very often.
Twitter’s advertising business wants you to follow as many companies, news organizations, subject areas and celebrities as possible, so it can get a better idea of what ads to pitch to you. However, the more sources you follow on Twitter, the worse the experience is. Twitter is stuck in a catch-22.

Photo: A great propaganda-style poster for Twitter by artist Aaron Wood.

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