The Twitter Divide

January 18th, 2009 at 11:17 am

Twitter LogoI use Twitter. I enjoy using Twitter.  I created a Twitter account because it was constantly being discussed and dissected on several podcasts to which I am subscribed (I’m looking at you This Week In Tech).  I’ve noticed, though, that my Twitter experience differs from both the experiences discussed on these shows, and what I can observe following various people.

The differentiating factor appears to be notoriety.  Twitterers who have some level of notoriety, often due to some level of fame (even in a niche community like some podcasts) have a much easier time gaining followers on the service.  The more followers you obtain the more the service changes from a micro-blog to a social experience.

The stories that intrigued me the most about Twitter were about instant-gatherings (where one Twitterer might post “I’m going to such-and-such a place, anyone else want to go?”), or the ability to get responses to questions almost instantaneously (John Hodgman, @hodgman, often throws questions out to what he has come to refer as the “Hive Mind“). These experiences simply aren’t possible without a high number of followers, and often even more than that, a high number of followers within geographic proximity (for questions like “Where’s the best X in Y“).

My approach to following people on Twitter is to be selective rather than promiscuous. I don’t want to just blindly follow every user I find in the hopes of getting a follow-back from the user and increasing the number of followers I have. I only want to follow the tweets of people of which I have some common interest. Furthermore, very very few people I know in person or at work use the service (less than 5 people so far). So for me, of little notoriety, my rate of follower count increase will be quite low.

All this being said, I return to my second statement: I enjoy using Twitter. Its just that what I’m getting out of Twitter doesn’t match what some of it’s biggest proponents describe.