Back in November of 2007 I wrote a post about how I use Twitter. It’s been 8 months since then and partially because of how my travel schedule has impacted my usage, partially because of changes to some features that Twitter as been messing with, and partially because of a recent increase in comments from people I’ve never met complaining that I wasn’t following them, I thought it was time to update the post.

In general I still use Twitter for the same basic functions I did before:

  1. Keep up to date on the lives of a few close friends.
  2. Keep up to date on the activities of friends in the same city as me, potentially leading to IRL meet ups.
  3. Have conversations.

That’s it, and in that order of importance. I certainly understand that not everyone uses Twitter for the same reasons or in the same fashion and I don’t assume people will use it the same way I do, and all I ask is that people don’t assume I use it the same way they do. The biggest issue is that Twitter fills a very specific need for me, one that no other service has been able to fill as well, and I’m not rushing to give that up by changing how I use it. As I stated back in November, in order for me to actually be able to do the things I’ve listed above, I have to be very conservative with who I follow. That is, I have to follow my close friends, my friends in the same cities I’m in, and the people I’m having conversations with.  The truth is for some reason there are a bunch of people following me who I’ve never met, and while I’m flattered that they care what I have to say (or not say as is more often the case) if I followed every single person who followed me my view of Twitter would be completely filled with people I didn’t know talking about things I’m not involved with and I’d miss the things by the people I do know and those talking about things I am involved with. Feel free to draw parallels to the UK filming every single inch of public space with CCTV cameras which creates such a backlog that they can never effectively use any of it. Point is I don’t want to give up the primary thing I use Twitter for just to prevent awkward social situations.  This is the same situation I was in before, but I want to also spend a moment or two talking about how things have changed since then.

I mentioned I’ve been traveling a lot which is an understatement to say the least. Since I made that post in November I’ve spent time in Vienna, Berlin, Paris, Cologne, Amsterdam, Cork, Dublin, London, Austin, Sarasota, New York City, Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, lots of places in between and of course Los Angeles. So while in 2007 I was looking at Twitter as a way to connect with people in LA, that changes a bit if I’m not actually there myself. Because of this I add and remove people a lot. Also, I read the tweets online of many folks who I don’t “follow.” The assumption that if someone isn’t following another person they must be ignoring them couldn’t be further from the truth. Thanks to a whole host of tracking apps and itself, it’s really easy to follow people without having to actually click “follow.” So when I get to a new city I generally drop a hand full of people from the city I just left (as the chances of me running into them in public just got very poor) and add a slew of new folks. Point here is me removing someone from my following list has very little to do with how interesting I think they may or may not be, and much more to do with the chances of running into them IRL.

Twitter itself has made a few changes that has made me work with a little differently. The most notable is that they pulled down the “track” feature which was really my favorite thing they ever did. Honestly I can’t wait for them to bring it back online because without it Twitter is about 10% as functional for me as it was previously. Luckily there are a few services like Summize which allow you to see who is talking about things you might be interested in but that requires going to the site and running specific searches for each keyword. Track would automatically send me SMS messages when those words were used which was much more efficient and allowed me to respond right away. So response time is slower and things certainly get missed, which sucks. Hopefully Twitter will bring back “track” soon and that will no longer be an issue.

The good news is that “replies” still works perfectly. In the past month I’ve gotten notes from people either via e-mail or messaging on another system where they said something like, and I’m not joking here, “I wanted to tell you about XXXXX but you don’t follow me on twitter so I couldn’t send you a message there.” Yes, really. Is it worth detailing the irony of someone sending me a message saying they weren’t able to send me a message? I don’t think so, but I will note that in some of those cases people still don’t tell me about the thing they weren’t able to tell me about through Twitter. I’m rambling, but what I’m getting at is I don’t need to be following someone to see a reply to me that they make. Anyone who starts a tweet with “@seanbonner…” will show up in my “replies” tab and I check that all the time, so really that’s a lifesaver.

So anyway that’s the state of my Twitter usage circa June 2008. I’ll update this again sometime in the future when it makes sense. Enjoy!