Saturday, September 10, 2011


So after a week of technical difficulties, my laptop has been resurrected, and Twitter updates are back. However, that week of Twitter-less existence it made me realize how much of my time that one little app has been eating up. I really need to step back and figure out how I can use Twitter more efficiently.

I think a big part of the problem is that I actually read my Twitter feed and all the messages generated by the accounts I'm following, which I understand that most people don't do. Right now I'm following about a dozen accounts being posted to by comedians, writers, a few movie reviewers, and maintainers doing website updates. All together, they generate over a hundred tweets a day, some accounts considerably more than others. I'll read about thirty in the morning, fifty to seventy when I get home, and maybe another thirty before I go to bed. If John Hodgman is playing Scrabble, that number goes up considerably.

Scanning through all those tweets individually to glean the interesting content is time consuming, but there's really no other way I can think of doing it. You can't exactly set up filters for "interesting" and "not interesting," especially since I don't know which tweets are going to attract my attention from day to day. The people I follow are those I genuinely enjoy reading, and I like having such direct access to. While I skip over a good portion of their tweets without a second thought, like the travel updates, the birthday greetings, and the endless charity appeals that get passed along, I still get enough out of reading the good stuff to keep checking my Twitter feeds every day. Right now I don't do the reciprocal friending thing, where I'll just add anyone and everyone to my friends list (though that would probably help in the self-marketing department), but if I did, the dozen accounts that I have friended now are the ones that I'd keep on my main reading list.

However, sometimes I wonder if I'm using Twitter the way it was meant to be used. I don't get directly tweeted to very often or participate in many ongoing conversations. I'll get about one message a month, usually in response to something I've written. Conversely, my attempts at reaching out to other Twitterers and haven't been too successful. Part of the problem is that I access Twitter through Tweetdeck, and I don't leave the progam open continuously. I prefer to read tweets (and e-mails and blog posts) in aggregate, so I can get through a lot of them quickly. Reading them in real time as they come in just doesn't work for me. It's too distracting, having to stop what I'm doing every few minutes to read a sentence or two, which might just end up being an update about someone's adorable cat, and then try to pick up again where I left off. But getting any kind of back and forth going with other Twitterers just isn't going to happen if you're only checking in two or three times a day.

I wonder how other people manage it, staying plugged into multiple Twitter conversations and simultaneously doing what ever it is that they do in real life. How do they keep the information overload at bay? If I'm gone for more than a day or two, my eyes will boggle when I open up my Tweetdeck and see all the tweets waiting to be read. This time, after a whole week's absence, I didn't even try. I just posted my updates and got out while I still could. Honestly, even accessing Twitter two or three times a day can get to be a bit much. Sometimes I've resorted to reading my friends feed during the boring parts of movies or podcasts.

I like keeping an eye on the Twitter universe though. I'll often see reactions to major news stories before I read or hear about them through regular channels. I'll get linked to all kinds of interesting content I never would have stumbled across myself, and I get good movie and TV show recommendations from the reviewers I follow all the time. It's also a quick and easy way for me to raise my visibility as a blogger, even though sometimes I wonder if my updates are only for the benefit of the link spammers. I'm not about to give up Twitter, but there must be some way I can make the experience easier on myself. Maybe I should get a reader with bigger font sizes, or split up the accounts I'm following into separate lists.

I'll take any suggestions if you've got 'em. Thanks all.

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