September 15, 2008

Follow That Post

This post has been brought to you by pfizer: makers of Benadryl.
No, they're not paying me to say that. Their drugs are just influencing me to write stuff now that probably won't make sense to me or anyone else after I press the publish button. Because sometimes the publish button wakes up the evil blog gnome who manipulates your words while you're sleeping and makes you look like an idiot. And when I say you, I mean me.

A few days ago Dave Taylor posted a question to one of his blogs. I commented on it, but it ended up being more of a blog post by itself. I probably shouldn't have written so much and if I had more time, and less antihistamine in my system, I could have trimmed it up some, but again I am rambling. Out of necessity, he'll probably have to remove it or trim it because his readers will break the scroll wheels on their mice. Sorry about that, Dave.

Here is what I wrote on the subject. Oil up that scroll wheel and get a snack. If you're new to Twitter, you might want to actually read the whole comment and original blog post. You might just learn something from Dave.

Dave Taylor asks, "To follow or not to follow, that is the essential Twitter question."

My Comment

First let me tell you that I have been trying for days now to post a comment on this. One word and I'm sure you'll understand: interruptions. (of the kidlet variety)

Second, reading this was like getting a warm hug from you because I am on the list of people you follow and I consider it an honor to be followed by and to follow you back.

Having said that, aren't you impressed that I've been able to retain the fact that this post even exists in my mommybrain all this time?! (4 days is rather impressive for me - who doesn't know what day it is sometimes without looking to the upper right of my screen.) (I only wish you could have seen the comment I was working on for a post on your AP blog but sadly, kidlet was just too demanding for me to focus long enough to finish it. Will try again sometime.)

Now, to answer your question with a question: Is there an answer to your question? That is the real question. If you type the word question enough times, after a while, it doesn't even seem like a word anymore.

If you follow too many people in twitter it doesn't really seem like you're really following anymore either. What does it truly mean to follow someone? Are you hearing what they have to say or are you just listening? I mean that in a technical sense. Your twitter API could be set to listen for pings, but if you're not around, how can you really hear it? [rhetoric]

Right now my twirl app listens for 512 twitter users. Astonishingly, there are close to 800 listeners to my feed whether they are actually hearing me or not. They all have something to say, but I only hear a fraction of it at any given time. The time I actually engage into a conversation is an even smaller amount, but, nonetheless, I feel fulfilled with my twitter social experience overall.

I actually 'heard' your post because I was listening at the time and because you're someone I will actually make an effort to track back, even days later, and see what you're up to. Out of all of the people I listen for, you're one of the few I actually hear from time to time.

I follow people on twitter because I believe they have something of value to offer me — they, for the most part, tell me what I'd like to hear. That value could be technology advice, parenting advice, shared interests, common goals, humor and more. I follow people *back* because it appears, at first impression, they have something to offer to a discussion or share a common interest with me. I block scrapers and spammers right away. I don't follow back those who I feel are just trying to sell me something, but I see no need to block them because if they want to follow me, I'm fine with that.

For most people, the reason they chose to follow me is obvious since I'm kind of a niche type of person. When the reasons are not as obvious — MANY times I really wonder why someone would want to follow me. That's not for me to judge, but I might not follow back if I don't feel the person has said anything to contribute to my interests. Sometimes, I don't follow back and then that later that person sends me @at comments and it gets my attention and I learn that the person genuinely wants to be friendly and I follow back. Some people are asking for reciprocity and for the most part, I'll honor their request since they've taken the time to ask for it in a friendly manner.

Everyone carves out their own policies when it comes to how they choose to socialize. It's a great liberation compared to working at a corporation in a cubicle where socialization is dictated by administration. It's good to be King and it's even better to be Admin.

Some of these policies are based on cultural expectations and some are based on personal disciplines. I try to strike a happy medium between the two as my personal policy goes. It also depends on the tool. I ascribe to your twitter follow policy guidelines more closely when it comes to Facebook because, for me, (and with the exception of a few) that's where people I truly know for years hang out because it's become mainstream enough.

As for the exceptions, sometimes I believe that an established digital relationship matures in dog years as compared to analog relationships with certain people. Some peoples' personalities are just more conducive to a quickly maturing relationship online where others' can only exist on a limited basis offline. There are people I 'know' online that I feel closer to or know more about than some people I've 'known' offline since high school. There are some people I went to high school with that I now know better because we've reconnected online. Instead of catching up in the locker room or in between classes, we now catch up in emails, forums and blogs. Sure nothing can replace an in person meeting, but once you've subscribed to their life, you don't feel as removed during the time in between meeting offline.

Twitter is networking for me too. I follow more people back because I believe in casting a wider net. If I only followed a fraction of the people I do follow, I might not get my needs for socialization met. I might not get my twitter community questions answered as quickly.

I don't mind the noise so much when it comes to twitter and FriendFeed because I can self-filter when I need to. Since I'm a busy parent and work part time, I only have time to dip my toe into the social waters and spash for a bit till my toes get pruny. Then it's time to get out of the pool and go back to life in the anolog sense (as you so eloquently put it a while back).

Not only did I hear it, I also retained it too. *That's* following.

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