Open Letter to my Twitter Friends

By kate on October 4th, 2008

Dear Twitter Friend,

I follow you because I know you and want to keep up with what’s going on in your life. I’m glad you’re on Twitter (especially if you joined in response to my arm-twisting). I have a problem, though. My friends’ tweets are getting to be too much for me to keep up with, and I need your help.

Please be judicious in your use of the @ reply. So many times, I see tweets like “@username yeah, me too!” which are of no interest to me or anyone other than the person you’re addressing. A direct (d) message is a much better choice for most messages addressed to a single person. If you’re going to write an @ message, please include enough context and/or information to make it interesting to all your followers. I beg you.

My only other option is to un-follow you, and I’d really hate to do that.

Many Thanks,
p.s. I’m aware that I have the option to globally turn off all @ messages that are addressed to someone I don’t follow. But many of my friends use the @ message properly and have interesting tweets that are @ someone I don’t know. I don’t want to miss those.

p.p.s.  Here are some good principles for writing an @ message:

  • include the link when you refer to a website
  • explicitly mention the subject you’re tweeting about
  • write complete sentences that could stand alone (without me having to read the tweet you’re responding to)

UPDATE: The debate about this post continues in the comments below…

Filed under: relationships, technology
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4 Responses to “Open Letter to my Twitter Friends”

  1. buzz Says:

    Twitter is a worldwide talkshow. It’s about global participation in conversation. If its all a little too much, try using an RSS feed for your personal @ replies, or .. get off twitter and just use email! 🙂

  2. kate Says:

    It’s not @ replies to me that I’d miss; just @ replies to users I don’t follow. But as I said, many of those are interesting when done right. I don’t want to have to follow your friends (that I don’t know) just to know what you’re talking about.

    It’s like hearing one side of a loud cell phone conversation on the bus. It takes up your time and mindspace, but you don’t get enough meaning out of it for it to be interesting.

  3. Rayanne Langdon Says:

    Hey Kate,

    I stumbled upon your blog accidentally while trying to get to the other My Name is Kate’s site. Heh, I bet you get that a lot.

    This post is really interesting, but I’m going to have to respectfully disagree. Everyone uses Twitter in a different way, and you just can’t ask someone to change how they use it because it’s overwhelming to you. The point of Twitter isn’t to keep track of everything that is happening on the site. It was designed to enable you to jump in and out of conversations when you have time to do so.

    I completely understand your frustration, but what you’re saying just isn’t fair. What is and isn’t interesting is entirely subjective.

  4. kate Says:

    Hi Rayanne! Thanks for visiting, even if it was accidental. I actually do keep track of everything that’s tweeted by my friends. That’s why I keep my friends list to just people I know (and a few low-volume bots, like @cnnbrk).

    I definitely agree that what is and isn’t interesting is subjective. However, the tweets I’m talking about are so devoid of content that it’s not whether the subject is interesting, but the fact that I don’t even know what they’re talking about. Here are some actual tweets from various people I’ve seen in the past two days to illustrate (anonymized, of course, and unrelated to each other):

    a_user: @username WHO?
    a_user: @username Check your archives.
    user2: @username hey bff!
    user2: @username lol
    user2: @username phew
    user2: @username photo!
    otheruser: @username 🙂 nice to hear!
    otheruser: @username ok, sorry about that.

    Imagine if your whole twitter page were filled with that garbage! Can we all agree that these tweets are much better suited to a direct message?

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