Opening Up My Twitter Stream | January 1, 2009
I first started using Twitter when our friend Dunstan used it to announce his new Job at Flickr back in 2006. Back then I had a small number of friends on my buddy list and used it as a more immediate way of chatting to people than our mailing list.
Over the next few months more people I knew discovered the app and my buddy list slowly started to grow. However it was still mostly friends; people who’s email addresses, IM details and mobile numbers I knew and who I’d talk to on a fairly regular basis. So I used it as a way of chatting to friends, sharing links, organising meet-ups and generally staying in touch with people.
The killer app at that time was the ability to both send and receive update notifications on your phone. This meant that Twitter became location based substitute to SMS. You could send out a notification of where you were and if friends were in the area they’d simply turn up. This led to lots of spontaneous meet-ups in cafes, bars and the like. Because of this I decided to keep my Tweets restricted to friends as didn’t necessarily want random acquaintances turning up at bars. This also meant that I was fairly careful who I added to my buddy list.
My Friends list swelled when I hit SXSW the following year. In 06 all the cool San Franciscans were using a service called Dodgeball to arrange meet-ups and let people know where the cool parties were. However this was really restricted to a small minority of people. By the time 07 had come round Twitter was really kicking in and this overtook Dodgeball and the way to stay up to date with what was happening at the event. So by the end of the week my list of Twitter buddies had swelled as people started swapping their Twitter names rather than their email addresses or phone numbers.
My buddy list no longer included just local friends. It now included a whole bunch of cool bloggers I’d met in the states. So as well as just substituting SMS for my local friends, I also started using it as a way to keep in touch with people further afield. It started to become a form of social grooming, or as Leisa Reichelt put it, Ambient Intimacy. A way of keeping those loose ties open and maintaining a larger social network than would otherwise have been possible. Essentially the same sociological process that Facebook was used for, but with less sheep tossing or pirate attacks.
My buddy list has now grown to 300 people and has started to include looser and looser connections; cool people I may have met once or twice at a conference or been out for a few beers with. It’s also started to include a few people I’ve never actually met, but whose work I admire. It also contains a few bots and other interesting sources of news.
So over the last year the character of my Twitter usage has changed. I still blog my location, but due to an increase in noise to signal ratio and the lack of text updates in the UK anymore, Twitter has become much less useful as an social organisation tool. I can’t think of the last time I accidentally met up with somebody who just happened to be in town at the same time as me. So while I still do Twitter what I’m doing, I do it with much less frequency as the potential benefits have been reduced.
I use the DM feature a lot, but without phone notifications it’s now a poor cousin of IM and SMS. Only used when I’m near a free wifi network and don’t want an immediate response. So it’s most useful for sending links and the occasional nudge.
Instead of using Twitter as a way of chatting with friends, staying in touch with people and manufacturing social opportunities, it’s become much more of a short form publishing tool. Blogging my thoughts, feelings, overheard conversations, movie reviews, interesting links etc. It still has a social element, but is much less directed than before. As such I’m seeing less and less reason to keep my Tweets private, so have decided to open them up and see how things go. So if you want to follow my random thoughts on Twitter, here are my details.
Of course I’m still a little concerned about the privacy implications of letting random people know where I am every second of the day, and I do wonder when the first Twitter aided break-in will occur. I’m also interested to see how this is going to affect my Twitter usage. Rather than posting up random thoughts to my friends, not worrying too much if I make a fool of myself, I’ll probably be a little more thoughtful about what I post and the affect it’ll have on my public persona. Or maybe I won’t. Who knows?
Posted at January 1, 2009 5:34 PM