A couple of posts got me thinking today and started me on a bit of a self reflection on my use of twitter and other social networks.
The first post was Zombies and Standards by @bankervision – this comment in particular…
Standardisation is a race to the bottom. Build the thing that suits the most people possible. Reap economies of scale. Deliberately design out anything interesting to those at the edge of the curve.
We are wedded to standardisation in big organisations because it makes it feel like we’re in control. The thing is, we’re not in control. In fact, we’re in less control the more standardised we get.
The more standardised you make something, the more you force those who don’t fit the lowest-common-denominator profile to go outside the standard. THey are forced to do so because they are creative, or high achievers, or want to make a difference. Standardisation is an attempt to make them mediocre, and they won’t put up with it.
The other post was on the Technology Evangelist site and was about a USA Senator who had a large number of followers but only followed one person.
As @mchamberlain pointed out, Sen. McCaskill (@clairecmc) had 2,256 followers on Twitter at the time of his Tweet. Thirty-four hours later, Sen McCaskill now has 3,464 follower and is still only following one person.
Firstly i believe that when an individual joins a social network they do it for themselves and they find their own value from them. What i get from twitter, facebook, youtube, slideshare etc will be different from you and others.
For twitter itself i have started using it differently from when i first started. I used to follow everyone back by default and when this was less than 300 people i could just about manage the conversation stream, however the more people that followed me – the more i followed back – the less personal value i got from twitter because the conversation volume was simply too loud. I needed to apply some information filters to my stream.
So i started unfollowing people who were not regular tweeters and who i didn’t really get any insights from or personal value – I started to focus on more on the personal value and my personal usability more than the community itself.
I now make more use of lists and follow other peoples lists to save me from directly following someone or a group of people. However if i feel that someone consistently offers value to ME, then i will follow them. I do a periodic review of people i follow as i need to keep my stream up to date with the various things i work on, this is why i find lists more appealing – especially as i can access them on my iPhone whilst I’m out and about.
However the posts about the Senator questions whether there is an unwritten twitter etiquette and expectation that a follow back is a “rule”. What i like about the Senator example is that just because they follow one person it doesn’t stop them from engaging and having conversations with people who @reply them.
If people try to force some kind of etiquette on to a dynamic platform like twitter it will only end up making it a mediocre platform and the value will simply wash away.
For me, I need to focus on getting personal value out of these platforms first before i worry about what other people think about my use of a particular tool. I am always happy to @reply people and have a conversation and i am never offended if people don’t follow me back – as what i am actually saying when i follow someone is “you say interesting things and i want to keep listening – i hope you don’t mind”.
The key is listening and acknowledging, you don’t have to follow someone to do that and we don’t need to create standards to force a level of mediocrity onto social platforms that offer different things to different people