Asymmetry in Twitter: A Feature Not a Bug*

by francine Hardaway on May 9, 2009

* Full credit to Tim O’Reilly.

OK. Here goes. I’ve been thinking about this all night and all morning.

Tim O’Reilly started me  when he said the asymmetry of Twitter was a feature, not a bug in response to my post about the existence of TopFollowed. which I had seen as a way for people who want more followers to respond to the Twitter Suggested Users List.

#FollowFriday threw me over the edge when I awoke to an inbox full of auto-DMs after a sleepless night in which they all came in on my iPhone, vibrating on my nightstand. And then *I* spammed the community when I tried to unfollow people through Twitterspy and forgot that if you affix the term “post” before the post, it will actually show up on Twitter. And by the way, one of the auto-follows I got was from a teen-age porn site.

Twitter is big enough that we have to sort some of this out.

Let me begin by saying that yes, I’m an adult, but I am very Progressive socially. Not trying to limit, censor, or tell people how to live. I couldn’t.

But walk a mile in my mocassins.
1)I’ve been on Twitter since 2006.
2)I have come to know and love the people I follow and the people who follow me.  We’re a community.
3) I auto-follow out of courtesy to those who are interested enough to follow me, because I love “discovery,” or the act of meeting new people and perhaps learning something. I’ve met people from all over the world on Twitter, and formed firm friendships that are no longer virtual.  They are, indeed, real. I’d hate to miss one.
4) But Twitter is now VERY big.  The noise-to-signal ratio is terrible these days.
5)Some of my early community are difficult to see in the noise.  People I want to see, like @newmediajim, @badbanana, @susanreynolds, @preppydude, @cathleenritt, @conniereece, or even @scobleizer are now hard to see. As some of them are going through life transitions, I WANT to be able to follow them.
6)Most of the people I know use DMs for private messages that don’t concern the rest of the community, so as not to bother the entire community. This is often for appointments, private illnesses, business transactions — whatever —between just us.
7) To receive those timely, I send them to my phone as alerts.

8) Because I don’t have a land line anymore, my phone is by my bed.

9) Even on vibrate, it makes noise in the night, so I knew there was a lot of activity, and even though I ignored it, I was aware of it and didn’t sleep as well as usual (I’m the sleep Queen).

10)When I woke up, there were a few dozen auto-DMs in my inbox, in addition to the usual load of BACN.

11)Reading through them, as the dogs panted around my bed waiting for their walk, I found most of them were from brands, not people, and they were asking me whether I needed : more followers, flooring, more sales, to grow my business without effort, photos of teen-aged nude girls, or daily prayers.

12) I made things worse by trying to take a short cut to unfollowing some of them and then shamedly watching it post to Twitter in full view of everybody.

And that, in a nutshell, is why I woke up on the wrong side of Twitter this morning. Thank you Tim, for realizing why you so strongly replying to me yesterday. And the good part of all this: once again I learned something from Twitter.


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