As some of you may know, I’m a newbie at Twitter. indeed, my first efforts were not impressive, I stopped, then re-joined with better results. My saga and comments are briefly recorded in these two blogposts, here and here. I’m now getting in to an almost regular Tweeting habit, though I’m still a consumer rather than producer of Tweets, and perhaps it’s my own way of using Twitter that gave rise to this post.
The other day I was browsing my Tweets (I use Twhirl most of the time, btw – not bad at all, though I’m also looking at Tweetdeck) and I saw a Tweet that made me do a double take, as I was convinced that I’d seen the same Tweet, even down to the wording used, sometime previously that day. It was a link to an article somewhere, and I remembered it because I’d read the linked article. I did what I always do in these circumstances, assume that either Twitter or Twhirl had had some sort of brainstorm. But no – the timestamp on the Tweet was a few minutes old, and other new tweets were coming in thick and fast.
And then it struck me – the same tweets were being sent a couple of hours apart by the same user – sort of like the rolling news on Sky or CNN. Sky promise all the news in 15 minutes, every 15 minutes, and some people are obviously doing something similar on Twitter.
Now don’t get me wrong – there is a time and a place (and a frequency) for repeat Tweets. I’ve seen it used most effectively when advertising events, seeking urgent help, etc. After all, the very ephemeral nature of Twitter means that on a moderately active Tweetstream a post will soon ‘fall off’ the bottom, so to say, and unless the user is monitoring reasonably actively the content will be missed. But what works for ‘time critical’ stuff like up and coming events, urgent requests for help, etc. doesn’t really work for uplifting quotes, re-tweets of news items, etc. It strikes me as being a bit like the approach taken by children when they want to get adult attention of repeating their request for sweets, biscuits, new toy, whatever every few minutes until the relevant adult either gives in or gives them a thick ear.
And so it is that I’m seriously thinking of giving a few folks I follow the Twitter equivalent of a ‘thick ear’ by stopping following them. I honestly don’t see the point of Twitter content such as aphorisms being repeated every couple of hours. To take the TV analogy further, as well as being like rolling news it’s also like the ‘+1’ channels that transmit the same content as another channel, just 1 hour behind.
In many ways, Twitter is like radio or TV broadcasting; unlike most digital content it is ephemeral and dynamic, and moves along a timeline – just like broadcast radio and television. Maybe we ‘content providers’ for this new media need to bear this in mind and lay off the un-necessary repeats.