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Is the way we are using Twitter changing?

January 21st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

I was idly wasting time reading my twitter stream and it occurred to me that I seem to be getting less tweets these days. So I twittered out “Is it my impression or do i get less tweets these days. Following more people so are they just tweeting less?: And in the wonderful way that twitter works back came a reply from @paulbrichardson: “I am getting fewer tweets too. But there is more substance to them – usually expressing or referencing an idea..” This was quickly followed up by “Worried that my last tweet points to an attempt at a taxonomy of tweets. I am definitely not going there though…” And of course @tmartinowen couldn’t resist the bait: “here is a totally unsubstantial tweet – just to keep the classification going – or does the parenthesis give it substance?”

Nor would I wish to risk a classification. But there do seem to be a few things going on in the way we are using twitter (or at least the people I follow). There are far less of the straight forward “good morning Twitterverse” or “had a great lunch” or “tired and going to bed now” type tweets. u suspect this was a leftover from the Facebook status update days (in the same way few people are bothering to update their skype status nowadays). Have we simply become bored with our own mundane lives?

And Paul is right – most of the tweets I receive do seem to be on points of substance and many point to a resource. This may be due to the increasing use of sophisticated Twitter clients and to cross application linking through the API (e.g posting Diego links to twitter). Twitter is becoming a rich repository of links to resources. However discovery remains problematic and harvesting is tricky due to lack of longevity.

This is all to the good. But I am increasingly missing the social nature of Twitter which also seems to be on the wane. We are using twitter for reporting and shouting out but does it still retain the social and collaborative nature of its early days? Of course there remain the odd maverick – @johnpopham’s #uktrains series is strangely compulsive.

A further trend is to increase the ability of machines to read twitter through hash tag taxonomies. As reported in the ReadWriteWeb a group of hackers ” in collaboration with Project EPIC, developed a new syntax to make it easier for computers to read tweets from areas that are affected by a disaster. If adopted widely, this new hashtag-based syntax will make it easier to automatically extract data about locations or the status of a road or person.”

But as comments on the blog pointed out such taxonomies are far from people friendly. is there a trade off between machine readable functionality and human and social uses of media?

Twitter is an interesting platform because of the wide affordances in its social use. The changing ways in which we are using Twitter may point to the evolution of the use of wider social media in the future.

Anyway – time to send a tweet announcing this post 🙂

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6 Responses to “Is the way we are using Twitter changing?”

  1. AJ Cann says:

    Your Twitter network is aging – or maturing if you will. Gartner hype curve reference here. Time to prune out the deadwood and refresh your Twitter network with people who are adding value.

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    just after I posted this I picked up a reference via twitter to an article reporting on research as to when people twitter – http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/5500/When-Do-Most-People-Tweet-At-the-End-of-the-Week.aspx

    They say: “most tweets take place on weekdays, which may imply that business professionals treat Twitter and work in a similar way-something that should little interfere their spare time. This speculation is reinforced by the sharp decline of number of tweet reports on weekends. “

  3. Alan may be right. As your network expands, so it is more likely to include people who have got bored, given up, or just tweet less for a host of reasons. But still, I can’t help feeling that something else is happening here. As my personal newtwork expands, I am becoming less tolerant of people whose tweeting is mostly trivia and jokes – although there is always a place for those too. So I am likely to unfollow those people, and then it gets quieter. Also, the jokers go away after a while, perhaps because they can’t easily tell if anyone is laughing or not. There may also be something much more positive happening, too. There is a huge amount to be learned by cultivating a PLN, and twitter has got to be the quickest way to do that, hasn’t it? paulbrichardson

  4. monica says:

    A few days ago I was thinking about the same: why / what do we use twitter for, these days?
    I think twitter is leaving it’s “katarsistik” status to become, more and more, a collaborative and sharing tool: users publish links, talk about them, share thoughts related to their work, share perspectives about social matters, education…
    To me, is some kind of an upgraded social bookmarking tool: now I don’t have to login to diigo to see what’s being shared by people I follow: the links come to me trough people I follow, and “all” I have to do is open, read and re-share those links 🙂

  5. I still think what you use Twitter for and what you tweet about depends on your interests and what you want to achieve. I have three main Twitter networks which appear to have different focuses:
    1. Education interests – networking and supporting each other
    2. Midwifery – sharing evidence based info
    3. Dunedin – these are people who live in my local area – we use Twitter as a means of being friends and sharing a local identity. It is this network who share the mundane tweets because it means something to use…but won’t mean anything to you. We had huge fun last week thinking of a new slogan for Dunedin:
    http://twitter.com/search?q=NewDunedinSlogan#search?q=%23NewDunedinSlogan

    So maybe it’s about the people you are following, rather than the general Twitter population.

  6. Mario Pires says:

    Twitter can be used in many different ways, i am a polite person, so i wish good morning to many people, some i know personally, other just from his twets, i share links i find relevant about 2 or 3 key subjects that i care about deeply, and also test ideas, set up collaborative projects that can be carried there or elsewhere, and also twett about what i’m thinking or eating at the moment, because that can be a shared experience, if we recommend the place to our network.
    Twitter is whatever you make of it, it’s the most flexible tool there is!

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