Bad Twitter Form
There are people I know who would be horrified at this ratio

I don’t know if you use Twitter, but it’s really quite remarkably useful. More so back when it did the updates to your mobile phone, before they stopped all that here in the UK – but even so, still a really cool bit of social technology.

If you haven’t encountered it, you just briefly update with what you’re doing right now, or what you’re thinking about, or whatever. 140 characters or less. Sort of like a microblog. And you can keep track of what other people are up to. It’s called ‘following’ them.

And there’s a bit of an etiquette that goes along with it. You’re sort of expected to follow the people that follow you. Only I tend not to. Too much information inwards for my liking.

The Dubber approach to Twitter use
I’ve tried adding and subtracting people based on different criteria – and I’ve recently come up with a 3-step filter which goes some way toward explaining why I currently have fewer than 20 people whose updates I receive.

1) Are you a person?
My first criteria is that you not be a website or an organisation. This is not how I want to receive your marketing material, press releases, PR or news. I may get it in other ways, but this is not what I choose to use Twitter for. You have to be a single, individual human being.

2) Have we had a drink?
Okay, it’s not enough for me to just know who you are, or know you to say hi to. My latest rule is that we have to have had a drink together. It can be a coffee, a beer or whatever. If we have sat down (or stood around) and chatted over a beverage of some description, then chances are I want to know what you’re up to now. And, if you’re nearby having a drink now – I may wish to know about that too, with an eye to joining you there.

3) Do you talk about real things?
I’m not making a distinction between fiction and non-fiction here. What I want to know is whether you are just going to be your job or your role as a blogger. For instance, if you’re a rock star, and all you talk about is rock stardom, then I’m not that keen. If you’re a new media blogger and all you talk about is websites, then meh. But if you’re a mobile phone salesman and you talk about what your kids brought home from school, an amazing book you just read, a cause you’re interested in, and some puzzles of the universe you’ve been thinking about (as well as tips for mobile phone use) – then I’m in.

There are people I know who meet the criteria for #1 and#2 – but they use Twitter to only talk about their chosen topic. That may be fine for all the other people who follow them – but for me, that’s why I read their blog. And those people tend to be quite relentless about Twittering about their topic, their blog or their chosen singular identity. Dozens of tweets a day.

Give it a rest.

In my mind, Twitter is for behind-the-scenes, personal and ‘real’ things. This is why I hardly ever send news updates about online music developments using that medium. It’s more about stuff I’m thinking, stuff I’m curious about, stuff I’m doing or just stuff.

If it’s relevant, important or on-message, then it’s not for me.

If I phoned you, and said ‘Hey – what are you up to?’ and you said ‘Well, the latest development in the field of typography is…’, I probably wouldn’t call you again. But for me – that’s exactly the social communication territory where Twitter lies.

I much prefer ‘Well, the kids have just painted the cat blue, and I’m trying to find somewhere to eat tonight that doesn’t suck or cost too much’.

Further filtering
I’m tempted to add more criteria – like ‘Do you post between 1 and 5 times a day?’ (my favourite regularity: not too verbose, but with something to say every day) and ‘Have I learned something from you in the past month?’ – but those criteria are virtually redundant with the list that I’m left with anyway.

Most of my Twitterbuddies are fascinating people from whom I’m always learning new stuff – and with only one or two compulsive twitterers (you know who you are) and a couple of virtual wallflowers in the mix, the balance of posts is about where it should be.

Missing persons
There are still people who tick all my boxes but who I don’t currently follow. If that’s you, could you please give me a nudge? I pared it right down to 5 follows a while back while doing a social media spring clean and still need to put a few things back where they belong.

Bad form
I’m aware that this is not accepted practice for Twitter usage, but it’s how I’m using it. I’m sorry if this excludes you, but I’m probably subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed, if that’s any consolation…

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I’m also very aware that I “owe” a couple of blog posts here about the trip to Hamburg and the Shambala music festival. I may or may not get to those… but in the meantime, you can put the story together in pictures on Flickr:

The Hamburg collection

The Shambala set

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