Twitter, a beautiful flourishing meadow, full of discovery and things to admire. Tweet, tweet, compliments the summer rhymes bopping around my head. A very pleasant place.
Twitter, a rubbish dump, with mechanical diggers pushing around the same waste, drowning me in shit. A stench so vile at times, my only option is to run.
I joined Twitter in October 2010. My first step in discovering other professionals and communities outside of my employer. Twitter was where I discovered Rosie Sherry and what then was the Software Testing Club. I met other testers and read my first few blogs, which inspired me to write my own. I started to gain followers. I’ve got jobs from Twitter. Training opportunities. Speaking opportunities. It’s an incredible platform for connecting with many people all at one time.
It’s not all been rosy though. I’ve seen a lot of hatred on Twitter, aimed at people I know well, aimed at me at times, even Ministry of Testing. I’ve seen pointless debate after pointless debate, I’ve even taken part in a few of them, pointless. I’ve seen people jump on the tiniest difference to their world view without any regard for the person behind the tweet. It’s can be rather unpleasant at times.
However, nine years on, I’m still using Twitter, that’s because overall I feel my seesaw is tipping into the meadow side more often than the dump. I was reflecting on this the other day after seeing someone announce they were leaving Twitter, so I asked my self why do I stay. I answered a lot of questions I posed my self and thought let’s share these and start a conversation about how and why folk use Twitter.
Let’s get the negatives out the way, so we can end on a high.
Three Strike Rule
My feed is my feed. Apart from when Twitter plays around with the sorting algorithms! But what I mean is, I’m in control of the people’s content I see. Therefore if I read something that makes me uneasy or uncomfortable, I unfollow those people. I tend to give folks three strikes, after that, bye.
Mute and Block
Sometimes unfollowing isn’t enough. When you’re following a lot of people the chances of seeing those people via others retweets and comments are high. Therefore I take advantage of muting and blocking. Muting folk on Twitter means you still follow them, but you won’t see any of their activity in your timeline. The best bit about it though is folk won’t know you’ve muted them. Blocking on the other handle provides the same benefits but the person is able to see that you’ve blocked them. I tend to mute more than I block.
I hate the world debate, but it comes up a lot on Twitter. Let’s have a debate! Does the person want a debate? But they tweeted publicly, so they must! It doesn’t work like that! Debates on Twitter suck, people don’t want them. People want to share great content, ideas and thoughts (more on this later). Why would anyone want to have a debate 220 characters at a time? I avoid them, there’re many better platforms and mediums for debate. I digest and respond. If I disagree with something I read, I don’t have to reply. If I do decide to reply, I try to be respectful. Appreciate the person and their work, and state that it triggered some useful thoughts, if they inquire about them, share them in some form, if not, I carry on.
I described Twitter using this term once to a room full of students, but it is how I see Twitter. There are a billion things to be aware of and try to keep on top of in the world of software development, and the world for that matter. Twitters allows me to control my own vast information radiator tailored by who I decide to follow. I personally utilise Tweetdeck when at my computer. It allows me to have columns for multiple accounts I have access to, keywords, DMs and of course those notifications. But when I have the time (more on this later) I can glance at Twitter and promptly digest multiple things. Where I don’t have time to read right now I mark them to read later via Slack reminders. I’ve encouraged many folks to just use Twitter as a radiator and don’t tweet/reply at all, but the content can be that good.
Variety of Information
I follow a whole heap of people, companies and tools on Twitter. This means my feed tends to be full of variety. I follow developers, testers, security experts, tool vendors, UXers, tech influencers, browser vendors, news channels, sports terms and even the odd comedian. If someone shares one thing that you find valuable, give them a follow. You’ll notice if that value disappears, then you can simply unfollow. This rapidly increases my chances of seeing something that brings me joy.
If This Than That
Twitter doesn’t have a read later option, I wish it did. So, I used to take advantage of IFTTT and utilised a recipe for pushing favourited tweets to Trello. This quickly got out of hand, because I often favourite tweets to support offers, or as a sign of appreciation if a tweet made me laugh. But it’s worth considering a solution like IFTTT to remember to check something out.
I love creating content, and when I go to the effort of creating content it makes sense to share it, Twitter is a great place for sharing content. A few retweets can generate many clicks, many replies, many likes and gives you a nice buzz. That buzz can be bad though, many times I’ve opened Twitter just to see if a post has any more likes/RTs, that’s not healthy, I’m trying to avoid doing that these days. Maybe I’ll do it for this post though, it would be fitting after all :). Buzz aside though, it gets your views and opinions read, and usually results in some feedback being offered, which I digest, reflect, and no doubt will use in future content.
The above applies here, I’ve built up a great following on Twitter so it’s a great place for me to market some of the initiatives I’m up to. Things like training, upcoming conference talks and things we’re up to at MoT. Again with the set up of Twitter, a few RTs could get your thing seen by many people who don’t follow you. RTing is a powerful tool.
The large following I’ve built up is a great tool for boosting others. This could be sharing their content, or my personal favourite is boosting questions so the original posters get more answers. Those answers usually also mean they get followed and can have future interactions without needing a boost. More importantly, it feels awesome, it’s a 2-second action that could make a huge difference to someone. I know this from the story of Emma Keaveney.
A retweet or a like can make a real difference to the original poster, if you read something you enjoyed, share it or like it. The like button for me is the Twitter equivalent of a thumbs up. Or depending on the context of the tweet, a virtual hug.
I like the real-time interaction of Twitter, and I tailor my interactions based on that. If I seeking more interrogation of my content or ideas, I turn to other mediums like my blog or The Club. I also find it easier to do the odd thread on Twitter when inspiration hits, without having to go to the lengths of a blog/club post.
Twitter regularly brings me joy. Some people’s gif game on Twitter is another level. A recent rule I adopted, some of you may have noticed it, if a tweet makes me laugh, I RT it. If it made me go, damn I didn’t know that, I RT it. If it tugs on my emotions, I RT it. There is a lot of good things on Twitter, you just need to tailor your feed to see it.
Twitter can be a time stealer. I regularly have Tweetdeck open on my second monitor and glance at it far more times an hour than I should. It’s taken me a while to identify this, and I now close Tweetdeck when I need to focus, this has made a vast improvement to my focus. However, other days, I’m really happy that I left it open because fantastic content came my way.
Overall Twitter has had a very positive impact on my career and life. It needs managing though, you need to make sure the tool is working for you, and change it if it isn’t. There are thousands of people sharing incredible stuff all day long. I’m continuously shifting my balance to ensure I’m in the meadow and not the dump.
Sometimes that balance is way off and I simply close it. Other times I’ve got more information than I know what to do with.