Last week I wrote a brief “history” of my relationship with Twitter over the past seven years. As a result, I let myself meander down memory lane a bit on and recall what Twitter “felt” like back in 2007. Because there were fewer people on Twitter then, it was easier to connect with someone, to engage them. It felt like there was less noise. And this morning I found a post by John Battelle in my feed reader, Might Curators Be An Answer to Twitter’s Signal To Noise Problem?
To be sure, [pq align=right]Twitter has a significant signal-to-noise problem[/pq]. Even one of the comments on my post from Friday brought that into question. Fernando Garcia wrote, “The question probably is, what would you be doing if you weren’t tweeting or tweet-thinking? Maybe nothing – or maybe something else. Is it life or is it noise?” I think it can be a bit of both. And the noise is certainly a problem. And I freely admit that I create some of it myself. Battelle offered his solution to the noise issue.
“I’d love a service on Twitter that pointed out the best curators for any given topic where I’ve indicated a strong interest (and my interests have already been mapped by Twitter, for purposes of promoted tweets),” John Battelle wrote this morning. “Further – and this is important – I’d love for Twitter to break out those feeds for me as part of its core service – a sort of Headline News to its constant 24-Hour barrage. It’d mean a break with the one-size-fits-all mentality of the main Twitter stream, but I think such a break is overdue.”
My own anecdotal experiences, and the conversations I’ve had with other Twitter users over the past two years, certainly echo Battelle’s feelings. I don’t even follow as many people as he does and the signal-to-noise ratio is still high. I think there is a simpler solution to this problem.
Put More Focus On Twitter Lists
While I have an “OK” set of Twitter lists that help me cut through some of noise, Twitter itself doesn’t make it easy to get to my lists or manage my lists. In addition their iPhone app doesn’t even support these lists. I get three options for viewing my Twitter stream in the Twitter iPhone app; Home, Discover and Activity. This is one of the reasons why I don’t use the Twitter iPhone app. Instead, I use Tweetbot. At least Tweetbot lets me get to my lists in a couple of clicks. That said, I can’t delete someone from a list I’m actively viewing without backing out of the list, going to the user’s profile, then hunting down the “add or remove from lists” function on their individual profile page. On the desktop, Tweetdeck is still the best at managing lists, in my opinion. But the real problem with lists is that they have to be managed at all.
I used to use a service called Formulists to automate the dynamic creation (curation) of a few real estate oriented lists. These were based on predetermined criteria. One of the lists was dynamically changed based on who was interacting with me the most. I found that list interesting and helpful, and it changed over time. Twitter has been notoriously hard on third party developers and that service, like a good number of other Twitter services, went away a while ago and nothing has stepped in to fill that gap.
So I suppose my suggestion is really a variation on Battelle’s theme. I just don’t want Twitter to do it all for me. I want a level of control over the process and the ability to set up dynamic lists that might break me out of the habits that Twitter is mapping. I don’t necessarily want to reinforce existing habits of consumption.
Either way, lists need to be moved to a place where they are simpler to use, easier to manage, and have some level of dynamic “curation” capability. I want Twitter to do some of the heavy lifting for me. How do you cut through Twitter’s noise?
Bob Dailey says
I cut through the noise by doing something that may not be the best idea…I stopped checking my Twitter feed about six months ago. I suppose it is the noise ratio that became too much for me to tolerate. I found very few tweets to be interesting, and the ones that were interesting were links to other content (articles, blog posts, etc.). Since my interest is more about the articles and posts, I found curation tools (Zite, FlipBoard, Brook) and I’ve attempted to “train” those apps to find content that interests me. I also directly follow a few blogs (yours being one of them) that have thought provoking content.
When I think about Twitter, the picture that pops into my mind is the top of a cliff where people run up and toss their ideas off, and then drop back until they have another idea to share. Not a tremendous amount of listening, but a lot of ideas dropping into the valley below.
Clearly, there is untapped value in the tools that help us sift through the pile of ideas that have been cast off the cliff, but I haven’t taken the time to explore them (if they exist). Maybe I should.
Jeff Turner says
What a great analogy, Bob. I guess I have had experiences on Twitter that cause me to expect more from it. That said, I put less into it today than I used to. I can’t expect to get more out of something I’m putting less into. I guess I’m not sure what came first, my getting less or my pulling back.