Twitter Set to Get More Annoying

| Thu Mar. 22, 2012 10:45 AM EDT

Felix Salmon says Twitter is going to get more annoying:

During SXSW, for instance, there was a steady drumbeat of people on my timeline complaining about all the tweets from SXSW. (I was there, and even I got annoyed by the endless banal SXSW tweets; I’m sympathetic to their plight.)

We’re going to have to live with many more annoying tweets going forwards, if things like Amex’s “tweet your way to savings” campaign take off. The VentureBeat headline is “American Express transforms Twitter hashtags into savings for cardholders,” but another way to put it is that American Express is trying to make money by getting people to spam their friends with hashtags like #AmexWholeFoods which have no value to the reader whatsoever.

And then there are people like Porter Versfelt III, who will get annoyed if I dare to express a personal opinion on Twitter. For Mr Versfelt, I have a “core purpose” on Twitter, which is to provide him with financial news, and anything I do outside that purpose is annoying.

Meh. The same thing happened to blogs too. When I post anything less-than-totally-serious, I routinely get complaints that I'm ignoring world poverty in favor of fluff. Other bloggers routinely get complaints that they post way too much on some hobbyhorse or another. And the world is full of comment spam and cyborg-like corporate blogs.

To a large extent, I think this is inevitable for any platform, and demonstrates less that a platform has gotten annoying and more that the rest of us take the complainers more seriously than we should. Felix probably finds Porter Versfelt III annoying. I would too. But really, who cares? He's one guy. He doesn't like something. Big deal. And yet, for some reason people who say annoying things stick with us more than their sheer numbers justify. I'm don't know why. I'm sure there's some nifty ev psych explanation related to survival on the veldt.

Here's my suspicion about Twitter: as it matures, we're all going to start following fewer people, not more. I'm already pretty astounded at the fact that people routinely follow 200, 500, sometimes a thousand or more feeds. That's crazy. I follow 171 feeds at latest count, and even at that I can only dip into my Twitter feed now and then to see what's going on. I can't even make a pretense that I'm truly paying attention to everyone I follow. If I were smart, I'd probably try to keep myself limited to no more than a hundred feeds, and rotate 20 or 30 of them out on a regular basis.

This, again, is similar to the evolution of political blogs, I think. Back in the day, lots of early adopters followed dozens of bloggers. As time went on, and as content got a little more homogenized, that number went down. Today, I suspect that outside of a small hardcore set of readers, most people have settled down to three or four favorite political blogs. If you pick the right ones, you won't miss much.

This is just a guess. Maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and prune down my Twitter feed list today. If I do, don't take offense if I unfollow you. It's all in the cause of science.

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