Since being listed as an “interesting Aussie Twitter user” at NEWS.com.au the other night, I’ve gained 300-ish new followers. Here’s how I’ve been deciding who to follow back.
First, though, I don’t think Twitter starts to make sense unless you have a reasonable number of people in your network. For me, the penny dropped when I had about 50 followers and followees, and you actually interact with them. At that point I started to see the live communication rippling through the hyperconnected mob. It helped that I already knew some well-connected geeks to get the ball rolling.
Once you hit hundreds of followers, though, there’s a phase shift. You simply can’t see everything that happens. It scrolls by too fast. At first that’s stressful — until you realise there’s always more in the world than you can ever experience. So another penny drops, and you detach. Zen. The Twitter-river flows on 24/7, but you don’t stop to watch every fish.
I use Tweetdeck most of the time, not Twitter’s standard web interface, because I can create groups of people. The unfiltered Twitterstream rolls by on the left of my screen, with separate groups for close friends, for media contacts I need to keep an eye on, direct messages and so on. Another panel shows everyone who replies to me or mentions me. So while I can’t see everything on the main stream, just mentioning me will grab my attention.
(I daresay it changes again when you’re like Stephen Fry with more than 88,000 followers. [Update 5 February 2009: It’s now more than 122,000.] May the gods forbid I reach that level of fame! He wouldn’t even be able to monitor all his @replies and DMs!)
So, how do I choose who to follow? Here’s what I’ve noticed today.