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Summary:

You know those sci-fi movies where some guy suddenly has the ability to read the minds of everyone around him and his eyes roll up in his head and he collapses in a heap, frothing at the ears and utterly insane because he can’t handle the […]

You know those sci-fi movies where some guy suddenly has the ability to read the minds of everyone around him and his eyes roll up in his head and he collapses in a heap, frothing at the ears and utterly insane because he can’t handle the flood of inanities? That’s why I’ve been avoiding Twitter.

I start every day by scanning dozens of feeds from sites and blogs related to my professional pursuits. Serious stuff. Substantial. That’s why I subscribe to them.

Every now and then, I’ll click the link that takes me from my Google Reader to the source. More and more often these days, I’m greeted by a Twitter widget that’s been prominently—proudly, even—placed in a sidebar.

Maybe it’s just me, but my reaction to someone’s latest tweet about how all his socks are dirty, or what tech celebrity he’s lunching with is not a positive one. TMI, people. I don’t want to know and I’m not impressed. Furthermore, you come across as vapid. Or egotistical. Or desperate. My guess is that these are not words you really want people to apply to you.

Don’t get me wrong! I love it when people are open, real, unabashed! And I love that the Internet has made it possible for us to share our complex and wonderful selves with the world in so many ways. But I think just because you can be yourself doesn’t mean you should in every context.

So if you have a Twitter widget on your blog or site, remember what Mom always said about first impressions and take into consideration that potential clients and contacts could react negatively. If you’re not already a superstar in your field, the kind whose idiosyncrasies everyone gladly ignores, you should probably exercise some restraint. Alternatively, you could have separate pro and personal Twitter accounts and display only the pro account widget on your site.

Clearly Twitter can be a useful medium for communication among colleagues, family and friends, but until now, I haven’t been able to get past the “twit” in “Twitter.” That said, I don’t think it’s reached anywhere near its full potential and I’m enjoying watching it (and the way it’s used) evolve. I’m even exploring ways to use Twitter in the online community I launched. Resistance is futile.

Just for grins, and to to get a taste of the Twitter hive-mind effect, check out MyTinyJesus. It’s a site that does nothing but randomly grab tweets from all over the world and display them in a steady stream. It can be entertaining and relaxing, And really annoying…

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By Pamela Poole
  1. Some blogger moans about what some other bloggers do. Shocking!

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  2. To get value from Twitter, one of the following must be true:

    1. You have personal respect for people you follow.
    2. You have a need to get short bits of information out into the aether on a frequent basis.
    3. You want to build contacts in a specific industry or market.

    In addition, you must be the sort of person who is capable of framing complete thoughts in Standard English, in roughly 20 words or less.

    If you can’t meet these conditions, Twitter’s not for you.

    It’s certainly taught me tons about brevity.

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  3. Not only that, but remember if you choose to let your tweets create a blog post on your site, that will eventually get indexed by Google for all prosperity.

    Not a fun thing to contemplate….

    Barbara

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  4. MyTinyJesus rules! (I feel like Tweeting a tinyurl of it.)

    I think Twitter’s got potential as a great tool, but you make an important point about its pitfalls. Still, whether we love it or hate it, we’re fast approaching the tug towards an epical information flood and few of us will be able to keep staying on the shore without at least getting wet.

    In a way, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing. For years anonymity on the web reduced courtesy. There’s a chance (a small one) that people will be more careful about what they say. That, as you say, they’ll think as if they’re face-to-face before they Tweet.

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  5. Loved the first paragraph of this article. My nickname for twitter has always been “asinine”.

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  6. Relax.

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  7. Something I don’t have to read annoys me, make it stop.

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  8. But… but… my socks *are* all dirty! ;) And yes, I’ve been gently urging my kids to be less dorky on the Tweeter, too.

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  9. Ben, yes command of the language on the part of the tweeter definitely makes it more palatable! Meaningful content would be nice; something useful or just something beautiful that wouldn’t waste the mental bandwidth of followers. It’s a perfect medium for haiku!

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  10. Good point Barbara! I think only the geekily inclined are truly aware of this kind of thing.

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