Much has been made of the ambient intimacy afforded by Twitter, and seeing as JP has kindly mentioned my tweet on the subject, I thought I'd expand on my current feelings. Plus I didn't want the first thing a bunch of new people see on my blog to be the front cover of Oklahoma - The Musical....
Recent developments have made me realise just how sensitive the balance is on Twitter. It was fascinating to see how my old team adopted Twitter in the early days, and while some people have fallen away several still remain. It's a bit like marmite, really; when people try it, they either love it or hate it. And I'm chuffed that so many colleagues (past and present) and friends love it as it's the volume of fellow twitterers that gives the service it's value. I get a lot out of it.
And just as happened with blogs, people are still trying to figure out the best way to use it. Who would've thought it would take so long for something so simple? A distinct etiquette is forming, even as new people are still arriving in their droves. Who should you follow? What kind of conversations can you have? How often should one tweet? When do you unfollow people?
Of course, the answer to these questions is whoever / whatever / whenever you want. And I suppose there is an argument that we should just let nature takes its course. But as with blogging, people will judge you on the nature and quality of your tweets, and it therefore makes sense to exercise some restraint and good taste when tweeting. Just like with the broader web - if we're good citizens, it's better for everybody.
So I submit for your consideration a rough draft of the 10 commandments of Twitter. Please let me know if you have improvements or additions. I'll make a poster with the best ones.
- Thou shalt not tweet more than 20 times a day. This has a detrimental effect on everyone else's ambient intimacy with their group.
- Thou shalt assume that everyone following you is following 150 people or less (because they probably are).
- Thou shalt not tweet more than 10 times in an hour*. That's what blogging is for.
- Thou shalt not treat Twitter like a private chat room*. That's what IRC is for.
- Thou shalt not engage in lengthy one-on-one conversations in Twitter*. That's what Instant Messaging is for.
- Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is "What are you doing?".
- Thou shalt not be too boastful or pompous. Arrogance is offensive in real life, and Twitter is no different.
- Thou shalt learn how to use @, L:, D: and #, -- and ++. If you're not sure, watch others.
- Thou shalt type people's usernames correctly (e.g. @Casablanca); otherwise the 'replies' function doesn't work.
- Thou shalt welcome new users publicly and with enthusiasm; this helps them make connections so they can share the excitement.
UPDATE 5 January 2007, 22:57: The consultancy period has now closed and results can be seen here. Please head over there to continue with recommendations, flames, abuse, agreements, etc.