Happy New Year everyone!

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.
  1. Thou shalt not tweet more than 20 times a day. This has a detrimental effect on everyone else's ambient intimacy with their group.
  2. Thou shalt assume that everyone following you is following 150 people or less (because they probably are).
  3. Thou shalt not tweet more than 10 times in an hour*. That's what blogging is for.
  4. Thou shalt not treat Twitter like a private chat room*. That's what IRC is for.
  5. Thou shalt not engage in lengthy one-on-one conversations in Twitter*. That's what Instant Messaging is for.
  6. Thou shalt not forget that the question being asked is "What are you doing?".
  7. Thou shalt not be too boastful or pompous. Arrogance is offensive in real life, and Twitter is no different.
  8. Thou shalt learn how to use @, L:, D: and #, -- and ++. If you're not sure, watch others.
  9. Thou shalt type people's usernames correctly (e.g. @Casablanca); otherwise the 'replies' function doesn't work.
  10. Thou shalt welcome new users publicly and with enthusiasm; this helps them make connections so they can share the excitement.
*Unless thou art being very funny or entertaining.



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.


Unknown said…
Great stuff.

@Casablanca++ (!)

Numbers 1 and 3 are particular sore points for me. I really dislike finding my view of twitter swamped by just one person. If there really is that much to say, Phil is bang on when he says, 'That is what blogging is for'.

Anyone who is splitting a lot of content over many tweets is missing the point.

Nice one Phil!
Anonymous said…
ah..nothing like starting the new year with limiting creativity. happy new year. and I hate short hand insider abbreviations, very exclusionary and elitict...good touch--
Phil Whitehouse said…
Thanks for your comments, Anonymous, and I'd like it if you could expand on them - I'm not sure how these ideas stifle creativity. In fact, I believe the opposite, that by establishing some social standards it makes the service better for everyone. So I'd very much like it if you could give an example of the kind of creativity which would be stifled.

I'd also challenge you on the accusation that the abbreviations are insider. They're pretty widespread, and if used properly add a *lot* of value to the service without changing the underlying service. For example, if someone uses the hashtag properly in a conference environment, then they add their voice to the backchannel, for the benefit of everyone following that tag. This commandment was more targeted at people who use them incorrectly, rather than those who don't use them at all. So I'll tweak that commandment accordingly to encourage people to use them properly, rather than use them in the first place.

Anonymous said…
Well, your clever propositions ground make us more right to the point. You're obviously right, considering that, every fashion flow has its unbelievable crowd of curious and noisy people.
We, at each moment, must be responsible of our acts, and be thinking about WHICH way to manage with it.
It's in our responsability to have a "social web behavior", and not to destroy a such like, Twitter opportunity

Thx and happy 2008.
Anonymous said…
Thank you, Phil, for this very timely post (and the underlying analysis)!
Let's hope it'll get the attention it deserves (e.g. via Twitter's own blog *hint*).

My pet peeves are #3, #4 and #5.
I also like the idea of welcoming new users publicly to integrate them into the network.
However, I might have to review my archives to check for violations of #1 (maybe raise that limit to 25?)...

Aside: What's D: - I don't suppose you meant direct messages (d [user] [message])!?

You should create a separate blog post for the upcoming revised edition, with the ten commandments right at the top.
That way we'll be able to link violators directly to the commandments (spreading the word in the process... ).

What's interesting:
When I signed up for Twitter in early October, I thought I had to become familiar with the established etiquette.
It's intriguing to realize that this etiquette is only beginning to form now (or at least it's in a crucial transformational phase).
Unknown said…
Great article - I love 'em! It's fun to watch the etiquette develop.

And I learned something - I didn't know about "d username message", so I hunted it down and found a load of commands I didn't know about:
Anonymous said…
Thanks for that link, indigoprime.

Another potential commandment: Thou shalt not double-post.
This is a tricky one though; e.g. if a typo slips through, I usually like to correct it by re-posting and deleting the old tweet - is that acceptable?
Anonymous said…
Great list, it should be send to every new twitter account and to all twitterazzi as well
Phil Whitehouse said…
Thanks indigoprime for correcting my syntax, will amend final version.

FND I reckon it's OK to accidentally double post, so long as one is deleted straight away. Hey, you're only human!
Anonymous said…
How about one having to do with not following people when you're: a) not using your own (or even a real) name, b) haven't posted a profile, c) follow no one else but that one person, and d) never tweet? Feels like stalking.
psd said…
I share your frustration, but it's inevitable that some people aren't sensitive to "what are you doing", and I'm not sure I like "commandments" but guess you're trying to grab attention.

I'd lose the "no more than 10 in one hour" and add "thou shall not split a statement into more than one tweet" and add links to explain the @ replies and nanoformats, though commanding them is a bit much!
Anonymous said…
Being relatively new to twitter I have to say a great big THANK YOU for posting these tips.

Using twitter has certainly changed the way that I communicate and the value of these exchanges (personally and professionally) are huge for me.

Thanks again @Casablanca
Anonymous said…
Thank you, that was extremely valuable and interesting...I will be back again to read more on this topic.
Anonymous said…
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