Thursday, April 1, 2010

My newest advice to Twitter newbies: disregard Twitter's home page

Twitter's new home page suggests that people new to Twitter start off by following a bunch of "celebrities" and "businesses".

This is the exact opposite of what a person new to Twitter should be doing in order to have a meaningful experience.

Hysterically, Twitter has set up a collection of "top tweeps" which are non-interactive accounts, some of which hardly tweet at all... and a "top tweets" account which purports to assemble, algorithmically, a feed of the "most interesting" tweets, and which does in fact assemble a mindless stream of boring drivel.

The whole idea is ludicrous. If you and I don't know each other, and I were to say to you here is a list of the "top tweets" why on earth would you believe me? How do you know what I like is what you would like? Answer: you don't. So why would you believe an "algorithm"? And the whole idea of just reading a feed, with tweets directed to no one, is mind numbing.

And if I were to tell you I had a list of the accounts which are the "top tweeps", and I had a financial interest in pimping them, why on earth would you accept my recommendations? Answer: you wouldn't.

It seems as though Twitter's "algorithm" has been set to "sleep inducing" mode (since the people who make these decisions appear to be asleep at the wheel, it's an understandable error).

What is awesome about Twitter's lists of "top tweeps" and "top tweets" is that Twitter seems to have assembled, with the help of its "algorithm", an almost perfect collection of total stiffs, and of meaningless babble, well crafted to prove the argument of Twitter's detractors that Twitter is a useless exercise. I could not have formulated lists better calculated to discourage people from using Twitter were I trying to do so.

Another piece of foolishness is Twitter's home page's reference to "trending topics". Why should you -- the Twitter user -- care about what is "trending"? You are an individual; you have your own interests; what matters is what's of interest to you, not what's of interest to the masses. Are you a human or a lemming? If a lemming, and you run to the trending topics, you'll probably just wind up in a sea of spam. (I've been told that if you click into the trending topics, you're likely to run into a sea of spam; I've never done it and probably never will, so I can't speak from personal experience.)

My advice is to (1) ignore everything Twitter says about itself, (2) take advice only from people who are already having enjoyable and meaningful Twitter experiences, and (3) take the advice previously outlined in my article : "A little basic advice for new or inactive peeps", on how to have a meaningful Twitter experience.

It appears more and more that Twitter is just interested in serving us up on a silver platter as a meal for its paying customers. Along with its implementation of targeted "lists", persistent refusal to implement the user-created retweet, its attempt to replace the traditional retweets with standardized anti-conversation rubber stamp pseudo-retweets, the hyping of "suggested" accounts to follow who are paying - or likely to become paying - customers or sponsors of Twitter, and the announced advertising 'platforms' [injecting paid ads into our Twitter stream from accounts we don't follow + littering search results with paid ads], this new home page with its hype of celebrities and businesses seems to be but another step towards (a) commercializing, and ultimately (b) destroying, Twitter. See, e.g., its new "Twitter 101" which -- instead of teaching basics to people so that they can get more out of Twitter -- advises businesses on how to make money with Twitter by exploiting ... us.

Twitter is trying more and more to become like the 1990's era Web 1.0 ... or actually more like 1950's era network television, perhaps. The people who make decisions like this at Twitter ought to go "update" their "timeline". I guess they're too busy "following" the "top tweets" and "top tweeps" and the "Friends and industry peers you know. Celebrities you watch. Businesses you frequent. Find them all on Twitter."

Why not just launch an online version of People magazine? Or has that been done already?

(Short URL for this post: )
(Short URL for "A little basic advice....." post: )


  1. Good advice, Ray. Twitter's follow recommendation page is one of the most misguided marketing tactics I've seen. Is it any wonder that new visitors to Twitter abandon their accounts after only a few weeks? Here's hoping someone at Twitter reads this and gets clued in to what Web 2.0 really means.

  2. Thanks David.

    It boggles the mind how little understanding they have of their own site.

  3. This is so true. There are a few news and blog sites I was interested in following, but it is difficult to find the "real" people. I once spotted a small section called "similar to you" which I thought was great! But now I don't see it.

  4. If you want some "real people", "Friends of Mine" lists have a lot of great ones!

  5. Ray, okay I'll definitely check out your list! BTW, I finally found the "similar to me" feature again. It's on the profile page, not the home page.

  6. I have a hunch you'll find the "similar to me" thing to be pretty useless....


I have a few simple comment rules:

(a) No

1. rudeness
2. falsehood
3. deception
4. unfair tactics
5. comment spam
6. shilling or trolling

(b) stay on topic, and

(c) if you're anonymous, use a handle so we can distinguish you from other anonymous commenters.

Thanks for commenting.