Friday, 28 March 2008

The flaws of Twitter: About message noise and categorized feeds

I’m using Twitter now since 4 months. And I’m still note sure whether I should continue using it, whether I should promote it or whether I should just abandon the tool. There are indeed benefits. Like with the status messages in Facebook I can monitor what’s going with people which are important to me and by writing directly to that person through twitter I can hook in on an issue whenever I want to. However, I experienced two very critical flaws which in my view hinder Twitter to be a really excellent application.
  1. Some people are sending messages just every other day or once a week while others are twittering twenty times a day. That makes it awfully difficult to identify the valuable contributions from the ones which are only writing rarely within the very “loud” twittering by the frequent users of which only a certain percentage might be useful to me. I wish I had a button where I could “quiet down” certain people without having to kick them out of my contact list totally. Maybe there could be a policy which defines that one could only twitter a certain amount of times per day. But then – who would decide on the frequency? And what if I actually have already used up my amount of messages and then something comes up which would be also critical to post? One option could be that for each user you follow you could vote on how often you’d like to hear her/him per day. The average of these votes then gives the user a (non-binding) hint what might be the optimal amount of daily entries his network contacts feel comfortable with.

  2. It’s very annoying to have professional messages mixed up with private messages. I personally would desperately need a mechanism to only receive professional entries as I’m really not interested on the dinner menu of a professional colleague on the other side of the world. In the beginning I tried to set up two accounts, one for private and the other for professional purposes. But that of course doesn’t work, as you can only be logged in with one account at a time. Using a different tool (e.g. Dodgeball) in parallel is kind of cumbersome, because then you need to promote a different tool for each purpose. Of course you can’t force your contact to twitter only on certain items which are of interest to you. Maybe a tagging system for twitter might be a good thing so you could filter the pieces you are interested in. Or actually, there is still quite some space left on the twitter overview site. Why not have different columns on different topics on which I frequently want to twitter about (e.g. private, job, studies, promotion, sports, hobbies)? Then everyone could decide which of my different personal news feeds (s)he wants to subscribe to.

In general, I don’t think we have seen the full potential of microblogging yet in terms of user-friendliness and added-value features. Let’s see what developers might come up with in course of this year!

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