Tuning The Signal-To-Noise Ratio On Twitter - InformationWeek

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2/5/2009
10:32 AM
John Foley
John Foley
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Tuning The Signal-To-Noise Ratio On Twitter

I created a Twitter account a couple of months ago, and yesterday marked my 100th tweet. Others are much more prolific in the number of tweets they produce, and it's becoming clear to me that on Twitter there can be too much of a good thing.

I created a Twitter account a couple of months ago, and yesterday marked my 100th tweet. Others are much more prolific in the number of tweets they produce, and it's becoming clear to me that on Twitter there can be too much of a good thing.Every Twitter user, or tweeter, will find his or her threshold. I generally post only 2 or 3 tweets a day, which is low by Twitter standards. I follow 100 tweeters. More than that would become too much of a din. I say "too much" of a din, because Twitter already is a noisy, nonstop clamor; it's really a question of how much of it you can handle.

One thing I've learned is that a few vocal personalities tend to fill up my Twitter page with their nonstop observations. Some post 15 to 20 times a day. It's no wonder that Twitter's Fail Whale, a sign of system overload, has become such a well-recognized icon. It's evidence that the human propensity to comment on everything around us can bring a modern data center to its knees.

I have a hunch that the most active tweeters are gregarious by nature, that the same folks who generate 20 tweets a day can talk your ear off in person. I wonder, is it the case that introverts also are tweeting up a storm, too?

I don't mean to knock frequent tweeters. (I'll dub them tweetfreqs.) Indeed, Twitter's appeal has largely to do with the great variety of users tweeting back and forth. And, if the volume becomes too much, it's easy to unsubscribe from the blabbermouths. I intend to scale back the number of people I follow, aiming for quality over quantity.

One of the most prolific tweeters I know is InformationWeek's Mitch Wagner, who averages 16 tweets a day, weekends included. I know that because I entered his Twitter ID (mitchwagner) in Tweetrush, a nifty service that provides stats on Twitter usage over time.

The people who manage Twitter are sensitive to the tweet-overload phenomenon. On Twitter's About Us page, they tackle the question, "Isn't Twitter just too much information?" You can read their answer here. In short, Twitter's advice is to "step in and out of the flow of information as it suits you."

A person's following-to-followers ratio on Twitter tells something about them. "Following" refers to the number of other people that you follow, while "followers" is a measure of how many others are tracking your tweets. Many people, myself included, have an approximate ratio of 1-to-1. The heavy hitters, such as Jack Dorsey, the founder and chairman of Twitter, have a much higher ratio. With nearly 20,000 followers, Dorsey's ratio is 1-to-57.

What's Dorsey's key to success? According to Tweetrush, he averages three tweets a day, and I see from his page that some of his tweets are only two words, "Busy day!" and "Taxes: done." Not a lot to chew on, but the length and frequency of his posts fit my less-is-more Twitter philosophy.

Which leads me to the following conclusion: The key to optimizing your Twitter experience is to turn down the noise in order to better hear the signal.

You can follow me, or unfollow me, at twitter.com/jfoley09.

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