Sunday, August 16, 2009

Why the.effing.librarian tweets:

I just saw this blog post on why Twitter is so good as a social tool and it made me wonder about why I continue to tweet. Normally, I don't care about social networking, but Twitter isn't very social. It's more like reading a big stack of high school yearbooks: you see a photo attached to some short message: 4U2NV! Or maybe you see a list of likes and dislikes or predictions for the future. Look at that guy; do you remember him?

So here are some reasons why I like Twitter:
  1. Twitter increases my view of the world by 6%. There's some news that I know I would have missed without some attentive person's tweet. But I don't think there's enough to say that Twitter influences my world more than that, like a full ten percent; at least, not yet.
  2. I want to know a little about you and your world. And that's the key: I want to know just a little. I really don't want to know that much about you that you infiltrate my daily thoughts. And why would you want me to think about you? It's not like you're Mindy Cohn. Are you Mindy Cohn? Really? Did you get my letters?
  3. You only learn as much about me as I want you to know. You don't find every photo of me because my high school friends tagged me all over the place. You don't know what I looked like when I loved Haircut 100 and wore lots of sweaters.
  4. You can't piss off too many people at 140 characters or less.
By comparison, Facebook is just a huge pain the ass with friend and group requests sitting in my box like a pile of dirty laundry.

But this is why I hate Twitter:

I can't stand the popularity contest. I can't stand seeing everyone's number of Followers. That number should be invisible. I don't care who has 1,000,000 followers; the only influence that number has on me is that now I can quantify my not caring with simple math:
((followers - following) ÷ followers x 100) ÷ 126 = I don't give a shit.
Some people think that the number of followers is an indication of utility. But it's not: utility is an indication of utility. If your tweets are useful or entertaining to me, I will follow them. Some people tweet news that I think I need to know. And some people just seem nice enough. And that's who I follow. I also understand my own limitations and only follow as many people as I think I can manage.

Let's say we all used Ashton Kutcher's numbers to guide us on how to follow others. His current Followers are at 3,203,245 and his Following is 192. That means he Follows one person for every 16,683 people who follow him.

Now, if we cared about these numbers, Ashton would be a complete asshole when it comes to acknowledging his Followers with some form of follow-reciprocity. What this says is that he's 16 thousand times better than us in the Twitterverse.

That's why these Follower/Following numbers suck. I don't need a social networking evaluating my worth in some artificial realm.

Now, the downside is, how would we decide who to follow without some ratings system? I'm not going to lie to you and say that I don't look at your numbers. I've intentionally chosen to not follow some people just because they seem to have too many Followers. So screw you, Al Gore, and your attempts to end our destruction of the planet, you friend of the Earth bastard who Follows almost no one: get your Follows into double-digits and maybe I'll follow you.

So for Twitter to be useful without making me feel like I'm failing algebra, they should eliminate all numbers. Yes, it was fun when CNN and Ashton raced to one million: the nation collectively held its breath. I know President Obama did. Once that race was over, he knew the country could get back to the business of fixing health care and the economy. I bet he was excited when he made that congratulatory phone call to Ashton on his victory. What? The President didn't call the winner of such an important event in our nation's history? Doesn't the President call the winning horse after the Kentucky Derby? I thought he called everyone. Wow, that must suck that the President calls a horse but doesn't call the tweet king.

But that out of the way, every library should be on Twitter. Why? Because it's free, and it takes (almost) no time.

If your library already uses RSS to push your news out to your patrons, then all you need to do is link that feed to a service like TwitterFeed which will send all of your updates to your Twitter account.
Then search for other local governmental agencies or non-profit or educational groups that your library would normally partner with, and Follow them on Twitter.
You shouldn't have to do anything else. You might monitor it once a week to block any spammers or porn sites that Follow you, but your RSS feed is doing all the work. Every time your web site updates, and if those pages are syndicated, then your Twitter account updates with the new stuff automatically.
Yes, you can monitor Twitter all day long, if you think your followers are that needy, but only you would know how much attention to give. Me, I would just set it and forget it, and just check it once a week.