Twitter filters don’t solve the problem

I want to be a better follower.  Really I do.  I want to hear what the people I am following on twitter have to say.   But I just can’t hear some of it.    I have been client-hopping like a speed-dater, hoping that Mixero, or TweetDeck, or (my current squeeze) HootSuite would enable me to listen intelligently.    As a result I am having fun playing with lists, filters, and searches.  But I am still not hearing properly.

My problem is that signals from my low-frequency sources get swamped.   What happens to ‘Taciturn Ted’, when his signal is mixed in with ‘Chatty Katy’ and ‘Average Anne’? He becomes invisible.

This is exactly the opposite of what should happen.  Tweets from people who don’t tweet very much are more informative than tweets from people who are always twittering.   (This is true whether you look at things in a classical information theory sense, or with common sense.) Low-frequency but potentially high-information-value offerings should be salient to me when I tune in.

I don’t want to look at Twitter constantly, just to make sure I never miss a tweet.  Nor do I really want to know ‘what’s new’.  I want to know ‘what’s interesting, about what’s new’.  

My problem here is that ‘new’ really needs to be interpreted as ‘new relative to the source.’  Not ‘new relative to everything else that for perfectly good reasons belongs in the same channel’.    I could of course put my low-output sources into a special list, but when I take this view of my flow I lose the ability to simultaneously categorise in other ways.

How do other people solve this?  I’ve been asking around my digerati pals, beaming questions into the void,  and googling.    But I haven’t come up with any solutions.    If you’ve got one, let me know!

Why isn’t there more noise being made about this problem?  Is it because, as another maven says, people care more about talking than about listening?     

Hootesuite or  Twitter could sort me out, for sure – if I could mix my own channels better.  What I want is to be able blend my ‘results’ display using both recency and distinctiveness.  

I am not trying to make Twitter do something it isn’t built for.  I just want to extract more value out of the flow.  But to do this, I need a better fishing rod.   One built for the information age, that enables me to specify, and solve, my information problem in information terms.

3 thoughts on “Twitter filters don’t solve the problem

  1. Hi Heather,
    I agree that people are more interested in talking than Listening. Dale Carnegie told us as much almost a century ago. However, surely, the the “noise” will be eliminated eventually by people simply turning off those tweets. People have little time for useless information these days so I think the meaningful tweets will bubble to the surface, one way or another.


  2. Hi Heather
    Yes it is a problem. I get around it by using hash tags and then I can skim through the subjects I’m interested in. But I take your point about weighting…There should be a way of saying “this guy is high on my watch list so alert me when he tweets”, or else put his tweets into a special pile. I only follow about 1k people so I can manage for now but I think you must cross a threshold where you just can’t listen anymore and that’s when you disengage maybe and start just broadcasting.

    I also like and hate the way you can link a blog to your activity stream in linked in… If you use the buttons at the top that they so helpfully put up there then the comments don’t appear on the blog itself… grrr. Lost a lot of useful comments off my blog that way.

    So yes, a lot of wrinkles still need to be worked through to get this stuff working well.



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