What Twitter could learn from Facebook when it comes to privacy and noise reduction

 

I’ll start this one with a short excerpt from my recent post Two Twitter Features I’m longing for to reduce the noise:

The fact that Twitter introduced lists is great. But wouldn’t it be even better if you could choose which lists should read the tweet you’re sending out?

A couple of scenarios:

  • I created a list of German speaking Twitterers writing about social media. If I now stumbled across an interesting social media related German link and would like to share it with my followers, it unfortunately doesn’t make much sense to non-German speakers. So I’d like to have the opportunity to share it with this specific German list of my followers.
  • You’ve created a list of real friends, close ones, not the ones from Myspace, and don’t want to share some kind of personal stuff with your whole timeline but just with the folks on your close friends list.

If Twitter had only taken a quick glance at a the privacy options Facebook rolled out roughly half a year ago, the above-named issues would have been solved right away. 

Marshall Kitpatrik from ReadWriteWeb nailed it:

The new Facebook publishing feature lets users share things with just a particular list of their friends. (Or with the public at large if they so choose.) The contexts are un-collapsed. Communication is human again. That’s a very big deal and is the kind of change that could make far more people comfortable sharing far more information about their lives on Facebook. It’s also a feature that no major competitor (namely Twitter) offers.

Facebook may be solving one of the biggest problems in social networking – the unnaturally uncontrollable nature of communication.

As a matter of fact, somebody unfollowed me on Twitter yesterday, telling me that too many of my tweets seemed too extraneous to appear in his timeline, therefore putting me on a list.

So basically, Twitter would just have to copy Facebook’s feature to reduce the noise in our timelines & make communication on Twitter more sophisticated in general. Just by enabling users to choose which lists should see their tweet. I’m not a very skilled coder, but this shouldn’t be rocket-science.

To conclude, I’ve put together a how-to-video of the above-mentioned Facebook feature for those of you who haven’t heard of it yet :

 
 

Two Twitter Features I’m longing for to reduce the noise

 

There are plenty of ways to use Twitter. Some use it in the “old-fashioned” way to stay in touch with their peers by telling each other what they’re doing. Some use it for marketing purposes, others try to be funny or something.

As I’m primarily using it as a source of information, as well as a platform to spread some (hopefully) valuable information, I’d really like to see some Twitter features that actually reduce the noise that is out there. If I’m looking for information, I select Twitterers because of the subjects they’re writing about / interested in. Thus, I don’t really want to know that a guy who tweets about enterprise 2.0 has just caught a bus in time. And I guess some of my followers don’t want to read some of my tweets as well because they just don’t have any value for them. There are two kinds of information I’m referring to in particular:

Tweets in a language my followers don’t understand

They might be helpful for my fellow Krauts, but don’t make any sense to followers who don’t speak any German. So instead of forcing them to learn this incredibly complicated language, I’ve had the idea that it’d be great if Twitter introduced language hashtags as a feature. And I guess it’s not just for German, but for a lot of people that don’t want to nag their mostly English speaking followers with Polish, Turkish or Spanish tweets, just to name a few.

An idea to solve this problem could look as follows:

#de Moin, dieser Tweet ist deutschsprachig und wieso sollten Leute ihn lesen, wenn sie kein Deutsch können?!

In this case, the #de-hashtag would indicate a German tweet. If Twitter now allowed its users to select the languages they actually understand, their timelines could be purged from “foreign” tweets that don’t make any sense to them, indicated by the specific hashtag. This would reduce the noise for Twitterers who don’t understand the language of multilingual users they follow. Other than that, it could also make a 2nd Twitter account superfluous.

Nicole Simon for example, a renowned German Social Media lady uses an English (main) account and a 2nd one for her German tweets. I also gave this solution a try by creating a German account apart from my main Twitter account SMartens83, but it really got tedious. I consequently started tweeting in English and German on my main account again, which does create noise for many of my non-German followers, but is much handier for me at the end of the day, I’m afraid.

Tweeting to specific lists

The fact that Twitter introduced lists is great. But wouldn’t it be even better if you could choose which lists should read the tweet you’re sending out?

A couple of scenarios:

  • I created a list of German speaking Twitterers writing about social media. If I now stumbled across an interesting social media related German link and would like to share it with my followers, it unfortunately doesn’t make much sense to non-German speakers. So I’d like to have the opportunity to share it with this specific German list of my followers.
  • You’ve created a list of real friends, close ones, not the ones from Myspace, and don’t want to share some kind of personal stuff with your whole timeline but just with the folks on your close friends list

These are the features that come to my mind when it comes to reducing the noise I create for my followers. If you have any other ideas or any workarounds to make these ideas a reality without a new Twitter feature, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch on Twitter. But please don’t DM me in Swahili ;-)

 
 

The Iranian Election and Social Media – Aljazeera Interview with Social Media Expert Robin Hamman

 

Fomer BBC Senior Community Producer Robin Hamman, who’s been leading the Social Media Team at Headshift for roughly a year now, was interviewed about Iran’s online media battle by Aljazeera.
As the Iranian election is still a trending topic on Twitter, it’s definitely worth watching, especially because Robin knows what he’s talking about:

A couple of other interesting links on the Iranian election and the impact of (Social) Media:

 
 

Questionable Nielsen Study: 60% of Twitter Users Quit Within Four Weeks

 

Nielsen reports that 60% of Twitter users quit within the first month, which is quite surprising to me.

The most important information behind these 60% is probably the fact that Nielsen is only able to measure return visits to Twitter.com as “HotForWords” pointed out over at Mashable.

Thus, the question is how many peoply actually start using desktop clients such as Tweetdeck, Thwirl or mobile clients right from the beginning and therefore don’t return to Twitter.com.

Twitstat provides us with the following overall statistics (not just for the first month of course):

1. Web: 27.68 %
2. TweetDeck: 12.44 %
3. Tweetie: 7.39 %
4. twitterfeed: 5.30 %
5. Twhirl: 4.11 %

The downturn of these numbers is that Twitter users have to follow @twitstat and it is not very likely that new Twitter users are actually doing so.

A more reliable statistic is provided by Tweetstats who got their data from Gnip:

tweetstats

Once again, this comes as a surprise, at least to me, as I would have thought that more people would use the mentioned desktop clients.

Some people might argue that Twitter desktop clients are rather a geeky kind of thing and are therefore not used by new Twitter users, such as Michael Bauser does:

I doubt that many users go straight to desktop apps in their first month of twittering. Those are for experienced (and by “experienced,” I mean “addicted”) users.

I don’t agree at all with that statement as Twitter has evolved since 2007, there are thousands of tools around it and the service can be used for online-marketing, customer support, etc.

I’m writing that due to my own experience with Twitter, let’s have a look at my very own tweetstats:

twittergraph

Noticed anything? ;-)

Right – I started using Twitter, relinquishing it almost immediately.

But:

As Twitter founder Evan Williams himself pointed out at his TED Talk:

The fundamental idea is that Twitter let’s people share moments of their lives, whenever they want, be they momentous occasions or mundane ones.
It’s by sharing these moments as they’re happening that lets people feel more connected and in touch despite distance in the real time. This is the primary use we saw in Twitter from the beginning and what got us excited.

What we didn’t anticipate was the many many other uses that would evolve from this very simple system. One of the things we realized was how important Twitter could be during real time events.

[...]

Among the other interesting things that have cropped up is many things from businesses. From marketing and communications and predictable things to an insanely popular Korean Barbecue Taco truck that drives around L.A. and twitters where it stops.

Politicians have recently begun twittering.

[...]

We currently know about 2.000 pieces of software that can send Twitter updates.

[...]

So, as I had mentioned before: Twitter has evolved.
When I started using Twitter, there was hardly anyone on Twitter that I knew.
Other than that, there were no usable desktop clients and companies would have associated Twitter with birds only.

That’s why I stopped using it for a long time until I started again and realized the value of the service by using it “correctly”. You can see my presentation on How to get the most out of Twitter or another great presentation, that inspired me to create my own, called “How Twitter changed my life presentation”, which outlines lots of Twitter’s benefits. The title is a bit too dramatic for most of us though, I guess.

To cut a long story short:

I don’t see why 60% of Twitter users should stop using Twitter within four weeks regarding the value you can get out of it today.

I think the 60% mainly consists of people that try something and throw it away after 5 minutes because they don’t want to spend a little effort to actually learn something. We don’t need blinkered people acting like 5-year-olds.

What’s your experience?

Did you start using Twitter, quit for a while and came back?
Or have you been twittering ever since the service was launched?

Looking forward to reading your “Twitter history”! :-)

 
 

Get the Most out of Twitter

 

My presentation from the Webmonday in Hanover on 16 Feb 2009, which actually made a couple of people create a Twitter account on the very same night ;-)