Friday, December 05, 2008

Twitter Me This!

To be perfectly honest, I read a bit about Twitter over six months ago. I went to the site, read their information pieces, and just didn't get it. Not really sour grapes, but their home page -- for non-account holders -- is sparse on details, and not a little cryptic.

Five days ago, I was working on a business blog entry about communication and conference calls, and I came across an article written by the CEO of the international shoe manufacturer, Zappos Shoes. In it, he clearly explained what twitter is, what it does, and what it can do for me. Curious, I signed up.

What I found was the honesty of emails, mixed with the playfulness of instant messages, constrained by the limits of text messaging. It's easy to start, easy to use, and easy to get addicted to if you're not careful.

I spent the first day occasionally checking in, browsing and "following" interesting people. I was thrilled when I saw that I had around 50 people following me. This meant that anything I wanted to say in 140 characters would be seen by these 50 people... if they were at their main screen... or even signed on to twitter. Nevertheless, everything I write is stored so they could scroll back and take a look -- or go to my profile and see all my posts -- if they so desired.

And they probably would. I found myself reading a lot of the older posts of people I found particularly interesting. Am I interesting enough to get the same treatment? Of course I am! A lot of people seemed delighted by the fact that I live near a camel here in Texas. Well, I'm delighted about that myself. Good ol' Cactus the camel!

A highlight of my first day was locating the man who got me into Twitter, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. I clicked to follow him -- his tweeting that is -- and sent a personal note, thanking him for his insightful article. To my surprise, this successful and busy person took the time to write back, twice. How cool is that? It really reinforced his "twitter and business" message: Companies and their executives can become more accessible to their customers for great customer service benefits.

Also that first day, I came across the twittering of Greg Grunberg, the actor who plays Matt Parkman in the TV series, Heroes. I followed him, Brea Grant (Daphne Millbrook), and David H. Lawrence (Eric Doyle - one of the creepiest villains ever). I even had a little conversation with Lawrence!

It's come in handy with my work too. I tweeted a question about webinars to my followers (800 at last count) and got a few interesting responses. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of reaction I'll get when I ask for input on a fiction story.

There is one blemish on the Twittering scene, for me at least. Sometime on the third day, I hit 2000 for people I'm following. Suddenly, I couldn't follow anyone else. I've been blocked from following! It's not the amount, Guy Kawasaki has 33,228 followers and follows 31,938 people! It's not the ratio of followed to followers, I was pushing 4 to 1 most of the time and now I'm almost 2 to 1.

I feel bad because part of the reason for my high following number is I believe anyone who follows me is worth following. My following list is filling up with a lot people that are not followed by me. Seems rude.

What makes this incredibly frustrating is that I was not told of any limits when I signed up, nor is there a "Click to Read Limits" button anywhere on Twitter. In fact, to find out WHY I was getting reined in, I had to do an internet search to find a cryptic, general info page -- inaccessible from the Twitter site -- to find out my infraction. Apparently, you can't follow more than 1,000 people in a certain time period (and no the time period wasn't clear.)

I felt bad at first because I had broken a rule. The fact that I didn't know the rule didn't really alleviate the guilt -- I figured I had skipped over that important part when signing up. Skip to now; I'm not mad, but I am... miffed is a good word here. Isn't it the POINT of twitter to follow and be followed, and connect with as many people as possible?

I'll be fine as soon as the limit is lifted -- whenever that is -- but what about someone else? What if someone's exuberance is squashed by a similar experience? What if they were excited about Twitter and all the interesting thoughts they could read, only to be smacked down. "You like our site too much... stop it." They might never return again.

Despite Twitter's rolled up newspaper to my nose, I'm still pretty excited about the site. I'll continue to follow more people when Twitter allows me to, but I'll keep my enthusiasm muted. If you're on twitter, find me! I'm @tgapgeorge. If you're not on twitter, sign up -- it's free -- and find me!

I'll probably be talking about the camel.

Wondering if Ryan Reynolds tweets...