If you aren’t presenting, MUTE THYSELF. This isn’t rocket surgery, folks. Your office background noise doesn’t make you more important. The fact that you are taking this call from an airport doesn’t impress me. The fact that you must take a call while you are on the meeting isn’t a positive thing. The fact that you are multitasking doesn’t make me like you more. The fact you work from home and have a dog is not cute. Okay, it is, but we don’t need to know.
If you are a fan of Wil Wheaton, you can also share this in his meme, Don’t be a Dick
Please share this with all your frenemies.
Updated with a new technique for filtering: the Global Filter. See half way down.
I tweet a lot. According to Twitter I’ve posted more than
50,000 60,000 tweets since I joined. I happen to know that Twitter lost a few thousand more last year, so yeah, I tweet a lot. I even use the phrase "avid Tweeter" in some of my bios.
Some people started following me and exchanging Tweets with me because I tweeted about NoSQL, big data, open data, open government, data modeling, normalization, databases, SQL Server, DB2, database design, data architecture, the Zachman Framework, or other data-centric topics. And then there are those who followed me because I shared information about Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-134, Atlantis, STS-135, Juno, Ariane rockets and my attendance at various NASATweetups and SpaceTweetups. Others decided to follow me because I shared information about Technical Barbies, specifically @venusbarbie and @data_model. These girls travel with me as I attend events and meet interesting people. Others followed me as I covered live events about Toronto’s government failing local citizens. Some people have followed me because I’ve worked with them in the past, attended school with them, or met them at a family event. The point is that people follow others because they are interested in what the other person is sharing at some point in time.
Some Twitter users create many accounts and tweet only about a single subject from those accounts. They mainly broadcast information from those accounts and rarely converse with others. Think of these accounts specialized Twitter accounts. To a degree, the Technical Barbie accounts are like that. But that’s not how I use Twitter. I use Twitter to build relationships with people, to share interesting things that I come across in my travels, and to share links to stories about things I think others would be interested in. If I Tweeted only in only about one topic, I’d meet fewer interesting people and I’d discover fewer connections to a variety of people.
Someone today complained to me about the fact that I sometimes tweet or retweet posts that are not in English. They want to be protected from having to see a foreign language in their Tweet stream. Personally, I find that a bit sad, but I pointed out that they could use a feature of their Twitter client to translate foreign language Tweets into English, which I cover below. Another person complained to me because I tweet on topics other than data. I’m not sure what to do with those complaints because I’m not just an English Data Robot. I think that sound incredibly boring, too. However, I have met a non-trivial number of data-space-government people who share an awful lot of similar interests as I do. In fact, some of us are planning a NASASpaceSQLPASSTweetup in the near future.
Having said all that, I do recognize that not everyone is interested in all the things I’m interested. I’m pretty sure my spacetweeps generally don’t care about normalizations and that my data friends don’t want to see more than one or two astronaut photos a year. You do want to see at least that much, right? That’s why the Twitterverse invented some nifty features and approaches to allow people to manage some of the overload of Tweets coming their way.
Hashtags aren’t an official part of Twitter, but early on Twitter users realized that they need a way of tagging and filtering the fire hose of Tweets in their stream. When I attend events, I try to use a hashtag to add some useful meta data to my Tweets. This tagging allows follower to do a few things:
- Find Tweets from the event, even from people they don’t follow
- Filter out tweets they don’t want to even see
- Archive or repost Tweets someplace else about one topic.
Last week I was a-Twittering like crazy, as were 59 other Twitter users, at #SpaceTweetup, an invitation-only event hosted by the European Space Agency in Cologne Germany. There was indeed a fire hose of information coming at us and we were making ourselves busy by posting photos, videos, and messages about all we were seeing and doing. Most of use included the word #SpaceTweetup in our messages so that we could easily see what others were sharing on Twitter. If you had an interest in space, this was a treasure trove of AWESOME stuff about ESA and their missions. Plus astronauts — lots and lots of astronauts. If your attitude about space stops at Tang and space pens, then this hashtag could have been your friend as well. Almost all Twitter clients have a way to filter out tweets from a specific person or with a specific word. I primarily use Tweetdeck as my Twitter client, so the examples below are from there. If your client doesn’t have a similar feature I suggest you find a client that does.
The button with the downward arrow is the column filter button in Tweetdeck. It allows you to include or exclude Tweets within a column based on criteria you supply. You can choose to filter on accounts, text, the source, or time of day.
To filter in or out content, use the plus sign or the minus sign. For filtering out Tweets with certain hashtags, you’d want to choose TEXT from the first field, then the minus sign from the second, then fill in the hashtag in the third. Let’s say for some crazy, crazy reason you didn’t want to see any Tweets about #spacetweetup:
The above is what your filter setup would look like: TEXT – spacetweetup.
From that point on, you just wouldn’t see any tweets that had that word, spelled exactly that way, in that column. If someone is on a rant (Who, me?) and you just want to temporarily stop seeing all her Tweets, you could use the Name field plus her Twitter ID to filter out her rants for a while. Once the coast is clear, you could just click on the X to remove the filter.
Of course, if you really, really need to see tweets only containing a certain phrase, you’d set up an inclusive filter and you’d see only Tweets containing that one phrase.
Our blog uses categories on posts. You can use these similarly to hashtags to find posts on a single topic or to filter out posts on topics you don’t want to read about. How you do this is dependent on your RSS feed reader. I’ll try to put together a post with one example soon.
New: Global Filter
In addition to the column filters, you can add a global filter to Tweetdeck to stop all tweets meeting certain criteria.
Here you can put words like NASATweetup, or runmeter (my running application) and you’ll never see them again in any column. You can also hide users, but I’m not sure why you’d want to do that rather than just unfollow someone. I guess perhaps if you wanted to give the appearance of following someone while not having to see their Tweets. I still recommend you just unfollow them, though.
The From Sources criterion would let you block things like Tweets from Foursquare if you feel they are useless or silly.
For my friend who complained about my non-English Tweets I told him to use the Translate feature of his Twitter client to do the heavy lifting of participating in the conversations I was having and retweeting. Unfortunately for him, he decided that this was too much work, so he still wanted me to stop my non-English Tweets. I can’t help him. But you have the magic right in front of you to be part of the global community.
Here’s a sample Tweet coming from ESA Italia and it’s in…wait for it…Italian.
I could make a decent guess at what it says, but instead, I just go to the Translate feature of Tweetdeck to see what it does say:
And what do you know, it isn’t a Tweet about fat attractive alien pasta, but a Tweet about photos taken with 3D glasses:
My anti-multi-lingual friend feels that all of Twitter should be in English or stay the heck away from his Twitter stream. And you know what? He can work on doing that by not following people who share in multiple languages, which is what he chose to do.
Saying Sayonara When None of That Works
How do I know my two friends chose not to use these features? Because they chose to tell me they thought my Tweets were not meeting their needs and they needed to let me know they were unfollowing me. The great thing about Twitter is that it isn’t a friend model, like Facebook where both parties need to agree to be BFFs in order to see each other’s posts. Twitter works on following model: you follow people and they may or may not follow back. So you can unfollow people without affecting them at all. It’s poor etiquette to announce your unfollows. If you have good friends and you want to let them know you think their inadvertent crotch pics are starting to look intentional, then by all means contact them to ask if they need a new phone case or some intervention. But announcing that you are leaving is not cool. I keep using the cocktail party analogy to explain Twitter. If you were at a gathering with several discussions going on, you wouldn’t turn to the others and say "your conversations are non-value-add. I’m going to leave this conversation and go on to another one that caters to my needs only." Well, if you would do that, then good thing you are leaving. Normally you’d either try to steer the conversation in other direction or you’d wander off to another. Only jerks would say "your conversation sucks, so I’m leaving" in front of everyone else.
So to summarize:
- Use a Twitter client. You’ll never "get" Twitter if you don’t.
- Use the hashtag and filter features to tailor the tweets you see. Adjust those filters as needed.
- Follow people when they are interesting, filter them if they are doing something right now that isn’t, and unfollow them if it turns permanently uninteresting to you.
- Don’t announce you are unfollowing. Just do it. Don’t feel guilty and don’t ask the other person to stop being complex humans.
- If you need to read only single topic information, go with mailing lists, forums, or RSS feeds from curated sources. Twitter isn’t any of those.
- Use the features of your RSS reader to filter blog posts, too.
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