One of the commonly recommended actions for people wishing to create their own Online Learning Network in a Web 2.0 world is to get a Twitter account. It’s great advice and, when worked properly, can give you an incredibly powerful group of people to learn with. However, keep in mind that not everyone on Twitter may be a good friend. Some of my thoughts and observations below.
The key is to check out their vitals before you become friends. Just go to http://twitter.com/<their name> and look in the top right corner of the screen for their activity.
From out of the blue, this friend befriends you. Upon further review, you check and find that that they follow hundreds or even thousands. But, they have 0, 1, or 2 followers. They also have one update which includes just a link to a website. They’re just trolling for traffic to their website. Not a good person to follow and it might even be hazardous to visit their website.
These types are interesting. They follow nobody or just a few but have legions of followers. Typically, they are followed because of some sort of infamy. Their value to your Online Learning Network may be in what they say, but there are two other potential sources of value. They may take you to their website where there’s a wealth of resources. Or, because of their leadership qualities, the others that follow them may be leads to like minded folks who you wish to befriend.
And I do mean this in the best of ways. Rather than a single person, this may be an entity that has a number of different people who post to the account. They’ll have 0 or very few people that they follow themselves but will have enormous numbers of people that follow them. A good example of this are the many news services that are on Twitter. CBCNews, for example, posts breaking news stories. By subscribing to them, you’ll get the scoop within minutes of it being posted. Think of this as RSS on steroids.
The Life of the Party
What can we say about these types? They follow lots of people and they have lots following them. In some circles, there is value in big numbers. A common value determination that you may find of value is a person’s “authority”. One of the attributes of a person in authority is in the number of people that follow them. The problem with the life of the party is that they have so many contacts that they can’t really give you the time that it takes to generate a thoughtful reply because of their own traffic.
The Balanced User
This is probably what most of us look for in a Twitter friend. They follow a manageable number of people and have a manageable number of people following them. They post quality messages on a regular basis and comment back when one of the folks that they follow posts something. This may well be the interaction that works best for folks. What does “manageable” mean? It varies depending upon the commitment to the network this person contributes. You’ll know if when you see it. They contribute wit, comments, resources consistent with what you’re here for.
These are the people that are just here to scoop everything that they can. They’ll follow lots of folks and have a few tweets back. However, they contribute nothing in their return. Usually, their comments are searching for answers to questions that they pose or a request for further details. They get a great deal from others but really don’t contribute back. Probably not someone that you want in your network.
These folks are easy to spot. They’re just there to sell you something, drop an F-bomb or two, and then move on. Thankfully, the management at Twitter is working hard to kill these accounts as they pop up. If someone’s posts are annoying or don’t feel right, don’t give them any credibility by following them. There can be little satisfaction by taking on someone online. The most hurtful thing that you can do to them is to ignore them completely.
Did I miss someone? Did I get some of this right? some of it wrong?
On Twitter, I’m @dougpete and as of this post I follow 482 people and leader-bots, have 424 following me, and I’ve made 4092 updates.
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