Tonight I declared Twitter bankruptcy.

Earlier today, I joked with a friend that had unfollowed me on Twitter.

I said:

Three – you unfollowed me on twitter. I almost deleted my account that day, because it was a black, black day in the micah twitter world. I am only joking through my tears… :)

He said:

No worries ;) I still read every blog entry. I could explain better in person. I think you are one of the most awesomest people in the industry, I just use twitter differently than others. (emphasis mine)

For some reason, that really got me thinking. What do I use Twitter for?

Until now, it was clear to me. Access and interaction. I have tweeted my cell phone number (720-231-7120). I have tweeted my exact location via brightkite (add me if you want to). I tended to tweet often (according to TweetStats).

But as most things go, has Twitter value changed for me? Was I using it differently than others? Should I change how I use Twitter?

I took a look at the people that I admire for their openness, accessibility, quality of message, frequency of message and purpose of message.

There was a pretty big range.

My friends like Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk and Robert Scoble [people that use twitter both as an interactive tool and as a promotional tool] tended to follow about as many people as followed them. In most cases, the number of followers/following numbered in the tens of thousands. They tweet about 60 times per day.

My friends like Brad Feld and Eric Marcoullier [people that use twitter as a brain dump and a interactive tool] tended to have a couple of thousand followers, but only follow a couple of hundred folks. They tend to tweet about 6-7 times per day. (Apparently except for drunken times in Las Vegas at CES. One more ice cream tweet from you, Brad Feld, and you are unfollowed!)

I sat squarely in the middle. I have about 3,000 followers and followed around 750 people. I tweet 20 times per day. Most of my tweets were random thoughts, interactions or promotions.

So what to do? Experiment time.

I decided to do three things:

1) I would go through my following list (770+) and cull it. The intent was to get down to 200-300.

2) I would tweet less per day. Not sure how much less, but perhaps half as much?

3) Because I am tweeting less, I decided I needed to be more thoughtful about what I tweet as well as more judicious with the @replies. Basically, before replying ask myself this question “Is this something that would benefit everyone, or just that one person?” If it was just that one person, I would send a DM.

Seems simple enough.

I started culling. Here are the rules I followed (pun not intended!) to unfollowing:

  • Do you follow me?
  • Do I recognize you?
  • Do I remember a tweet from you in the last week?
  • Do I feel bad unfollowing you for any reason?
  • Have I met you face to face AND have we interacted more than if we were at a cocktail party?
  • Do I consider you a friend?

My following list went from 770-ish to 427, a lost of about 340-ish.

The next step was to determine why I would follow someone:

  • They interact with me enough to become an “online connection”;
  • I have dinner or drinks with them;
  • The potential for sex (just checking if you are still with me, or if you have completely puked by now);
  • Their preferred form of communication is twitter.

It was amazing. I set up Tweetdeck with four columns. All Friends, Direct Messages, Search @micah (so I can get all replies), and a Group: Friends (which is a subset of All Friends). People I hadnt see a tweet from in awhile, but were people that I really like, started to bubble up. Suddenly, the enormous cocktail party in a ball room, became a lavish dinner party at my house (if my house could fit 400 people in it lavishly).

I began to enjoy twitter more. It was like when I first started using Twitter when I was excited to see what my friends were saying.

For the next week or so, I am going to keep my following number low. I think its interesting and useful to understand the different ways that Twitter can be used. I will try and keep my tweeting to around 10 per day, with 3-4 of those @replies. There will be probably a huge jump in my direct message count, IMs, emails and other forms of content. Most of my tweets will be brain dumps (ideas) or promotional. Most of my @replies will be interactive in nature.

Curious to see if it modifies other online behavior (will people follow me less; unfollow me more?) Will I use Facebook, instant messaging, or (gasp!) the phone more?

Will I blog more often?

Hmmmm…..

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Funny story.

When I read about Twitter a year or so ago, it was called a “presence based application.” Meaning it was about what you were doing (where you were present) rather than what you were thinking or about conversation. I was consulting at the time, having just sold my company, and I was working with a company that was focused on hyper-local content.

“Have you heard about presence based applications?” I mentioned to the CEO, trying to sound “with it.”

“No,” he replied.

So, I started to explain the idea of an instant messaging system that allowed one to announce where and what they were doing, and how well that concept worked with local content.

“I think its called Twatter.”

As we pulled it up on the CEO’s 30″ monitor, I chuckled as a loud, blinking male gay porn site loaded.

“I guess thats not it.”

Soon there after, I learned the proper URL and signed up. My early tweets answered the question “What Are You Doing?” as laid out by the site. But soon, that just wasnt enough. I did what I always do: I did what I wanted to do.

And, strangely, Twitter changed with me (not because of me). It became more of a communication medium. Please started putting an @ sign in front of other people’s usernames to directly reply. Twitter soon added support for both direct messages and @replies. And, usage grew.

Even more interestingly, people started added me. I had added 50 or 60 people to start, mostly from the public timeline or people that I had heard of or were friends, but with little thought. I just added people.

After a couple of months, I had a 100 people following me. Wow! I was pretty impressed with myself. 100 people are interested in what I say. Pretty cool.

I started to watch what I tweeted. Tried to make it interesting, and quickly became bored. I went back to what I do in real life, just saying what I am thinking. And my following list grew.

I continued to evolve my Twitter usage. I would tweet out blog posts I had written and had read. I interacted with other people on Twitter. I tweeted random thoughts and things that made me laugh. But, mostly, I participated in what was clearly becoming a community.

In college, I studied philosophy. I did it, because I thought philosophy was easy. Like most things in college, I was disappointed in the difficulty of the course. It was really hard. Like REALLY HARD.

But, I do remember one thing. John Locke spoke about society and laws. His analogy was that society was like a horse corral and that laws were the corral itself. People could do what they wanted within the corral (free will), but were bound by laws (which were decided on by the society itself). Jump the corral, you were outside the law and no longer protected.

Groups define their own laws and characteristics.

I read many blog posts about “Twitter Etiquette” and laughed. The proper way for people to interact within the accidental community that Twitter built was to conform to the laws and rules defined by the community itself. People could relay those rules in a post, but they couldnt create them.

I wondered if there were content laws. Could I say something that would get me booted from the community? Lose followers en masse? I tend to be a person that says anything in real life, so I started to do the same on Twitter.

I swore. I said shocking things. I wrote about things most people dont discuss (bodily functions for example). Yet, my follower list continued to grow.

There was only two rules that I abide by: “First, judge only what I have written. If it made me laugh, it was good enough. If it made me think, it worked. If it felt real and honest to me, it was publicly consumable. Second, be unafraid. People are people. Life is life. If said with honesty and conviction, then no bad could come from my words.”

People began to interact with me more and more. I, sometimes, find the level of interaction overwhelming. I want to talk to everyone, but since its a public forum, dont want to overload those that are not interested in the conversation. But, I try.

And, now, after following hundreds and being followed by thousands, I have finally distilled how and why I use Twitter.

Why?

Its the people stupid. Its also the stupid people. (I always wanted to blog that!)

I like being part of the Twitter community and hearing so many different thoughts and viewpoints. I dont really use Twitter much for work, but I guess the image people have for me trickles over and into the image people have for Lijit.

How?

The people I follow (yes it number in the hundreds) are people I personally know, like and respect. The rest are people I like and respect and would like to get to know. If you fall into one of those two camps, I will follow you (and enjoy it).

Technically, when I am in front of a computer, I have two tabs open: The main Twitter page and a Search page. I read periodically what the front page is doing, but mostly I search on people I know have stuff to say that I will react to. I also check to see if people have @replied to me outside of the standard way (putting the @reply in the beginning of the tweet.)

When I am away from my computer, I use Tweetie on my iPhone, and have a bunch of pre-saved searches, which I check periodically. Because I am not using Lijit for work, I dont feel a need to be up to the minute with it, and will often check it at night or in the mornings.

At the end of the day, Twitter is much like everything we do in life. It is what it is, and will only change or shift based upon the efforts of the individual and collectively the group. Because Twitter is so new, individuals can change the basic ways the community interacts. Check out how Chris Brogan or Laura Fitton or Guy Kawasaki or Fred Wilson use Twitter. Each is very different, and very much the same.

I will continue to be part of the Twitter community as long as I am accepted as a contributing member, even if I occasionally tweet about masturbation. (*snicker* I used the words member and masturbation in the same sentence. *snicker*)

How do you use Twitter?

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11
Micah March 25th

When Tweets Collide

Just to get the self-promotion out of the way. Follow me on Twitter.

Today, I experienced three different aspects of Twitter, each one that I absolutely enjoy. Lets call it Shout Outs, Props and the Dozens.

The Shout Outs:

Our community is highly intelligent and giving.

Darren Rowse, who I met at SXSW, and runs a pretty popular blog called ProBlogger, tweeted that he was under the weather, and asked for submissions. In about 20 minutes he had 73. They are all posted here:

@CleverUserName A tale of resurrection
@jdevalkPageRank sculpting – Siloing and more
@ajvchuk Yep these are my Twitter friends….
@frankmartinFocus Groups – Part 4
@mjkeliherThe Shankman FTW: Facebook failing as favorite Web hub
@ninjapoodles Life In The Slow Lane–WITH CHICKENS
@travelrantsTips for a healthy and Safe holiday
@johnhoodCats, Jelly Babies, FeedBurner and an iPhone wallpaper!
@spyjournalWindows Home Server and SBS2003
@eMom Facing the Empty Nest of My Blog and My Brand
@jdrohn74Ways To Knock Your Competitors Cold
@joetechHow to Replace a Broken Screen on a Casio Exilim Z60 Camera
@ColinWalker Social media – when real life gets in the way
@VultoorGata, Blogovat s-a incheiat (Romanian)
@45n5Affiliate Rapping
@markcoruk We are on Reuters
@myrnaweinreichBreath With Eckhark & Oprah On ‘A New Earth’ Chapter 4
@cmiddlebrook 6 Months in Business – How Am I Doing?
@theunguruWhat Tool Do You Use For Reading Newsgroups?
@ianternetI dont do any sort of video blogging
@MartyJQuery Types – Figuring out Keyword Intent
@sduffyphotosHow To: Multi-Shot Panoramic HDR Photos
@WingnutSEO helps everyone
@splitbrainMy Photography Equipment
@mrscrumley Highlight Number 2: Atlanta Children’s Museum
@radix33 Being Reciprocal
@deege15 beer factoids that will make you look smart
@shaicogginsSigma EX 30mm f1.4 DC HSM
@cdhintonMac vs PC
@PSPrint_TrishLet Sleeping Husbands and Cats Lie
@CaseStevensHow To Write Great Email Follow Up Series
@micah#1 Rule of Running From Zombies…Dont Look Back
@moneycoachGood Friday: economics and cruxifixions
@deborahcarraro The Everything Outside Nature Challenge
@megfowlernine things
@DebNg 35 Accessories Made from Recycled Materials
@remarkabloggerWhat Twitter Does for Me
@chris24Why Turning Off Comments Would Suck
@TwisterMcUbuntu is one Geeky OS
@MWGblogPodcasting – It’s a Community Not an Industry
@sorenjEven at the risk of being heroes….
@ikaronet How To Replace Cable Television With Internet TV For Free: A Real Evidence
@trib Real commitment or lipstick on a pig?
@amypalko4×4 Sources of Writing Inspiration: Unpopulated Places
@TomRoyceWhy Banks Need To Work Hard Communicating With Potential Foreclosures to Avoid Serious Damage To Homes
@uberaffiliateThe Mindset Of A Millionaire
@theotherdrummerHow to manage less by reducing more
@blantoniousSuccessful Social Media Marketing Requires Personal Involvement
@jenniferchait 60 Eco-Friendly Ways to Celebrate Spring
@EverywhereTrip The Great Ocean Road
@digitalfilipinoCreating Valuable Free Prizes to Boost Success Chances
@andrea_r25 New and different ways to use WordPressMU
@idesignstudios6 Phases of the Web Design & Development Process
@GrantGriffithsThe Pros and Cons of Working from Home — Revisited
@soultravelers3Kid’s View of Florence!
@waltw Pairing Coffee and Cigars: Science or Serendipity?
@cashflowcoAre You Ready, World Math Day is Coming?
@GorillaSushiNew Media Attention Whore
@queenofkaosAre You a Perpetual Student? WHAM Podcast #6
@sijtBe the Jerry Springer of Blogging!
@arobertsBest broadband deals in the UK Market
@fsechzer How To Buy A Home Without A Real Estate Agent
@AGoodHusbandWhen a Husband Gets Praise and Compliments
@MenwithPens13.2 Easy Ways to Build a Thriving Blog Community
@mrinal_desaiWho is Your Chauffeur?
@Rachelskirts Best Egg Hunt Ever
@tomjohnson1492 10 Alternate Tests for Evaluating Technical Writing Job Candidates — A List for Hiring Managers
@daveatkinsMarketing and Politics
@rachelpulido01Talk about Tuesday – Goals
@ScrapNancyWhy did you loan me money if you think I’m that dumb?
@RoadHog Earthlings — A Discourse on Compassion
@palinodefive years and two months
@carterfsmithDear John, Where’s the Beef?

If you dont follow Darren on Twitter, please do. If you dont read his blog, you are missing one of the great blogs out there.

The Props:

Our community is teaching, learning, sharing and respecting.

Two people that I respect greatly, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk, both had inspiring posts today. Each blew me away in different ways. The coolest thing? At the end of the day, Chris gave Gary props on his blog, and Gary returned the favor via Twitter.

If you dont follow Chris or Gary, please do. If you dont read Chris’ blog, or watch Gary’s videos (here or here), you are missing out on two of the nicest, smartest people out there.

The Dozens:

Our community is funny, witty, biting and silly.

Growing up, we played the Dozens. Basically a put down game, the idea was to “one up” the put down you received, by dropping a smarter, funnier, wittier put down. Its been called many things: Capping, Snaps, Getting Clowned, etc. but its the Dozens, dammit.

After another tweet from Jason Calacanis about his attempt to have the most followers on twitter, I finally was annoyed enough to tweet that I would donate $1 for each follower Jason lost to his favorite charity. Man, did I hit a hot button! There was a flurry of tweets, and retweets flying around. Some were really funny. Some were kinda silly.

What was the end result? Jason added about 75 new followers. Makes it even more funny.

If you havent unfollowed Jason, please do. If you do read Jason’s blog or watch him on qik or ustream, you are a lucky, lucky person. And, finally, my dogs are soooo much cuter than his.

(I do have a lot of respect for Jason and what he has accomplished. I just wish he understood the importance of community a bit more. Of course, if you tell him that I said something nice, I promise to send you links to the Tummyblr over and over.)

Twitter is an amazing reflection on people and human nature. You get what you give, and the biggest lesson that I have learned is this:

“Give And You Will Get; Take and You will Get Blogged and Tweeted about.”