I remember several months ago I read an article about the rise of “presence based applications.” One of these applications allowed people to tell other what they were doing at any given moment. The trick was that you could use only 140 characters but you could update your presence stream from any device (SMS, web or IM).

I couldnt remember the name, but I was excited about the concept. I met with a friend of mine, Perry Evans, CEO of Local Matters who was asking for some search marketing help with their new product, Local Guides.

“How cool would it be if while people were checking out local areas, they could provide a constant update of what they were doing?” I excitedly told Perry.

Now Perry is one of the smartest people I know, and always indulged my enthusiasm.

“Interesting,” Perry replied. “What’s it called?”

“Tweeker.com I think.”

As he leaned over his computer and typed the in address, my excitement shifted from excitement to horror as the browser filled with a porn site.

“Damn it,” I sighed, “thats not it.”

Soon after, I found Twitter.com and slowly I started to learn that in many ways, Twitter is communications porn.

Over the months that I have been a Twitter user, they have begun to get more and more press, and as their user base increases (now well over 700,000) the conversation has shifted from Twitter as ambient intimacy or a conversation ecosystem to the question of use/value.

Sites that rank Twitter users have begun to pop up: Tweeterboard, Twitterholic and TwitDir, as have their proponents and detractors. These are all examples of how Twitter has moved from early adopter tech lovers to more of the mainstream.

As people begin to follow more and more people, Twitter becomes more and more voyeuristic communications porn. Conversations cant be followed, external applications (thank God Twitter has a robust API) are being used by the high volume users just to keep up. Chris Brogan put up a post today that outlined in pure numbers the volume of Twitter communication he processes. Robert Scoble outlines his social media use, include his Twitter use.

But Chris and Robert are not the only folks with large numbers of friends and followers, many others are the same. Twitter does a great job of increasing accessiblity, but as the noise increases, it seems that there will become a few classifications of Twitter users (and since my brain is stuck on the porn analogy, I apologize now):

  1. “Playboy” Tweeters – This group is mass consumption. They have a large number of followers and friends (probably thousands), and while they say the read it all, usually its a picture…I mean tweet, that catches this group’s eye;
  2. “Maxim” Tweeters – This group has a large number of followers and a few number of friends. Every post has a tinge of ego attached, and probably has little real value.
  3. “Hooters” Tweeters – This group has a large number of friends and a few followers. Their hope is the more people they friend, then the more people will friend them back. They are truly unsure of the quality of the conversation, they just want as many people as possible to listen.
  4. “Swinger” Tweeters – This group is truly a closed community. People are accepted in only if vetted by a current member. Members are free to communicate openly about anything and do.
  5. “Prepubescent” Tweeters – This group has a small number of friends and followers. They tend to say that they are just “learning” about what Twitter is all about.

Up until now, I have been in group 4, preferring to only follow people I know, and capping the total number of people I follow at 100. Robert puts the number at around 300 even though he is well over 6,000. After a recent post about the value of comments versus response posts, which resulted in 4-5 tweets from friends that commented on the article, plus some interesting back and forth with Chris, I have begun to rethink this strategy. In addition, these two posts:

Clarence of Do You Know Clarence? wrote (with Chris Brogan): Keys to the Gates of (Social Media) where he wrote:

That pesky word ?friend? again. It messes up a lot of this experience. Because what if we consider you a friend, but don?t want to interact with you on Twitter or Facebook, or whatever? What if the things you like to Twitter about (your dog, your car, your dining habits) aren?t something I find interesting? I like YOU, but maybe don?t have much connection to your tweets. There are symbols here. If I drop following you, am I dropping you as a friend?

Alexander van Elsas wrote on his blog in his post “Twitter makes me a groupie, I’d rather be a friend:”

I can follow other people that don?t (or don?t want to) follow me. As a result of this I am reduced to a Groupie instead of a friend. I can listen to all their messages, but I can?t reply, add to them, or choose not to answer them. I follow a few people I don?t really know, but judging from the messages they twitter, i would like to interact with them on Twitter.

Moving forward, I have decided to break my online communications into three parts to make me more a part of the conversation than a closed participant:

  1. This blog – Long Form articles, more focused on a topic that (hopefully) is interesting to people. Posts should come about once a week or so primarily focused on the concept of success through failure.
  2. My Tumblog – which will be short form posts, videos, pictures and music. Much more random and a better picture of the things that make me laugh or think (which honestly are the only two things I could do all day, every day.
  3. And finally, Twitter. Here it will be almost an interactive stream of consciousness. Most of my tweets will be immediate and ephemeral, and I will follow (most every one) who follows me (except the spammers).

Will it work for me? I dunno, but if I am going to become consumed and a consumer of the conversation through added value, I will have to move beyond the communication porn and into value-based interaction.

UPDATE: Many people have asked me which group they fall into, or which group I think I am in. I think there is no real “correct” answer. I do know that I think the “best” is a mixture of two, to become a “Swinging Playboy” if you will.

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