How I Twitter

I explained the way I twitter to several people over the last weeks and it seems that it is somewhat different than how most people setup their account, so I thought it might be interesting to share.

I have one main account @alper with a decent number of followers. That is also the account I use for reading and because of that I only follow around 250 people.

I want to keep track of more people but I don’t want that to clutter up my main timeline. The social media douchebag way of handling this would of course be to follow all those people (and also follow back everybody who follows me) and make a list of the select group of people that I actually want to keep up with. I don’t do that, partially because it is the douchebag way but also because it shows a dishonest state of affairs. I wouldn’t actually be following the people I claimed to follow.

I don’t do that. My approach is the exact reverse. There are a ton of people that I have met but whose twittering frequency or content does not agree with me. Or people I have never met and am not interested in following but who I don’t want to ‘forget’ about. I put all these people into a list called follow1 that I peruse regularly.

When I @reply to people from my follow lists, some of those people are flummoxed that I don’t follow them but that I am talking to them. That’s ok. The follow list is not a ghetto, it’s just a convenience measure for me. Sometimes I move people from the list to real following status or vice versa. Don’t worry too much about it. Twitter is not a competition.

I update rather sparsely on @alper: about one reasonably representative update a day and tons of @replies throughout the day. Recently I felt the need to update more liberally without affecting @alper’s track record as being a rather clean and friendly account you could easily follow.

That is why I started @alpercugun. The original idea was to have it be a private account housing a really offensive literary character who would not balk at frequent profanity, offense and ad hominem attacks. Now it turns out that if you have a twitter account that bears your name and has your likeness in the avatar, you don’t get much literary freedom however much you claim it. People have a hard time differentiating (and rightly so).

So instead of being a really offensive pit of vileness as intended, @alpercugun turned into my narrow-cast channel where I can write pretty much anything I want in both english and dutch, in a higher frequency than at @alper and with a relevance to a potentially smaller amount of people. There would logically only be a handful of people —who know me pretty well— who would potentially be interested in following such an account2. Those following both get a fuller picture.

An unforeseen consequence of this setup is that I will sometimes say something as @alpercugun and somebody will reply to that, I will —if the conversation is not sensitive— send my subsequent @replies as @alper. The point of @alpercugun is to get the initial thought out, to be a conversation starter. Any following @replies can be posted from @alper because their visibility is limited and because once the conversation has started it is often fair game.

The point of having a lot of followers is not reach, it is conversation.

The intersection of me and another person with a lot of followers could be a significant set of people. If the both of us talk about something, that entire set of people can see it and will be able to interject in our conversation. That is where the value is created, in publishing otherwise private interchanges and serendipitously triggering a conversation with a larger group of people, exciting ideas and reactions you would not have thought of or even thought of asking for.

  1. There’s also a follow2 list now because Twitter lists have a silly 500 person maximum
  2. Admission policy is fairly liberal these days.

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