Why I Like Am Addicted to Twitter

I started tweeting in March for the Digital Journalism class COM466 at the University of Washington with Kathy Gill. Now, after three months, let me show you where Twitter has brought me:

The Beginning: The Force Was With Me!

The first weeks of my life in the Twitter-verse were a roller coaster. At first I was all excited and would have been pretty directionless, had not Kathy held her hand over us to give this jabbering market of strangers some order. I tried to read all updates I received, which worked alright for the first week while I followed less than twenty people. By now the number is over 200.

The News Junkie Phase

As we began following official news sources, following all updates became hard, but somehow I still managed until I followed about 50 people. I was amazed by all the information I could gather through Twitter without having to visit news pages or rely on RSS. However, I soon got frustrated, because I could not possibly keep up with all the information any more. Many newspapers and other official news sources provide an amazing amount of information and their headlines on Twitter, which is great to keep up to date, but also makes it hard to follow any of them on a regular basis. I also lost a little bit of interest in Twitter due to its inability to show images, although I tried to substitute that by following photography sources.

At this point I tried Tweet Deck, which brought me back to Twitter as I could filter the incoming tweets in groups. However, I was basically back at the same level of use than in the beginning, trying to read all the related tweets (in groups of related sources). At this point, I spent at least one to two hours on Twitter everyday, trying to catch up.

Information Overflow and Management

As I got more and more interested in Digital Journalism, I researched local as well national journalists and experts in media issues through a snowball system. At the same time I tweeted and retweeted many news related articles and information that I had found on the web and wanted to share not just with the class, but with other people.

Filter your results to get the core of incoming information. Image CC afronie via Flickr

Filter your results to get the core of incoming information. Image CC afronie via Flickr

The number of people I followed (and who follow me) suddenly skyrocketed and while I got connected to more and more journalists active on Twitter, it became less efficient as a source of information. Only after I reworked my filters on Tweet Deck and introduced searches among my friends, I managed to regain some order. Now I have categories for local journalists, my favorite national journalists in Germany and the US and for searches on topics I am most interested in at the moment.

Take Small Bites And Chew Them Well

Even though I have a very selective filtering now, the big amount of people has changed my habit of using Twitter as well. As many of the Tweets evolve around the same topics with the people I follow, it makes sense not to read all of the updates, but to take a peek every once in a while to see what is a new trending topic among my friends. Rather than trying to catch everything, I take out small bits – usually links – that seem interesting and then read the information provided or try the new service. This proved to be much more profitable than trying to gather all the information However, I do like to tune into the flow of all posts every once in a while to “keep my finger on the pulse”.

The Twitter “Expert”

As a frequent user of Twitter, I talk to friends and peers about it and have become the go-to person for social media, especially Twitter. Recently, I have met several young founders of start-ups or young growing companies who were thrilled when I told them how they could use Twitter for their business or cause. Similarly, I’ve introduced people to Twitter as an information source for their particular interest. For one of them, I even prepared an account that would aggregate the kind of information most profitable to the profession and then handed it over. If done professionally, this could become an online business model.

Bottom Line:

Once you managed to filter the information according to your needs, Twitter is a useful tool for journalists both as a news source as well as a connection to others in the profession. Moreover, it can be used to utilize the Twitter crowd as a reporting resource and to let others know about your work.

  1. Paul, what can I do to help make a student’s experience go more smoothly? What would be your three main points for a novice journalism student?

  2. It is hard to say what would make the experience more smooth. Part of the reason why I am stuck to it is because I had to fight my way through the “jungle” despite the fact that the selection of people I followed was within a narrow field.

    Things that might have accelerated the process:
    1. more follow recommendations for the field (see Future of News Recommendation list)
    2. more force on the amount of (good) people rather than some with high volume (if I hadn’t learned to completely ignore the Foxnews Tweets you made us follow, I’d get rid of this one instantly!)
    3. Introduce more Twitterapps and filters like Tweetdeck and how to use them best (I still sometimes get empty columns, because volume in some groups is too high, in others too low and I haven’t quite found the balance yet)

    Hope this helps!

    P.S.: You mention in your Blog Post that our enthusiasm might have to do with the mainstream hype. I thought of that rather as a turn-off actually. However, the mass amount of newbies helped me to focus and stay within the media field rather than follow newby “gurus”.

  1. June 8th, 2009
  2. June 8th, 2009

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