Musings on twitter and Follower/Following strategy

I’ve had a twitter account for a few years, but only in the past few months have I been using it intensively.  I’ve been making a focused attempt to figure it out, both in a technical sense and in it’s real usage and meaning.

Like many people my initial reaction to the concept of a stream of 140 characters, joined together into a massive river, was negative.  After all, as many people observed, who wants to monitor people’s realtime shopping trips or breakfast choices? Since I was employed in the IT industry for twenty years I also had an aversion to “chat rooms”, where people spoke in abbreviated bursts.

I began looking more carefully at twitter after perusing some of the high profile experts at the short quip, primarily Andy Borowitz at

Borowitz and quite a few others have managed to turn 140-or-less character tweets into an art form. As a writer, the idea of getting good at this sort of terse venue intrigued me.

Then I discovered the political discussions and observations flowing through twitter, and became very interested in gaining some mastery of this whole new medium.

One of the first questions I had was “who do I follow?”  Twitter allows following up to 2000 with no restrictions on your number of followers.  After the 2,000 mark the number of followers has to come within about 10% of the number of people you’re following.

I decided that I’d make political discussion my primary usage of twitter.  Once I’d made that decision I had to decide how wide to make the ideological spectrum of people I follow.  I’m always leery of “echo chambers” wherein the residents get a reinforcing view of their political beliefs.  I’m a progressive, so it would seem I’d need to sprinkle in a few conservatives for a good mix.  On the other hand the fringe right, while it isn’t all that large, has a pervasive presence on the internet, and the question of how much noise I could tolerate arose.

I decided to focus on progressive followers, and to only follow conservatives who seemed thoughtful.  The rest of the right I can follow through hashtags.  #UniteBlue has been an excellent tool for linking up with progressives.  I’m skeptical of the notion that a lot of energy should be put into “spam block” protection (I was skeptical when the right wing “Twitter Gulag Defense Network” introduced the concept, and I’m skeptical still).  But whatever reason members have for joining #UniteBlue, it  has done an outstanding job of linking progressives, and recently proved that it’s network can cause topics to “trend”, with the #SaveUSPS hashtag.  There are good possibilities for translating this into effective organizing outside the confines of cyberspace.

So at the moment I periodically go to the @UniteBlue lists. pick one of the lists, click on List Members, follow until twitter won’t let me follow any more, and wait while many of those I’ve followed follow me back.