In Praise of Connecting

There’s an interesting article in this month’s issue of Wired by Clive Thompson called In Praise of Obscurity and it caught my attention (sadly the article isn’t online yet or I’d link to it). It talks about a woman named Maureen Evans who started tweeting 140 character recipes over Twitter. She was an early adopter of Twitter and over time she gained a lot of followers, starting at around 100 and ending up with over 13,000, though now she’s hit around 18,400. But the sense of community she had begun to develop in her early days had started to dissolve. Mr. Thompson suggests that the problem is that “socializing doesn’t scale.” If you overcrowd a dinner table it’s nearly impossible to have one good conversation, even with the person across the way from you. But I also feel like this is only half the problem.

Twitter is a tool just like any other, used properly it can have advantageous effects. A lot of people say they don’t get Twitter, but most likely that’s because they have no reason to use it. I don’t carry a blowtorch around hoping I figure out a good use for it.

I started using Twitter 2 years and 9 days ago, and as of writing this I have 6,570 people following me. The thing is, I’m only following 194 people. A while back I realized that if I followed more than 200 people that it became unmanageable. I don’t need to know what Rainn Wilson is blathering about, I don’t care about Mr. or Mrs. Kutcher. On the other hand Martha Stewart posts some fun photos some times, Roger Ebert can keep you entertained for hours and the multitudes of creative people I follow can distract me all day long. But this list I’ve curated, in a sense, is an extension of what I really enjoy and want to hear more of.

I think the problem that Maureen is having is that she’s following too many people back. Currently she’s following around 11,000 people, which seems totally insane to me. If she distilled this list down to a more manageable number, just people she finds inspiring or enjoyable, she might be able to have some better conversations.


January 25, 2010