My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Twitter questions (curiosity is killing me…)

Last night, i pinged a handful of friends to ask them about their Twittering. And… of course… since they’re bloggers, they started blogging my questions and their answers. So, of course, i realized that i should just probably blog my questions for any and all to respond because i am a curious little critter.

I’m not sure what i’ll do with others’ thoughts yet – it may turn into a blog entry or an essay or one of those terrifyingly academic articles that i write. Consider this to be exploratory where i poke around to understand some of the dynamics. No one has to answer all of the questions, but any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
[ ] Yes, and you *must* use my real name.
[ ] Yes, but please use a pseudonym and don’t use any identifying information.
[ ] No, please just use this for your own weird thoughts.

1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

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33 comments to Twitter questions (curiosity is killing me…)

  • I just returned from MiT5, where I met Fabio Giglietto, or, I should say, he Twitterfriended me during one of the plenaries from the row behind me.

    I’ve only Twittered for a few weeks (I resisted Twitter for a long time, mainly because I felt it was silly and I have never updated my Facebook status), and I find myself justifying it as “an application in search of a purpose.” I made new Twitter friends at the conference, but in return, I lost one from overtweeting (I was using Twitter to take notes).

    On Saturday, I used the lunch break and a session to walk from MiT to Harvard Square and then to go see the cheese caves at Formaggio Kitchen, a great gourmet store about a mile from Harvard Square. I wanted to Twitter, but didn’t as I thought it might offend my new Twitter friends sitting in panels at the conference.

    While I have convinced some friends (savvy about the online space and Flickr but not bloggers) to join Twitter, as of yet, they have not joined Jaiku, nor are they particularly interested in Egorcasting or Jotting. I think this is partly because Twitter is so specific (a Facebook status engine only) and I *think* they like being in the Twitter friend feed widget that I put on my personal blog.

    danah, please feel free to use this as it is helpful to your research. I’m happy to have my name associated with it, or you can use my (open) pseudonym, the name of my blog.

  • You can quote my full name Jason Cianchette

    1. My wife uses twitter to update our family site with what’s happening with our newborn child at http://cianchette.com

    The service was very easy to setup for this and I like that there is an API available in case I want to geek out one day and do something more interesting with the updates.

    2. Family and friends are reading the tweets from my site. Some people are following them on twitter.com, but I am less interested and slightly bothered by this.

    3. I don’t read other peoples Tweets.

    4. In my opinion any non-derogatory comment is appropriate for tweets. The only content that I refrain from is something very personal that I don’t want viewable by others.

    5. My tweets are public and this is largely just because it was the default option. I may make them private in the future because I’m less interested in having people who don’t know me read them.

    6. Twitter works for me because it is a simple and well made solution for me to add updates to our personal site. Once this novelty wears off, I’m not sure that I’ll use it anymore.

    Last, I’m a big fan of this blog and your research. Please keep up the great work.

  • Good questions Danah (as usual). My responses, and you can quote me: http://www.happykatie.com/dailies/2007/05/the_lowdown_on_.html

  • Here are mine (saw this on Katie’s page). You are welcome to quote me.

    http://www.jeffbalke.com/2007/05/02/what-i-like-about-twitter/

  • You can use my full name (Chuck Tryon).

    1. I started using Twitter out of curiosity. As someone interested in social networking and new media technologies, I wanted to see what Twitter offered that other technologies didn’t. I’ve since become mildly addicted checking every few hours or so to see how friends are doing. I’ve also found it useful in meeting up with small groups of friends at academic conferences (or coordinating their blog posts about a conference I’m attending).

    2. I don’t really think about my audience beyond my 18-20 “friends.” But Twitter is a little more personal than my blog because Twitter is less connected to my professional identity than my blog.

    3. I skim most Tweets from friends. I’ll usually follow links to blog entries posted in Twitter if I’m interested, in part because I wold probably read that entry eventually anyway.

    4. Agree with Jason here. Anything non-derogatory is fine. I won’t post deeply personal stuff, but the limited amount of characters does make Twitter feel like a semi-daily ritual where I can post a quick comment about my meals, my TV watching, or whatever.

    5. My Tweets are public, and I don’t really have any strong opinions about others coming across them. I decided to make them public because I wanted to see what it meant to contribute to the broader Twitter community. It’s especially fascinating to see the Twitter-Google Map mashup and how it seems to reflect a larger global community (faint echoes of Anderson’s “imagined communities” here).

    6. To me, it’s simply another way to remain connected. I think it has allowed me to become more connected to a couple of my regular blog readers, and again, it has been useful in making plans at conferences and other events.

  • sp

    > Yes, but please use a pseudonym and don’t use any identifying information.

    > 1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

    I tried, but most of the people I want to keep up to date with are on Facebook and use Facebook’s status which has been around for yonks. In addition facebook.com actually has a nice clean web interface for everything and responds very quickly ALL the time!

    I played with Twitter using the API in Ruby, because I am a geek and like to experiment with new things, but the API wasn’t well designed AND it’s response times are terrible during high peak hours. Not to mention they expect you to send your login/password credentials in cleartext over a HTTP request via Basic Authentication. They say their HTTPS/SSL API service is available and up, but I have always received timeouts when attempting to use the API over SSL. Apparently it is not the same as going to https://twitter.com in a browser, which I can successfully do. Very strange (and yes, my code does work for the HTTP case and have written plenty of SSL request scripts before)!

    > 2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    I *was* using Twitter in a non-public configuration, so only friends could view my Tweets. So my friends would have been the audience. Now my audience is nobody, because I am letting my Twitter account gather dust.

    > 3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

    I have read my friends’ tweets. Not interested in tweets from people I just don’t know – what would be the point!?

    > 4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

    From my friends any content is fine with me, I don’t read random people’s tweets – I just don’t care at all about egomaniacs I don’t know.

    > 5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

    Not public as mentioned above. People I don’t know do not read my tweets. People I do know would be fine. Though now I just use Facebook statuses again, because Facebook is a better more integrated service for communication between friends in my opinion, plus most people I know are already on Facebook, who really wants to create a new account with a new startup whose service has major uptime issues – who knows who has access to your profile/status information in their databases if they aren’t competent enough to scale a non-complex website up when the technology (even in newbie Rails framework) is already here!

    > 6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

    * It’s butt ugly – why not just go over the myspace.com for ugly? At least myspace as a decent user base and can probably find you friends on their already (even if they now disown their myspace profiles:)).
    * It’s unusable generally speaking (separate from visual presentation).
    * It’s response- (and up-) times are terrible.
    * It doesn’t have the traction and community amongst my circle of friends that Facebook has, and Facebook statuses integrated with everything else in Facebook provide a much better user experience via a web interface, which is the main way I access information like this. Not interested in SMS integration at all. Although currently thinking of integrating Facebook statuses to an IM bot for my personal uses – and already experimenting with that.

  • First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
    Sure. Julie from bbk studio.

    1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?
    I’m interested in how our tools will shape the way we communicate with each other. It’s interesting to use it and interesting to watch its use.

    2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    At first it was mainly colleagues and clients. Then SXSW brought so many more connections with people we like and admire but don’t know well. Now family and friends are joining in. I still imagine it’s primarily early adopting geeks, and millenial gen folks whose ethics and intentions I tend to trust. That may be naieve, but there you go.

    3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?
    Check in once in a while using twapper. Look for friends and family first. Then look at my folks, occaisionally look at the whole wall or the twittervision map. I like the feeling of dipping my toe in the stream. Checking in with people thinking human thoughts.

    4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?
    Hmm.. Appropriate, inappropriate. Somehow those words don’t resonnate for me. How about interesting/not interesting? I think of Twitter as a big public billboard broadcasting little inner snippets, verbal snapshots of what people are up to. Or anyway, what priviledged geeks are up to. So if somebody posts that they’re eating peanutbutter in Peoria, that’s not thrilling, but it’s got a nice humanity to it. Caught in the rain? Yeah I feel for you, buddy. I’m not thrilled when people use Twitter to make their fame or pimp their product, but people will do that. I just don’t find it interesting. I’ve erased a tweet when I thought…. so what? If not even my brother would care, then I don’t post it.

    5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?
    I write with the understanding that people I don’t know will see it.

    6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?
    Twitter would work better for me and my friends if they could define discreet networks. Families, social sets, evening party hoppers, folks interested in your mom’s surgery, in the birth of your kid, just the folks in your office, etc. And unlimited text accounts.

  • Indiana University School of Informatics (HCI/D) Students research the integration of public transit options into facebook to create sustainable impact on congestion and the environment. Ride Connect integrated into facebook takes social networking to shift perception of public transit into a social activity.

    This was presented during the student design competition at CHI 2007 Conference. Read more about this on http://www.booherdesign.com
    .

  • isis

    I read a blog posting today addressing your question 6, Alec Saunders is the founder and CEO of iotum http://www.iotum.com , go here to read why Twitter is not working for him http://saunderslog.com/2007/05/02/a-twit-no-more-disconnected-from-the-hive/

  • First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
    [ x] Yes, and you *must* use my real name.

    1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

    Started out of curiosity, now enjoy seeing what friends/acquaintances are doing. Some I care about as people, some are simply entertaining, often they’re informative.

    2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    Mostly similarly-motivated people, I suppose.

    3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

    Most of the ones I’m subscribed to, yes. When Madge gets over-verbose, I skip, much as I love her/him personally.

    4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

    Whatever you want the whole world to know about. Per the example of Steve Rubel, best to think hard about what exactly that is.

    5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

    Yes. Don’t mind. So much of my life is already public. I’ve been out here a long time and usually know where to draw the line.

    6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

    I need a signal that says “I really need moral support right now, someone please respond!” But that would be too needy, wouldn’t it?

  • First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
    [ ] In whatever way you like

    1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

    in fact i too have, ahem, blogged about this. but here is some mash-up:

    …. i would describe it’s fascination as a somehow sentimental feeling of coming home, to a place i never were. Global Village. The Real Second Life. Like finding myself in a Frank Capra film for the new digital age. In fact, Twitter is basically a new kind of collectively writing ourselves into existence … It is ‘falling into relationships that … imperceptibly deepen, like furrows worn into a stone hallway by the traffic of slippers.” It is leaving a stream-shaped “aircraft contrail everywhere we go”. A delicate aesthetical experience, which is a personal experience, and vice versa. (Sometimes it may turn into feeling like being stoned to death by croutons.) It is kind of a Multiplayer Identity Game: About throwing in just the right amount of privacy. It is about keeping the balance, and about keeping the right distance. It is about not writing most of the things that happen in First Live. It is not about exchanging “messages” (though that can happen too). It is “texting” in the exact sense of the word. It is not like SMS, because it creates a cloud of micro-statements that is staying over the heads of the twitterists, influencing further life even without ever re-reading the archive. SMS is secondary “oral”, while Twitter is “literate”. …

    http://phaidon.philo.at/martin/001014.html
    http://phaidon.philo.at/martin/001018.html

    2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    my tweets are public, but i don’t expect many people to read them. the readers i know of are a bunch of sometimes very distant “internet friends” whom i like but do not know well.

    for me it is about creating a small community around me, and maybe being myself a building block for another small community aggregated by different feeds. i am just a voice in the mix of others casual digital environment. like one could choose in the real world which voices one could hear in the background.

    3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

    yes, i read all of them, via twitteroo client. but there are not so many “friends” (8). an old tweet sums my view up:
    “people don’t get that this is not distraction, but poetry: bryan with family, coffee & wood, david in london, thomas in hotels. poems for nomads.”

    i may be an exception, cause i don’t use twitter to communicate with people who are living close to me. my twitter buddies are people i know only in a very vague sense and mostly through the web. i feel them to be distant soul mates. i even emotionally made (very distant) friends with someone who just added me as a FOAF who wanted to experiment with twitter and it seems he was pointed to me as a possible soulmate (with was true, for me).

    4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

    yes, i find myself rather carefully thinking about what i am twittering. it’s not so often a spontaneous impulse, more of an exercitium. like, one tweet per day keeps troubles away. if i manage to put my existence into a casual fragment, it is some kinf of aesthetic satisfaction. but i am not “working” on tweets, just writing them, a la fresco.
    inappropriate (for me) is using this for all kinds of reminders. i generally don’t like too much of them, although sometimes bursts are of course possible. but an average of 4 per day from one person is perfectly acceptable. myself, i’m doing less, but that’s partly because of some depressive mood.

    5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

    yes, they are. but i don’t expect to get attention. it is more of a fundamental attitude towards the web. a sort of objectivation of myself, the gesture of publishing something. “this is me now”. i like it when i notice people are reading it, though. it gives a feeling of being in contact with the world.
    if someone whom i don’t know gets something out of it, it’s fine for me. i don’t think about those kind of readers, though.

    6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

    i think it’s part of the inner urge to make the Web a place to live. like media in general, people want to have it “feeling like life”. twitter is just a facet in that. the real second life, so to speak — i really believe, twitter is far more interesting than “Second Life”. just made of text fragments.

  • First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
    [X] Yes, and you *must* use my real name.

    1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

    I don’t use it currently

    2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    No one is. I just read others.

    3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

    RSS is how I read them. I read those of a few personal friends and select people they tweet with. I read a filtered version by getting certain feeds, combining them and filtering using a yahoo pipe I created. I watch the filtered feed first and refer to complete feed if context or further investigation is wanted.

    4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate?

    Anything respectfull goes I rekon.

    Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

    I’ve wondered about actually starting. I might one day. See here for a post of why I decided against it.

    5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

    N/A

    6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

    I have some friends I know outside twitter and I cannot read their feeds as I’m not a friend according to twitter (twitter ‘member’). I think control of who you let read your feed should be up to you on an individual level not on account of whether your friend is a twitterer!

    Peace.

    Dave

  • Here are my answers. I’m looking forward to the outcome of this research!

    http://www.blackgayblogger.com/2007/05/05/twitter_me_this/

  • Danah- you rock! Yes, and you *must* use my real name.

    1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

    I love the idea of realtime syndicated consciousness.

    2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

    Friends/colleagues read my tweets. Every once in a while a random twit subscribes to my tweets. Would love to one day command an audience like Stephen Colbert. Like all social media, the content needs to be great to be popular…

    3. How do you read others’ Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

    I only read the twitterstreams of friends I have subscribed to. Somehow they never cease to entertain & inform me.

    4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

    A good tweet tells me something new. Bad tweets lack context and relevance. I see a lot of shitty ones like: “Running to a meeting.”

    5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don’t know coming across them? What about people you do know?

    My tweets are public. I keep them a.) relevant to the business I’m in, and b.) representative of my personality.

    6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?

    It’s addictive, like crack. Has a similar appeal to text messaging. Conversation, thoughts… without actual conversation. 🙂

  • Hi danah,
    Not sure if my ping will come through, so my answers are here:
    http://www.tamaleaver.net/2007/05/06/six-twitter-questions/

  • Yes you can quote me and my real name.

    1. I use Twitter as I love the idea of being in touch with friends from all over the world in realtime

    2. My real world friends and blogging friends read them and i have downloaded Twitter as a widget to my blog
    http://www.ameliatorode.typepad.com
    Sometimes I find it odd when people add me as friends and I have never heard of them before and some of them can sound a bit strange, but although at some point I may turn off public access to my Twitterings I am not that bothered at the moment

    3. I do not read the Public Timeline, but I love going online and finding out what friends are doing at the particular moment in time.

    4. I tend not to post anything too serious or personal as I do have friends from work who rtead it and not sure how much I want to share

    5. My Twitterings (or Tweets) are public but at some point I may be freaked out if an oddball subscribes to me

    6. I am desperate to get more of my friends onto Twitter. I am now in my early 30s and don’t see/talk to my old friends as much as I would like and this would be a perfect way for us to keep in touch really easily.

    …….
    Would love to know when you write up your findings

    Amelia

  • Here’s mine – been twittering since October, 2006
    http://beth.typepad.com/beths_blog/2007/05/answering_danah.html

    At first, I thought what a useless waste of time .. but now I find it valuable.

  • Here ya go – I’m still undecided as to whether it’s valuable for me or not.
    http://uberthings.com/2007/05/08/in-response-to-danahs-twitter-questionnaire/

    I have been using Facebook a lot more recently, and I *love* the fact that all my non-geek friends are on there, updating regularly…

  • I had recently written off Twitter as dead, but boy was I wrong. Check out the recent O’Reilly report
    http://educationpr.org/2008/11/10/twitter-and-the-micro-messaging-revolution/
    if you haven’t already.