Phillie Casablanca recently observed via Twitter that “following @gapingvoid and @scobleizer is like listening to one end of a telephone conversation. When they’re on a conference call.”
I found this comment fascinating. As far as I can make out, the primary reason Phil would get this sensation is because he’s unable to see the tweets that Hugh and Robert are responding to, and as a consequence he’s unable to place the context in which these two are tweeting.
Why is this the case? This will always be the case where two people have asymmetric connections in any social network that works like Twitter works. In fact, where you have gregarious and extreme social animals like Hugh and Robert, if anything the effect is accentuated. If Hugh has twenty times as many people he’s talking to, when compared to Phil, and their overlap is 5%, then you see what happens. 95% of the conversations that Hugh is in are only partially visible to Phil, and Twitter is colourless without context.
Yessirree, Twitter is colourless without context. It becomes boring, insipid, tasteless. And ultimately very frustrating.
So what does this mean? I wonder. There are a number of possibilities.
One, people de-friend those who exhibit this contextless behaviour. [Please understand, this is not because either Hugh or Robert are choosing to make noise by posting often. This would be a wrong interpretation. It is only because they are in more conversations with more people that such an effect happens. And that per se is not wrong.] Let’s call this “natural deselection”.
Two, people learn to filter this effect manually, develop a scanning habit that learns to skip the contextless tweets.
Three, twitter itself gets a granular control facility that allows people to balance out the gregarious. Not sure how it will work, but there could be a possibility that a person is restricted to seeing the tweets between a friend-pair provided both sides of the conversation are friends. But then this would only work in the open @person conversations.
Four, the twitter topology itself shifts towards a trusted network model, where friends of friends are friends as well. This may be unattractive to many early adopters.
I for one don’t care. I think it is right that I am symmetric about my connections, anyone who follows me I will return the favour. So far I haven’t refused anyone once they pass a simple sanity test which consists of a quick scan of their friends,Â tweets and blog page where available. If there is no information available, I wait.
I believe there is a lot of serendipitous value in Twitter, value that I don’t want to throw away with the wrong rules. So I won’t be deselecting people as yet, I want to learn more about this medium and what it can do.
Early days yet.