Twitter and the Strikeout Rule

How I decide when it’s time to stop following a Twitter friend.

Twitter logoI don’t follow many people on Twitter — less than 100, in fact. I think part of the reason for this is that when I follow someone, I follow him/her. I sit at my desk with Twitterrific running on the right side and, thoughout the day, I peek at it to see what’s going on with the people I follow. I respond a lot, which I know is falling out of favor these days. But that’s because the people I follow are my office co-workers, so to speak. They keep me company while I work and, like any workplace environment, social conversation is part of the picture.

Enter, the Abusers

Anyway, because I read all the tweets of the people I follow — well, at least all of those that appear in Twitterrific while I’m at my desk or on the Web when I happen to take a peek with my Treo — I see patterns in the way they tweet. I wrote about this at some length last June. (Is it that long ago already?) And I soon discover which ones have joined Twitter for purely self-promotional reasons.

You know these people. Almost every tweet they make is a link to something they’ve written. While I’m guilty of using Twitterfeed to automatically tweet about new blog entries as I post them, these folks often go far beyond that by repeatedly tweeting the same damn links, sometimes over several days. This wouldn’t be so bad if what they were linking to was something worth reading, but often, it’s just more self-promotional crap.

These people don’t last long as my Twitter friends.

Three Strikes and You’re Out

To make it easier to identify the Twitter friends who are most guilty of using Twitter primarily (or, worse yet, exclusively) for self-promotion, I’ve developed the Twitter Strikeout Rule. It’s very simple and can easily be applied by anyone who knows the rules of American baseball.

Here’s how it works:

  • Each time a person tweets, he’s “at bat.”
  • If the tweet is entirely self-promotional in nature, that tweet is a strike.
  • If the person has three strikes in a row, he’s out. (That means I simply stop following him.)

The way I see it, my life is already bombarded with advertisements. One of the few places I can get some relief is in my own office, at my desk. Do I really need to see an endless stream of self-promotional bullshit from the people I let into my workplace? Of course not. So I merely push them out.

Once of the nice things about Twitter is that it doesn’t tell people when someone has stopped following them. That’s nice because it means I don’t have to insult anyone. They don’t even notice I’m gone. Most of these folks have far more followers than they deserve anyway.

A Home Run

Taking the baseball analogy a bit further — heck, why not? — a Twitter Home Run is a tweet that’s really good. Usually it’s a link to a video or blog post or plain old Web page that is funny or makes you think or teaches you something really useful.

Sometimes — but rarely — its just a plain linkless tweet that does the same thing.

Merlin Mann (@hotdogsladies), for example, has the uncanny ability to pop these things off more often than anyone else I follow. Here’s one from a while back that I favorited:

Starting a blog solely to make money is like learning ventriloquism to meet girls.

John Gruber (@gruber) writes the funniest rants. Sherrie Holmes (@sherrieholmes) can be hysterically funny. Tom Negrino (@negrino) comes across as a very funny, grumpy, old guy. (Sorry, Tom. I know you’re not old. But you must admit you write grumpy tweets.)

Think about the achievement of using 140 characters or less to communicate something memorable, something to make a reader laugh or think. That’s pretty special. It’s something that all serious Twitter members should aspire to.

But then again, that’s just my opinion. What do you think? Which of your Twitter friends hit home runs? Use the Comments link or form to tell us.

More on Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter for about a year now. (The first blog post where I refer to it dates back to March 21, 2007.) I’ve tweeted 3,806 times since then. Most tweets come from Twitterrific, but I also tweet right from the Twitter Web page at my desk or via text message from my Treo when I’m out and about. Amazingly, I still enjoy it. I’ve made a bunch of real friends and have strengthened my relationships with people I knew before Twitter.

If you’re interested in reading more about what I have to say about Twitter, you might find these articles interesting:

2 thoughts on “Twitter and the Strikeout Rule

  1. Personally, I find Andy Clarke (@malarkey) to be particularly entertaining with his tweets, though if you’re not a big web geek the bulk of his content may not be quite as interesting.

    I like your approach to ruling people out for being shameless self-promoters. It’s one thing if that’s the reason that you may be following them (@twitteriffic, @MacObserver, etc), but otherwise it’s almost like having friends wander around shouting our random advertisements.

  2. I used to think, why bother knowing what’s going on with other folk? Now that I’ve been using it for awhile, I can see how it develops the community and knowledge-sharing. I’m still in major learning mode however.



What do you think?