Monday, August 10, 2009

Separating the Twits from the Chaff

How many friends have I really got?
You can count them on one hand.
How many friends have I really got?
How many friends have I really got?
That love me, that want me, that'll take me as I am.

- "How Many Friends," The Who

One of the good things about Internet communication, as opposed to older forms, is the exactitude of the quantification.

How many people listen to me on the radio? Arbitron gives me a vague idea, but no one knows for sure. How many people follow me on Twitter? I have a number. FaceBook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.? All provide exact numbers on followers.

But as the Who sang, how many friends have I really got? (Online, that is)

Some measure Twitter success by how many people follows them. And I admit, I get a little ego boost when I get another add notification. But numbers alone can't be the measure of success. I'm interested in talking with and learning from folks that, well, share at least some of my interests.

I'm not sure "Britany137" is such a person (if it's really a person at all). Like barnacles, my Twitter feed periodically accumulates this type of follower, ostensively a lonely young lady with a few desultory and vaguely racy tweets. And links to her pictures, of course.

Then they're the get-rich-quick businesses, that have ways to build your Twitter follower count, or make money at home, or -- you get the idea.

The real head-scratchers are the tangentially political Twitterers. Now I follow my elected representatives that tweet, but I don't think I've done a lot of political posting. Nevertheless, I've managed to accumulate some real wingnuts from the far right and the far left.

All of which makes me wonder. Are any of these people actually reading any of my posts before deciding to follow me?

And the answer, of course, is no.

Some, like the faux-young ladies, are simply spambots. Others are concerned about building up large amounts of followers, and basically, the more people you follow, the more follow you back (at least for a while).

I decided that it was time to clean house and block some of these undesirables. I lost about 10% of my followers, but that's OK. I'm not sure US_Bankrupt wanted to discuss the finer points of Franz Schmidt's orchestral works, anyway.

And after all, you're known by the company you keep.

- Ralph

Day 121 of the WJMA Podwatch.

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