I'm still not sure what to use it for, to be honest.
This rule can be tipped upside down: it's best to follow people whose tweets mostly fulfill both these criteria. This rules out a very large number of people. It's amazing how many people fill their tweetstream with the news of the day from TechCrunch (or HN). It may be interesting, but it's already widely shared.
Personally, I find twitter most useful as a highly tailored source of links. That makes it sound similar to news sites such as HN, but the experience is different because you choose which people to follow. For instance, I get a lot out of following @NicholasGruen, who ran the Australian Government's Gov2.0 taskforce, @rjlipton, a leading theoretical computer scientist whose blog was the main clearinghouse in the scrutiny of the recent claimed proof the P is not equal to NP, @gnat of O'Reilly Media for an eclectic collection of tech-related links that for the most part fall outside the purview of the standard sources (TechCrunch etc), etc. Of course, those particular sources are just ones I find interesting, and they may not interest you. The point is that if you choose people whose tweet streams match your informational needs, Twitter can be very valuable.
Added to the above effect is the pervasive misplaced hero worship and tech fanboyism that is formed based purely on peer pressure and not on merit.
IMHO , IANAL , posted in good faith , blah blah blah :)
I agree with you about the echo chamber. But it's virtually impossible to live inside an echo chamber when you follow people who share mostly information that is not widely held. By definition, that means those people aren't merely echoing the crowd, and this will take you away from people with me-too tweets about iPhone antenna issues (or whatever the news of the hour is).
The same goes for me though. I get my political info from a handful of blogs that all share the same bias. I have to remind myself to check out the opposition from time to time to get some well-needed perspective. I guess you could say the same for cable news except that somebody is preselecting the bias for you.
Maybe I'm weird but I have never felt the urge to "follow" someone on Identi.ca or Twitter or whatever's the flavo(u)r of the day ... :)
It's also a surprisingly effective place to solicit feedback, advice, or information (or get those unsolicited). For example, I don't know if you check your replies, but several Twitter engineers responded to your offhand comment about tweets being immutable.
1) the status of any essays (or RFSes) you're working on
2) startup-related insights and musings you have throughout the day (like the one about editable tweets)
3) links to HN stories or comments you find particularly interesting
4) your sleeping, social, and dietary habits
1. Random unimportant things you're doing or thinking during the day. Only your parents care, don't do this. If you must, get a separate Twitter account for it. Don't sabotage your primary public account's signal:noise ratio.
2. Carrying on twit conversations with people you follow/your followers. For the sake of your tens of thousands of other followers, please eschew the small talk and try to make it interesting to eavesdrop on.
3. Retweets of relatively high-value content from people you follow. Could be a link to a great essay/article/paper/breaking news, or an announcement, that you're helping circulate. This is all good.
4. High value original content of your own. Links to new essays or YC announcements, or condensed wisdom, etc. Also all good.
Anyone see any categories I missed?
"Startups in 140 Characters"
It's a weird problem. Person B's reply can change the apparent meaning of what person A writes. And the weirder thing is, this happens dynamically. If I take the trouble to reply quickly to the bogus counterargument, the pattern of the voting is usually the opposite, and the apparent meaning of what I said reverts to what I meant. But that is a huge time suck.
I've often wondered if there is some way to fix the design of comment threads to mitigate this, but I haven't found any answers yet, except not displaying points.
About editing: I think you can get away with deleting the tweet and reposting it. Not sure you can remove it entirely, as people can retweet you or favorite your tweet if you are not fast enough.
Twitter forces you to focus on the frame itself. And likely, just a part of it. Great for putting forth a central idea that can be pursued in greater detail elsewhere.
Your tweet on startups... "Startups in 137 chars: Make something someone specific needs, launch fast, let users show you what to change, change it, repeat last two."
...is a great example. There are multiple articles that could be written in relation to that observation. They help clarify and deepen the argument. But you managed to distill the essential elements of the idea into 137 characters.
I'd say think of the things you're seeing, the discussion you're following out there. Share your perspective, drawn from your own interests and activities, and the (possibly wrongheaded) points being made by others.
> But you also don't have to deal with replies or worry about getting downvoted if you say something unPC.
Or getting banned ;)
More like these please.
I was in the same boat for a while, I'm just starting to get into the swing of it. You need to have some people you're mutually following that you respect and then it's a way to quickly send links and short ideas back and forth. It's a chicken and the egg problem for most people, but you should be able to get a pretty good crew mutually following you easily.
downvoted you will get - saying something unPC on twitter is like singing the Blues in a Country & Western bar without the mesh to protect you. Twitter really is the trolls natural habitat.
(down-vote me all you want, this title was hero-worship lame)
it's just so funny how they use the same verb for it. God bless Pythons for Life of Brian!
"I'M NOT THE MESSIAH!!!"
"Well I say you are and I should know, I've followed a few."
Pretty sure he meant @avibryant, not @avi.
i thought "if i was twitter, i'd find him one". guess that really happened :)
I also have an account that has never been active that fits my domain - and site - name. It's not the end of the world, but the floodgates have already been opened.
An auto-purge feature would also work.
i opened a support ticket with twitter and asked them about reclaiming the username. their auto-responder said they will only take an active account if it's due to a trademark claim, but if the account is inactive (meaning no logins or other activity on the backend in a long time), they will free up the username. they won't directly assign the inactive username to you, they just make it available for registration.
the auto-reply said they will investigate how inactive an account is if you ask them to, so i asked them to for this account. two days later they replied and said it had been made available, so i quickly went into my settings and changed my username to it. all of the followers and everything migrates to the new username, but any old links or tweets referencing the old username don't forward. hopefully my old username is not released back into the pool for at least a while.
I have no idea how Twitter deals with their spam reporting, but ostensibly Twitter would deactivate the account and once again make it open to registration.
I've had some experience with this, and I don't think so. I wrote customer support not long ago to request a name be released (clear spam account) and was told, "Nope, we don't do that any longer." The account is gone now. But if you try to sign up with that name, it's reported as "taken" anyhow.
Short version: they seem not to release names, even after the accounts go away. Maybe there's a waiting period. I'm still hoping.
The interesting part is not who follows you, but who you follow.
Edit: It should definitely autocomplete based on who you're following, but pg wasn't yet following anyone when he sent his first tweet.
A lot of HN'ers are out of 'stealth' mode on twitter after this.
(That's not creepy, is it?)
After a week it's neat but no longer as interesting because you can't really see how fast the news spreads within seconds of making an announcement like this. I really am a dunce for not timestamping.
That would have been an interesting experiment to do.
i.e. I offered the "thepaulgraham" account, since deleted.
Start a company /
listen to your user base /
Call me a wee bit skeptical.