Twitter is a great place for new and interesting information -- if you can find it! So much of what is good on Twitter is drowned out by the noise on Twitter. At the end of 2015, I was dissatisfied with my Twitter experience, there was too much water to wade through in the Twitter-stream. I thought about following less people, but realized I should be following the right people, or as close as I could get to that.
Others have also been trying to find how to get the Signal out of Twitter without drowning in the Noise. My friend, Luis Suarez (@elsua) took a radical step with his Twitter activity by unfollowing everyone and then re-following select groups of people via Twitter Lists. In a recent conversation, he said his approach is working out well, but he has noticed that he needs to edit his lists after several months. In a different approach, 5 years ago, I looked at algorithms that would help me to figure out who to pay attention to on Twitter. The LFR algo was great for a quick calculation, but it excluded too many fine folks -- in reducing noise well, it also often got rid of the signal too.
When we have good information, decisions are easy to make. When we have very little, or no information, we look to others and see what they are doing while in situations similar to ours. It is easy to select who to follow from people we know and have experience with. It is also easy to add a person to the Following list when a friend/colleague we trust, excitedly proclaims a person's expertise in a field/topic we are interested in. But what do we do when we run across someone on Twitter who is in our field, and has tweeted something that caught our eye, but we know nothing about him/her? Sure we can read their short Twitter bio, or look at the number of their followers, or even read some recent tweets, but do these reveal an accurate picture of the person? No, not in my experience. I have followed many, after a brief review of the above info, just to find their tweet stream full of noise. I then unfollow them and wish I had picked better.
So, I am going to follow Luis' lead and unfollow everyone in my personal Twitter account (@valdiskrebs). Most of the people I currently follow I will follow back via one of three Twitter Lists I have created.
- The first list is purely algorithm-driven. This new algorithm is an improvement over the LFR algo I have used in the past. It attempts to find those Tweeps who have more Signal then Noise in their Twitter activity.
- The second is all human choice. These are people I know, have been following for years, and have interacted with either online, or offline, or both.
- The third is a little of both -- algorithm and human choice.
Although I use AI -- artificial intelligence in my network analysis work, I am a big believer in IA -- intelligent assistance. Algorithms do not give me the final, or only answer, they help him make the best decision. Algorithms help organize my data and information and reveal patterns I may not have been considering. In the end, based on everything before me, I decide. That is why I plan to keep adapting these lists, and also adapting the new algorithm.
For those that have followed me for a long time, please do not take this mass unfollow as a personal rejection -- it is not. If we know each other, I am following you back on the second list mentioned above. Those that will unfollow me, because, and only because, I have unfollowed them, well... see ya! While I am still refining this approach, I will keep the three lists -- X, Y and Z -- private. In order to have conversations (direct messages) with those who follow me, I will open up the Twitter access for Direct Messages to everyone. I hope this will not result in a lot of spam from Twitterbots and other mass marketers.
If the algorithm works out well I will offer it to my clients, if not, I will be smarter about many things. Some time in the future I will update everyone on my progress. New year, new thinking.
Happy 2016 to everyone!
Update Feb 6, 2016: There is news that Twitter will change how they display everyone's timeline (the people you are Following). If you do not want to view Twitter's new algorithmic timeline (we do not know how they will filter/adjust it at this point), just create a Twitter List of your current following group and you will still control who you see. In your Twitter client, chose to display the List instead of your standard timeline.
Update August 12, 2016: After experimenting with my personal account I learned quite a bit. So, I have decided to start following a small group on my personal account that old-fashioned way and switch my business account to Following totally/only by lists. It makes much more sense to have focused following lists in business than in your personal life (IMHO)! So, I have created 4 focused Twitter lists to follow about 600-800 people via my business account. These lists are both algorithmically and humanly curated. I adjusted my algorithms as I went through the learning process with my personal account -- they are greatly improved from where I started! I think this new approach will work well, but you never know what you will learn! Will report back at the end of the year.