How I decide who NOT to follow on Twitter

Despite various annoyances, I finally started using Twitter again. Reliability is much better now, and there's been a wave of BI people chatting away I actually want to get to know better. Besides, new people follow me every day, only some of them bogus, so there are evidently folks who want to hear what I have to say.

But there was a problem. I had followed somewhat over 2000 people, which caused two problems:

  • I had an overcrowded timeline.
  • I couldn't follow anybody new.

And hence I've been dropping followees by the dozens and even hundreds. Even now that I don't "have" to drop anybody else, I'm still unfollowing left and right. Similarly, I'm pretty cautious about following somebody new, even those who follow me first.

Here are some ways I decide who to follow or keep following.

1. I look through their past 40-50 tweets (i.e., two web pages full). If nothing looks interesting or useful TO ME, I'm not likely to follow.

Note: Insightful commentary about how to get better use from your Macintosh is not of concern to me, even though it is to many other people. I happen to be a PC user, for better or worse.

Note: This even applies if the person tweets a lot about subjects I find worthy, but just am not engaged with, like classroom education. At another point in my life I may follow all those teachers right back, but at the moment I've realized there was no point in following them; I'm just not engaged with their lingo, technology, or day-to-day concerns.

2. If a ton of those tweets were obviously tied to an event, trip, or whatever, I may look back another page or two. The core of people's Twittering changes from time to time. (Mine sure does. Sometimes I post about DBMS. Sometimes I just microblog the cat. The latter, by the way, tends to get more replies. But that makes perfect sense. My cat is a whole lot cuter than the average data warehouse appliance.)

3. Anybody who says much along the lines of "Please follow me!", "Thanks for following me!", or anything else that indicates follower scorekeeping is apt not to be followed by me.

4. I'm apt to click through to the link in their profile. If it's an interesting blog, I'm apt to keep following, even if I don't plan to read said blog. If it's not interesting, that's a good reason to drop.

5. If somebody's tweets consist mainly of promoting URLs from their own blogs or sites, I'm not likely to follow.

6. That goes triple if they are posting in any kind of automated way.

7. Ditto if their tweetstream consists of some other kind of relentless selling and promotion.

8. If somebody has a huge volume of tweets, I'm apt not to follow them.

9. If somebody has very few tweets, I'm apt not to follow them.

10. If I know somebody personally, I'm apt to follow them. Why not?

11. If somebody has a whole lot of followers, I'm apt to give them a little benefit of the doubt. 10,000 early adopters can't be wrong ... uh, I'd better reconsider that one.

12. If somebody's ever replied helpfully to one of my tweets, I'm very inclined to keep following them. The same goes if their reply was pretty useless, but they meant well ...

13. Being rude, or just vaguely boorish, doesn't necessarily get you unfollowed.

14. That goes triple if your first name is "Dennis" and your last name is "Howlett".

15. If every third tweet is vulgar, you're probably an unimaginative clod with a bad vocabulary, if not an adolescent who's way too impressed with your ability to type "fuck" in public. Buh-bye.

16. If every thirtieth tweet is vulgar, you may be a refreshingly uninhibited free spirit.

17. If you tweet as if you believe the official purpose of Twitter is the real one -- i.e., that people care what you're doing all day -- you're apt to get unfollowed in a hurry.

I could go on at much greater length, but I've already been as self-indulgent as all those people I unfollow. ;) My real message is this:

The people who follow your tweets are likely to be those who are interested in or care about what you are tweeting. Tweet to be appealing to those you wish to have follow you, and don't worry when you're ignored by the rest.

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