May 19, 2013

As noted in my previous post, you seem to be microblogging quite a bit these days.  I am strongly considering jumping on the bandwagon, but I’m not quite sure what to tweet.  Any suggestions?  Do you find the 140 character limit to improve your tweeting?  As part of my guiding philosophy I might use “May you enjoy the special pleasures of craft—the private satisfaction of doing a task as well as it can be done. @jeffreylehman #dirt” which has 135 characters, but this would violate “Minimize the use of aphoristic quotations. @jeffreylehman #OptimisticHeart”, which comes in at 74 characters.

I suppose one should consider the structure of what Twitter is.

As noted in Dhiraj Murthy‘s book, Twitter, [p. 6]:

This structure of channels and consumers of channels of information draws from notions of broadcasting.  Specifically, Twitter has been designed to facilitate interactive multicasting (i.e., the broadcasting of many to many)… Twitter encourages a many-to-many model through both hashtags and retweets.  A “retweet” (commonly abbreviated as “RT”) allows people to “forward” tweets to their followers and is a key way in which Twitter attempts to facilitate the (re)distribution of tweets outside of one’s immediate, more “bounded” network to broader, more unknown audiences.  It is also one of the central mechanisms by which tweets become noticed by others on Twitter.  Specifically, if a tweet is retweeted often enough or by the right person(s), it gathers momentum that can emulate a snowball effect.

Since he describes it that way, I wonder if there is an information theory problem in there.  Anyway, @dhirajmurthy goes on to say [p. 150]:

Of course, if those promoted tweets are significantly retweeted, that will have more direct effects on Twitter’s modes of originating popular discourse.  The terminology used by marketing professionals is between “organic” and “promoted” trending topics.  The label of “organic” implies more of a grassroots development of a topic, whereas the “promoted” version aims to skip the grassroots building of a topic.  As you can imagine, skipping the construction of a support base can have consequences on the popularity of a topic.  Promoted topics have changed Twitter in that they have brought monetization into tweet audience reception.  However, as the statistics from Twitter show, “organic” topics are the most popular.

So I suppose if one wants to be popular on Twitter, one should take advantage of the interactive multicasting nature of the medium and try to be as organic as possible.  Since you’ve been at it for some time, do you agree?

To be organic, it seems prudent to follow a good number of people on Twitter.  But something like Dunbar’s number must surely come into play.  There is a fairly new paper by Dunbar and several others out that discusses the ability to stay in touch.  The title is “Time as a limited resource: Communication strategy in mobile phone networks,” and the authors are Giovanna Miritello, Esteban Moro, Rubén Lara, Rocío Martínez-López, John Belchamber, Sam G.B. Roberts, and Robin I. M. Dunbar.  The main result is that there are time constraints which limit tie strength (as measured by time spent communicating) in large personal networks, and that even high levels of mobile communication do not alter the disparity of time allocation across networks.  This is argued from the fact compared to those with smaller networks, those with large networks do not devote proportionally more time to communication and have on average weaker ties.  Of course time is an inelastic resource, and people only have a limited amount of time in each day to devote to social interaction.

A related paper is titled “Limited communication capacity unveils strategies for human interaction” and is written by several of the same authors.  In particular Giovanna Miritello, Rubén Lara, Manuel Cebrian, and Esteban Moro.  Again the underlying theoretical framing is around the fact that time, attention, and cognitive resources are inelastic.  Each person is characterized by a communication capacity and by a communication activity level which are different from each other.  The authors then get into how social activity is influenced by these limitations, again studying data from Telefonica in Spain.

The flip side to this is of course having the time, attention, and cognitive resources to tweet.  I saw a recent blog post that describes this as the writer’s shuffle: there are only so many words one can write in a day.  

Given my limited cognitive resources, let’s see if I end up tweeting much or not at all.


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