How I use Twitter

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

by Silumesii Maboshe

The phrase, “drinking from a fire-hose” makes sense, to describe using Twitter. I’ll be the first to admit that I did not get it, early on. But, there was always something new to come back to, so I kept coming back. Now, it’s probably the most useful online tool I have to discover and keep up to date with things I am interested in.

I use the Twitter website

Rather than use a Twitter client, I use a browser to sign in to my accounts. The website just works for me, what can I say?

I have two accounts

@pencilcasestudi is my Studio account. I try to keep things focused and “professional”. It’s the account I use to do things related to technology and business.

@silumesii is my personal account. (Almost) anything goes there but I try to keep things reasonably sane.

Each account follows only the other account

The number of people I follow or that follow me is not as important as the information they have to share. On each of my accounts, the only follower I have is the other account (Yes, you can call me vain). I’m not a member of #TeamFollowBack and don’t apologise for it.

I used to follow lots of accounts. What ended up happening was that after about 20, it became uncomfortable to follow what each person had to say. The “fire-hose” effect kicked in!

I use “Lists” to follow everyone else

When the “fire-hose” effect kicked in, I knew I had to find another way to use Twitter. I discovered lists! Now, I can keep up with accounts (loosely-grouped) by topic. It’s not perfect but neither does it have to be. The occasional off-topic tweet will often lead to a delightful new discovery. That, I think, is the point of Twitter!

What is convenient about using lists is that you can follow them too. So, if someone has curated accounts around an intriguing topic, rather then individually following everyone in that list, all I need to do is follow that list.

Here are some highlights from my lists on @pencilcasestudi:

  • BongoHive—It started out as the people from BongoHive, Zambia’s tech hub, but it’s expanding to people in the Zambian developer community
  • Sound and Silence—Zambian musicians, producers, DJs and poets
  • Zambezi—A vain attempt to follow every Zambian account on Twitter.

I think Twitter Search does not get the recognition it deserves. It is like putting a filter on the entire world! In my book that is a monumental undertaking!

Using search, it has been clear to see how many more people are talking about Zambia. Just within the past six months, the conversation around our beloved country has grown dramatically.

Good people, good times

Twitter is still heavily Western. That becomes blatant with promoted tweets and trending topics. I wish there was a way to switch those off or make them more relevant. For now, they are simply weeds in a flower-bed that I can’t do anything about.

It took a while for me to get tangible use out of Twitter. The engineers have earned my respect as developers, designers and people. Most of all, it works because you are on Twitter. Thanks!