There’s a Thousand in Every Crowd

Despite the fact that it often feels like a mashup of Deepak Chopra and P.T. Barnum, I continue to enjoy Twitter.

But Twitter has a growing content problem, that if not checked will ultimately reduce Twitter to an online version of your email junk mail folder.

For starters, the volume of MLM, get rich quick and grow your follower count posts (3 versions of the same thing) is light years beyond absurd.  Add to that an endless supply of self-help posts, many of which are either nonsensical to the point of self-parody or disguised spam.  And then there’s this one dude who obsessively posts the same links day after day, which doesn’t particularly annoy me except that I can’t figure out why he does it.  If he doesn’t have an angle, he’s the most dedicated linker in the history of html.

One conclusion I have reached after spending a good amount of time on Twitter is that there are thousands of people trying to sell the same thing to each other.  MLM opportunities, get rich quick schemes, self-confidence, karma, etc.  There are vendors everywhere and, as far as I can tell, not a customer in sight.

I also wonder how potential Twitter advertisers feel about this demographic.  If everyone is selling, who is left to buy?

But among all the noise, there are many benefits.  I have seen links to interesting articles, beautiful photographs and great songs.  Most by people who, if you can believe it, aren’t trying to make money off of me or sell me some get (them) rich quick scheme.  I have also made contact with developers who have answered questions and provided assistance with respect to their applications.  In return, I try to add value and fun by posting links to interesting articles, and by posting music.  I have been doing an alphabetical survey of new wave music, via the Blip.fm/Twitter integration.  It takes time to find the music, and to add short commentary to each.  But it’s fun and I’m building a good playlist over at Blip.fm.

But maybe I am misusing Twitter by doing all that.  Maybe I should forget about content and focus on MLM and how to increase my follower count and whatnot.  Because in the midst of all of the Twitter chaos, it seems that posting music makes me a spammer.

I’ve received many positive responses to my music posts, and a grand total of two complaints.  This dude and another guy from Houston, thereby proving what I already sort of knew- that I live in a town of music haters.  Not really, but it’s interesting that anyone who has spent 5 minutes in the great Twitter flea market can get all pissy over a series of song posts, manually done, with commentary (to be fair, he later said that maybe spam wasn’t the best word to use).  He un-followed me, which is exactly what he should have done if he didn’t want to see my music posts, and this little issue was resolved.  But I think this exchange is indicative of the bigger content problem Twitter is facing.

In sum, there is a huge spam problem on Twitter, but in the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd (another annoying music reference), I ain’t the one.  Yet it seems I’m not the only one being labeled as a spammer, just because I’m not trying to game Twitter or sell people a bill of goods.

Another tech blogger who isn’t trying to make money on Twitter is Louis Gray.  It seems that the Twanalyst application, one of the many barnacles that cling to Twitter’s traffic-rich API, believes that Louis is spamming Twitter, in part because he doesn’t retweet (e.g., repost) a bunch of other people’s posts.  That is even more absurd that these muddy sticks squawking about my music.

Louis presents a logical and iron-clad defense of his Twitter philosophy:

In my opinion, begging for retweets, and retweeting is simply lazy, just like live tweeting a conference panel is lazy blogging. It’s the equivalent of forwarding e-mail, or copying and pasting someone else’s blog post to your site and adding a short link. If Twitter is truly conversational, as many argue, then repeating what someone else has said doesn’t do much to add to the conversation.

Amen, brother, although I don’t think Twitter is as conversational as we would like, or as many would have us believe.

Interestingly, Twanalyst doesn’t think I’m a spammer.  It says I am a “renowned obsessive cautious” personality with a “chatty academic” style, whatever that means.

All of this nonsense demonstrates that the rules and expectations on and about Twitter have been turned upside down.  If you blast links and mindlessly retweet posts by others, you’re viewed as adding value.  If you obsessively post about MLM, getting more followers and making money, no problem.  But if you post actual content or- God forbid- music, you are a spammer.  Or at least an annoyance.

At the beginning and end of the day, I don’t care if someone thinks I am spamming- just stop following me.  And I’m not going to unsubscribe from Louis’s blog because some application thinks he needs to change his Twitter approach.  But I think Twitter needs to develop a plan for encouraging good content.  So far it looks, at least from the outside, like Twitter is solely interested in traffic, at the expense of just about everything else.

At some point the coolness factor will fade, and Twitter will have to rely on good content.

Like music.