Friday, August 02, 2013

Why are so many culling their follow counts?

I thought it time to trim out the deadwood among those I follow on twitter today:: Those who have stopped tweeting, or who have shifted channel, or turned out not to be the interesting folk I thought they may be initially, etc.

image via
In the process I spotted a disturbing trend. Using one of the many twitter management tools I found several people who I follow and quite regularly engage with, who don't follow me.
I'm not talking about the 'too much attention to cope with' folk, the @stephenfrys  or @bbcbreakingnews of this world (for example), I'm talking more the moderately interesting or those who may have done a lot of conference speaking, or (heaven forfend, and trust me, I'm aware of the risk in every word of this, those who have puiblished a book). It's not that they aren't simply following me back (quelle domage), it's that they appear to be following almost nobody.
I mean if you are following sub 500 and your follower level is closer to 50,000, well something seems to have gone wrong there.
For a start, that doesn't happen organically. You take the decision to cull.
Some may do it for ego and aesthetic reasons - look at the ratio on that!
Most would wrap this in the reason of 'signal versus noise'.
Which is just so much bs unless you happen to be using twitter 24/7 and have text alerts pinging on your phone each time you get an @message. I need back up in case I miss the thing that's important to me being tweeted or retweeted. 3000 folk gives me that cover. Always has so far.
It also gives me diversity. If I don't open up to outliers, how will I see the extreme moments that often have the most impact on our world (the Black Swans for those of an Anti-fragile bent).
I've always tried to follow back pretty much everyone who follows me. But even  in this I have started to hit a limit. Mine is around 3000. If I start following more than that I go seeking to clear out some deadwood - the folk who are not, or hardly ever, contributing to my time line.
And this is where I find it odd that folk with big follower numbers to feed (for surely their's is a broadcaster-audience relationship) feel that they can learn enough about their world from following less than 500 folk to provide a credible curation.
I salute their ability to select. I salute their trust in those they choose. I salute the trust their audiences confer on them.
But I can't help thinking they are helping to accelerate Twitter towards being the place where broadcast and self-promotion dominates rather than a place where adhoc communities of purpose form to get things done (which remains its promise).
Culling those you follow is - in extremis - like limiting your view to that from a prison cell. Why volunteer for that?
I would be delighted to hear from people who have taken this radical approach (culling those they follow) to reduce their exposure to noise or for whatever reason they have, and how it'
s working for them.
But until I hear a very good case I'm going to stick with the theory that one extra node on your network doubles its value: and that this 2n proposition can only happen if the connection between nodes is two-way.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?