About My Twitter Hiatus

Despite my heavy usage, I’m on Twitter Hiatus
I’m known for being a very active twitter user, recent applications have tracked my daily usage from being 20-30 tweets on average. I’m not like other twitter users, as I have a very specific method in which I use the tool. However, two weeks ago today, I stopped using twitter, and announced that I’m on temporary Twitter hiatus.

Twitter shows its weaknesses
Why? I’m recalibrating my media plan, and trying to shift and shake things up. First of all, there’s a few things that have caused me to evaluate my media strategy: 1) the lack of context in 140 characters, 2) unthreaded discussions makes it difficult to track conversations in one place, and 3) unsymmetrical networks, meaning if you’re not following someone, what they say creates gaps in the conversation. All of these reasons create challenges on making twitter an effective conversation tool. Perhaps most sadly, I’ve observed the cracks getting deeper during crisis and incidents like motrin moms, sponsored blog posts, and mumbai attacks.

Now at the end of the year, I spent more time in the real world with friends and family, and have had an opportunity to step back and think things through. As a result, I’m finding solace in tools that allow for greater context like this blog, and on Friendfeed.

Time to Refocus
Next, I’m trying to focus more on energizing(word of mouth) and supporting (community) this year, rather than just publishing, in an effort to be more efficient, and to help the community during this troublesome economy. Shel Israel has noticed that despite my inactivity in Twitter (which I still monitor, of course) that the community around me continues to grow. I’m not sure why or how that is happening, but it’s an interesting phenomenon.

You should evaluate how you spend your time
I encourage you during this downtime to evaluate and rethink how you use these social technologies. You should think about the following questions: how has the environment around you changed? how was technology changed? what’s your goal? Are you using the tools in the right way to meet these three questions? You have limited inventory (time) and the world is always changing, are you sure you’re investing your resources in the right way? There’s nearly unlimited tools out there, take the time to think it through.

Stay tuned, I have a new project launching
What to expect from me in the future? With my time saved on not interacting as much in the conversation, I’ve been focusing my efforts on a resource that will help people understand the skills needed during a recession, and how to get jobs –stay tuned people.

Update: How 20 days off did me good.

55 Replies to “About My Twitter Hiatus”

  1. Sure, take my “Twitter Hiatus” Google juice – I had it first. (j/k) 😛 Seriously though, I think it was after hanging out with you at F8 that made me decide going on hiatus from Twitter would be worth giving a try. Somehow we’ve connected on that and I believe my realizations were very similar to yours. When Twitter went down during F8 I started using FriendFeed and realizing what a great way of communication it was, similar to the reasons you mention. Can’t wait to see where this leads for you, and if others catch on.

  2. Exactly Jesse. Those that really want to hear your voice will seek it out anyways. Folks know they can find me on this blog.

    Did you see the criticism about Scoble’s use of pumping Twitter and Friendfeed and not giving attention to his blog?

    He was dinged because folks suggested he wasn’t paying himself, and instead paying those other companies.

    Worth thinking about, even if communities and influence trancends domains and URLs

  3. One aspect that needs to change in the environment is people’s behavior, way of working, way of communicating, sharing ideas and experiences.

    It can be a bit meaningless to use any Social Media, if people who are meaningful for you either your friends, peers, co-workers…, are not there.

  4. I appreciate your thoughts. I gained a lot from being on Twitter in the final quarter of 2008 in terms of freelance work (I juggle things like journalism, translating and copywriting), and got several new clients from tweeting. However, the biggest contracts I took home last year were through going to someone’s birthday party (someone hired me to write a book, then recommended me to translate four other projects) and through my blog (two book deals, plus SEO copy jobs).

    Whilst I like the social aspect of Twitter “it can be pretty lonely working at a desk in front of a computer all week“ I realised with hindsight that getting out and being social with friends and aquaintances brings in just as much work. Also, microblogging can also take time away from “real” blogging.

    As 2009 gets going I am trying to make sure I do a couple of social things each week, talking to people face-to-face, as well as keeping my blog going.

    Twitter, as of right now, is an additional bonus and I’m happy if it brings something in. Still, I’m not planning on building my business around it. The conversations are too fragmented and it’s not local enough yet.

  5. that is why i quit friendfeed, after 7000 comments and a ton of time … there will be no transformational vision-creation come out of that community, was my conclusion …

  6. My own on-purpose Twitter hiatus/slowdown over the past week (I did last 2.5 days between tweets at one point) has been helpful as well.

    I’ve found that heavy tweeting days have often distracted me from some other projects and goals at hand, including crafting more thoughtful blog posts, which generally will stand the test of time (thanks to SEO and the long tail) far better than tweets ever will.

    And really, taking a break from just about anything helps give you the perspective you often need.

    Here’s hoping that when your hiatus ends, Jeremiah, you’ll use the tool in a way that better helps you meet your personal and business goals, and supports the community you serve.

    Happy 2009!

    Bryan | @BryanPerson

  7. Minna, human behavior doesn’t really change, except that some people act differently online as they would in person.

    Jon, good point about Twitter not being local enough, I’m sure the right tools will appear for grouping and segmentation. In fact, Twitter hinted on those features coming soon.

    Gregory, did you engage in specific conversations to drive that vision change? Just curious.

  8. Jeremiah:
    I think there’s a time and place for every media tool we have available to us. You are correct in that if Twitter is not right for you at this time then it should not be used half-heartedly. Keep us updated on your thoughts through other toolsets (this blog) and the progress on your “new project”. Thanks.
    -kp.

  9. I appreciate people who think on their feet and can also take the time out to process their overall goals. I read recently about Wayne Sutton who was Twittering less and blogging more. I think it’s a solid idea. We need to keep those strong who help us think best.

  10. Jeremiah, I like your observation regarding holes in the conversation. This is very much true with Twitter. I can’t really carry on conversations because of the gaps of time that occur between replies and lack of context back to what the original thread was.

    I surmised a while back that Twitter was a very good tool to broadcast information to a lot of people fairly quickly – and almost think of it as a ticker tape type of service. Information is always coming in and whether it is of any use depends upon which tools you employ and should always be cast against what your overall strategy is.

    Much like Gregory, I have gone through fits and starts (in just 11 months of use) of whether various services are useful. With the advent of rooms and lists on FriendFeed, I could now use that tool to adequately manage my disparate points-of-presence across the web – and have a holding bin of sorts for my randomized thoughts to act upon and search out later.

    Thank you for sharing this. I am always interested in perspectives on why and why not. The actions themselves don’t mean a lot without the causality behind them exposed.

  11. Great post – couldn’t agree more. Although I have been a Twitter skeptic for quite some time (without really using it…) I came to appreciate a lot of things about it once I started to use it (as I expected I would): the immediate nature of push, the somewhat personal nature of things giving access to more layers of a personality than just the productivity focus.

    Although you feel like having access to other people’s personal life, however, it really creates an information overload that is hard to manage due to the lack of context. What I experienced in a number of real-life-meetups was a really sad realization: Twitter, the number of followers, who they recently unfollowed because this and that happened, what big-shot now started following them – all these things seemed to be the only topic of conversation. So even in the real-life-meetups it didn’t go beyond the virtual character of those “relationships”, and the virtuality seemed to be all that mattered in real-life as well. In those circles Twitter has become like a religion: you’re either on Twitter – or you totally don’t know what’s going on.

    I felt reminded of the SecondLife frenzy (albeit totally different, of course) and the early days of competition for friends on MySpace and Facebook, where the self-value seemed to be correlated to the sheer number.

    Although I really love many things about Twitter and will continue to use it I concur that it’s about time for the hype-cycle to end: it’s great for a number of things but all things that become a religion like that need to be put back into perspective to assess their real value. I for one would love to have some sort of a sliding scale of personal vs. professional/productivity for Twitter so I could decide what I’m after on any given day – but again: the context in conversations is missing to facilitate that.

    Productivity is much better dealt with by one of the most undervalued tools I’ve come across: Delicious, enabling me to create context by building a network of information-gatekeepers who I identify through the best match in topics that we share. Funny enough, I stumbled upon your post there.

    http://delicious.com/almarrone

  12. I could not agree more with your section “Twitter shows its weaknesses”. It has frustrated me to the point that I just assume I’m not using Twitter correctly. I wont bore you here, but I wrote more about my frustrations with the way a conversation works over there here: http://bit.ly/PZgk

  13. Hi Jeremiah, Happy New Year!

    It’s so very interesting to me that all the Twitter weaknesses that you point out are the strengths of Plurk (w/the exception of the 140 characters)…and yet, Plurk never took off with the mainstream. I was an early advocate of Plurk, but then eventually found myself just not having enough time for all the discussions that were taking place. I also think that Plurk might have been seen as a bit sophomoric with the headless animals, scrolling timeline and karma points.

    Looking forward to learning more about your new project.

  14. I’m glad you’re terming this a “hiatus” as every serious “social media-junkie” I know who’s tried to extract themselves permanently from Twitter has failed. “Moderation” is also a strategy.

  15. twitter has utility, great ideas flow through it .. friendfeed too, it is a question of roi of time ..

    and do you want to be in a community, or move one .. most people do not want to change anything in their lives … but the world needs transformation …

    so choose your community, god i hate that word now, wisely ..

    and also, recognize that change is just an attempt to continue comfort, and that transformation will kill you, the “you” you once thought you were …

    enjoy, gregory lent

  16. Hi, Happy new year Jeremiah,

    Even though you don’t actively use twitter now, why don’t you use automatic WP twitter plugins to syndicate your blog posts to twitter and continue to use twitter as a broadcast tool? I know that most of the 20K followers you have already visit your site on a regular basis, but still an easy way to get more exposure for your blog.

    Matt

  17. Jeremiah,

    Very interesting points that I haven’t really seen much of, probably because I’ve been getting most of my information on Twitter lately! I think Twitter has many great uses but it is something that must be used in moderation. It is an amazing tool that should be used to complement your blog or business. It’s important to maintain communication in other areas as well though.

    I do think that with the expected updates coming to Twitter, you will find it to be a more practical tool. I find that the greatest negative aspect of Twitter is as you described, unthreaded discussions makes it difficult to track conversations in one place. If you’re not sitting at your computer watching for live conversations then you cannot truly communicate. A reply to a tweet that occurred 5 hours earlier would be irrelevant by that point. Once we can engage in conversation on Twitter without literally having to be online at the time of the conversation, It will prove to be more productive.

    Dave

  18. Jeremiah, you and I are definitely on the same page here. I haven’t had time to write it yet, but in my predictions for 2009 I really see more focus moving back to the blog. The services that find ways to give the user back ownership and integrate with the blog in various ways will succeed. I see a lot of potential for companies like 6Apart and Automattic in this regard. Assuming we can figure out a way to bring the network to the user’s own possession I really think that will happen in 2009.

  19. This past week I realized that Twitter creates some serious communication issues rather than helping them.
    — 80% of my DM’s weren’t delivered to my inbox (people had tried to message me & I had no idea…)
    — the @cbensen system only works about half the time
    — 10-20 new people follow me each day – that system is also broken(I used to enjoy reading bio’s & mtg new people)

    So Twitter is turning itself into a ‘push messaging’ system by virtue of it’s own problems.

    And in regard to stepping back, your comm will continue to grow. I worried the same last summer, but that was a tipping point for me. It almost seems like scarcity builds demand for my time. And I’m enjoying my work more because I’m more focused. Are you finding that to be true?

  20. Thoughtful post. I have never really been able to get much value out of Twitter because it seems the return on time invested is proportional to the absolute amount of time one spends on it. On a standard work day, I simply can’t afford that time. Borrowing from old media terminology, the ROI may be right, but the total out-of-pocket (in this case referring to time rather than cost) is too high. And while I can see there are some benefits in real-time reception of the latest information, for me time for reflection and mentally digesting that information is equally if not more important. Twitter has felt like circuit overload. I’m looking now at Christoper Penn’s Twitter Power Guide to see if the tools there can help me manage and get more benefit out of Twitter.

  21. You’ve been showing signs of Twitter fatigue for a few months, so it wasn’t surprising to me when you announced your hiatus. Look back at all your tweets about being so behind and not getting everything done.

    I’m not sure if I’m following your logic, though. How is Twitter just a publishing activity? You’ve energized and supported numerous people through your Twitter stream.

    Was your hiatus fueled by how much time you spent keeping up the different strands inherent with 19,000+ asymmetrical community members? Did the Brogan Kmart incident make you reassess your usage?

    For me, you going off Twitter is like Jordan quitting after his first three NBA titles. You were the first high volume person in my Twitter stream and the first to @ reply me (morning of Bay-to-Breakers). It made me take a stronger interest in your blog and tweets.

    My gut feeling (maybe selfishly driven) is that you’ll be back after you figure out how to counterbalance your Twitter activity with more symmetrical conversations. Either way, I’m looking forward to more interaction in 2009 in whatever form it might take.

    @scottyhendo

  22. Jeremiah Owyang:

    Have a relaxing break from microblogging and a Happy New Year. I am still trying to figure out what I am doing on Twitter… I have started now to test FriendFeed. I will continue regular blogging, doing some tweets now and then and have ongoing conversations on FriendFeed. I will put plenty of energy and focus on my new series of podcast interviews with rational individuals.

    When do you think social media tools will generate money? Yesterday I wrote a piece on this topic on Open Forum (by American Express). Please feel free to give me feedback on it.

  23. Paraphrasing Mary Schmich “Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your social media. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their social media, some of the most interesting 40 year olds I know still don’t.”

    From all the “Social Media” gurus you and Tim O’Reilly are the *only* ones I felt like I would like buying a beer. Happy trails…

  24. Great post. I think your three questions apply to organizations using Twitter, not just to individuals:

    “how has the environment around you changed? how was technology changed? what™s your goal? Are you using the tools in the right way to meet these three questions?”

    I use Twitter not only as an individual, but as the voice of an organization too (a non-profit membership-based association). I think that the focus on the “broadcast” aspects of Twitter have distracted us from one of its potentially valuable aspects: as a networking tool.

    We’re an alumni association. Blasting our members/followers with announcements about events and programs is less valuable to us (and less interesting to them) than getting them to identify one another as classmates and colleagues who can connect via Twitter – just as we help and urge them to do via other channels (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook).

  25. Jeremiah: I have missed you on Twitter but perfectly, believe me, understand, why you needed to step away and take a break. I, too, felt your increasing frustration with the inability to manage your time in your last series of tweets.

    I always wondered, from the minute I knew who you were and started following your blog and, then, your tweets,how you managed to do it all and keep your clients happy and have time for a personal life.

    I have certainly found (int he two months I’ve been actively engaging on Twitter-Nov. and Dec.)that I’ve let many other things go because I am so entranced with how fast Twitter brings me into conversation with people who know so much more than I do from all over the world. I have never learned so muchso fast -and it is this part that is addictive to me.

    In addition, I, too, like many others here, work from home, live independently in a deep freeze climate and travel quite a bit, so Twitter IS quickly developing into a community where I find real companionship amongst like minded souls with my same lifestyle.

    However, over Christmas and while on vacation with my family, I saw how deeply I missed real world connection, too. I need both. So, I met @sensuous wife for breakfast while there! In addition, I have reached out to two others whom I know through twitter here in Minneapolis to set up real world meetings.

    Being in the conversation consistently is important to me personally and professionally. I would not give up Twitter, BUT if I had to work a 9-5 situation and, starting tomorrow, I will not simply have the TIME to devote because it does take an enormous amount of that scarce resource!

    I am making professional business connections on Twitter, but they take a lot of time(as they do in real life,too) to develop properly and fully.

    For me, LI has monetized into concrete work assignments so I also spend time there and manage two groups there, as well.

    Another factor for many is the amount of followers. When I first started it was very easy to be very engaged, now it is a bit more difficult and I imagine it will only get more difficult as time goes on which is frustrating to me. I WANT to talk to a LOT of people but at some point that becomes impossible so people think you are being rude-similar to what happened to Chris in Orlando when he felt the need to post that video… Rude is NEVER the intention-time starved is the reason and, as you say, you MUST pay attention to those things that are business related first.

    I think it’s important to remember that there are all kinds of people with differing financial situations Twittering…some MUST use it to make money, some must make money,but make it elsewhere, some have someone else bringing in some money, some are independently wealthy and can just hang out for fun, some are very poor and desperately need our help.

    For me, I must make money elsewhere so if I slow down my Twittering, it will only be because of that necessity. I don’t make money blogging, I make money working on behalf of external clients like Connie B. and yourself.

    I think we will see more real people taking a hiatus as of tomorrow when real world work really returns in full force and I think we will see more companies/brands get ON twitter for marketing purposes(they will hire a lot of community managers) as all of us who see it’s potential continue to get the word out and recommend it as part of their SM mix where appropriate.

    Just my thoughts! I will never forget your generosity, btw, when I just was a baby here. You rock, Jeremiah.

    Thanks for your thoughtful nature. That’s why you are such a good analyst.

  26. Isn’t this just a matter of early adopter wants to stay ahead of the pact so moves on? Most of the time that means the masses join 😉

  27. “an opportunity to step back and think things through.” This long holiday break has been the perfect time for that. I too have gone mostly dark on both my blog and twitter during the past two weeks. Instead, I’ve poured my energy into reading and rethinking my company’s (and my own) social media program.

    I’ll continue to do much of what I’ve already been doing. But, I’ve also recognized some deadends. And the pause has given me the chance to think about those deadends, where I had hoped that they would lead, and to find other ways to achieve those objectives.

    At the end of this review, blogging and Twittering are still very much at the centre of what I plan to do. Hopefully, I’ll continue to see you in these places as well.

  28. http://friendfeed.com/franswaa

    I’ve been on FF for a bit now and in 09 will attempt to ‘understand’ and use it more. I’ve subscribed to you so hopefully we can connect and continue to build a relationships. i’ve learned some valuable things through your blog and things you post on Twitter.

    @Scoble put up a nice how to video:
    http://www.kyte.tv/ch/6118-scobleizer/301757-20-things-about-friendfeed#uri=channels/6118/304560

    And @Scoble has some things to say on his blog here:
    http://scobleizer.com/2008/12/28/20-ways-to-being-a-bigger-friendfeed-monster-than-guy-kawasaki/


    http://twitter.com/franswaa

  29. Jeremiah, I read of your Twitter hiatus with interest and appreciate this update. I think there is a problem with managing these kinds of conversations, but I strongly believe the concept of microblogging is not in of itself flawed. You hit the nail on the head in your second paragraph, highlighting weaknesses of Twitter, which other microblogs have tried to overcome. For example, Kwippy has threaded conversations, as does FriendFeed, as you point out.

    My take is that your hiatus is symptomatic of a deeper malaise, which is the difficulty of managing the deluge of information that reaches us daily, hence my model of a Personal Information Management System (PIMS) of which Twitter becomes merely a component, rather than the central engine.

  30. You will be missed on Twitter. I always learned from your posts. I am signed up for you blog so at least I can learn from you that way.

    That’s for being such a great role model!

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