The Internet is riddled with distractions. Baby animals, cats, gifs, memes, little face mitt, more cats… the list goes on and on. As someone who is constantly connected to the Internet for most of the day, you need to find a way to block out the crap and find the stuff that matters. In radio, there is a concept of the signal vs. noise ratio. This ratio measures the good from the bad, the meaningful from the pointless, the brain fulfilling from the brain melting.
Twitter is single handedly one of the most important tools I use every day. It’s where I learn, it’s where I can take breaks, it’s where I get my news both national, local, and hyper local. Twitter is where I connect with friends, colleagues, mentors, co-workers, and family. Twitter is where things happen. However, this river of information can quickly become polluted if you’re not careful.
Curating who you follow is a huge part of keeping yourself free of distraction during the day or keeping on task. If your Twitter feed is consumed by tweets about babies, airport rants, lunch pictures, or just unimportant rambles, it’s time to reconsider that user’s status in your “following” queue. Since my active participation in Twitter, I’ve kept my following count down to an even number, 100. This simple number forces me to continuously refine my timeline and make sure I’m effectively utilizing the time I spend on the social network.
Consider the case of Jeffery Zeldman. For a time, he was a simple choice for me to make. His career history and status in the web community is legendary, so why wouldn’t I follow him? Here’s why I stopped. In addition to tweeting about web happenings, Zeldman also tweets a lot about his personal life. From happenings with his family, his company or his travels, I’m really not interested. This isn’t to say that it’s not interesting to others, I’m sure it is, and in no way do I mean to be insulting, but I just don’t care. So the question is, is it worth following him and enduring those tweets, in order to get the stuff I actually care about? The answer is no… and the reason is simple. Let others do it.
The great thing about Twitter is lots of people do curate their timelines and following list, it’s one of the things that makes the social network so great. When it comes down to it, if Jeffery Zeldman or Ethan Marcotte says something that I need to know, chances are that one of my other follows will retweet it. So, instead of following the father of web standards or responsive web design, you can follow the small time WordPress developer who, in the trenches like you, will likely offer better insight into your day to day.
This idea of signal and noise isn’t new, hell, its what 37Signals calls their blog. This concept is really important to my day to day, and applying it to Twitter is just a small portion of its effect. Can you think of other things we curate or refine? What are your Twitter best practices for following/retweeting/etc?