A Twitter Manifesto

Here’s my Twitter Manifesto. This is how I run my Twitter account to meet my needs. It’s a work in progress so I’m going to amend it as time goes on, I learn new things or people tell me off. Some of it you’ll agree with and some of it you won’t. Some of this may seem plain wrong. I appreciate that.

Introduction
There are millions of people on Twitter and hundreds of them interested me. I couldn’t keep up with them all. Lots of other people just wanted to sell me something. It became stressful and I started not to enjoy Twitter. So I had a major rethink and cut it back to something manageable. Now I love Twitter again. Here’s my ‘strategy’ warts ’n’ all.
Topics
On this account @petedomican, I tweet mainly about the following (in no particular order):
1. Writing and books including my own work
2. Photography including my own work
3. Politics – Always a tricky one. I try to be fair and recognise that there are different sides to any argument but I feel there are some bad things going on in the world these days.  I’m not a member of any political party but I’d say I’m probably unlikely to be voting for the Tories or UKIP anytime soon. Others have described me as a ‘leftard’. I’d describe myself more as an ‘equalist’, interested in a ‘fair’ society and a committed European. I have a slight obsession with Denmark.
4. Football – I support Spurs and Benfica. It’s both a blessing and a curse.
5. Marketing, business and social media including my own work (although I’m setting up a separate account to tweet about this more).
6. Random stuff -TV, music, podcasts, creativity, F1, humour (slightly warped)
It’s likely you’re interested in some things and not in others – it’s a weird mix. I try to be aware when I’m overdoing a topic to death but if it’s the Budget or Benfica are playing Porto, it’s probably best just to ignore me for a few hours.
Agreeing / Disagreeing
Some people seem to go into a huff if someone disagrees with them and block/unfollow them. I tend to be fairly open minded about most things (or at least just rage silently). I’m happy to be corrected on a factual error or for you to disagree as long as you’re reasonably polite. I’ll stand my ground and argue my corner. If you cease being polite, I’ll just stop. Some people though can just never give up on an argument. At some point I’ll say we’ll just need to agree to disagree.
Dislikes on Twitter
People who ‘tell it like it is’ (it frequently isn’t), people who don’t get how fortunate they are in life e.g. thinking you’ve hard up just because you have a large mortgage and two kids at private school or generally nasty people e.g. racists, people who hate disabled people, foreigners etc. Oh and my particular Twitter pet hate – hashtag pun masturbation e.g. ‘Smack my witch up #medievalsongs’. It’s rarely funny and I instantly mute the hashtag. I’ll admit that last one is a bit random but I thought you ought to know.
Following Me
I’m always surprised and delighted when someone follows me. I tweet about particular topics (see above), some of which don’t tend to sit well together for some people. If you unfollow, I’ll notice and maybe I’ll be sad for a while but I’ll survive and I won’t be offended. ‘Live your life, be free’ as pop goddess Belinda Carlisle used to sing (and probably still does, somewhere).
I don’t automatically follow back so if you’re just looking for lots of followers then probably not best to bother. I live in Welwyn Garden City, UK so if you’re a tree specialist in Austin, Texas, you’re probably not to get much work out of it (that one’s true by the way).
I keep Facebook for friends I know from ‘real life’ or those I know very well from Twitter and wish I knew them in ‘real life’. Please don’t make it awkward. Let’s stick to Twitter and see how we get on first.
Following You
I follow people who I find interesting, funny, thoughtful, insightful or generally good eggs. I like to interact with them at some level and I like to read their tweets. I’m now following between 350-400 people and that feels roughly the right number I can cope with for the moment. The consequences of this are:
1. I don’t automatically follow back so if you think it’s being impolite or insulting, then sorry but now you know the reason.
2. I need to periodically review who I’m following to keep to a sensible number. Sometimes people who were great a while ago lose interest in Twitter (and it shows) or just start using Twitter to promote their wares. I wrote a whole blogpost about people who just use twitter to promote themselves. It’s worth reading because it seemed to strike a chord.
3. If I follow you and you send me a DM promoting your wares as your first interaction, I’ll automatically unfollow you. It’s a no no!
If I unfollow you, please don’t get too upset about it. Yes it’s personal in a way but it’s just Twitter for God’s sake! Chances are we’ll never meet and you’ll forget about me. People in real life grow apart too. Remember all those ex colleagues who never keep in touch
Favouriting
People tweet to say thanks for ‘favouriting’ my tweet. Please don’t, there’s no need. I favour a tweet to read it later or where it has some information I need. I’ll then ‘unfavourite’ it.
Lists
I add people to private lists. I don’t tend to use them a lot of the time but sometimes I want to look at Twitter and avoid seeing the results of a sports event or avoid politics so I’ll only look at a subset of people. I should use them more.
Reading your Tweets
I scan my timeline whenever I can but I don’t spend my life on Twitter. I pick a lot of things up but often I miss things. If you need to get my attention, mention me. If it’s really important DM me. Note that promoting your wares may or may not count as the most important part of my day especially if we’ve only just met.
Retweets
I retweet things that interest me, promote people and things I’m interested in or things that amuse me. However I’m aware I overdo retweets so sometimes I try not to RT things. Please don’t take it personally if I fail to retweet something you think is noteworthy. But just because I RT something doesn’t mean I necessarily agree with it. I tweet things that I violently disagree with just because it’s awful and needs to be shared. I usually preface these with a ‘coming up’ tweet.
Scheduling Tweets
99.5% of my tweets are live. I use scheduling for the following:
1. Scheduling tweets publicising my blog posts or an announcement so that there’s a reasonable chance people will see one mention over a few days
2. Where there are multiple tweets which need to be read together. Sometimes I need more than 140 characters and 20secs to make my point. Must try harder.

#ff (Follow Friday)

This is in theory a good idea as you come across new people but it has become a nightmare. I don’t normally do #ff but occasionally I’ll tweet one #ff and a reason why I think you should follow them. If you don’t that’s fine. If you do #ff as a regular thing, please don’t tweet lists of people. It’s pointless. I’m not going to wade through your lists and it’s more likely I’ll mute or even unfollow you. That’s really horrible I know, but scrolling through 230 names then seeing other people RTing their mentions and thanking a whole list of other people isn’t my idea of a Friday night.

Being Wrong

I try to be nice all of the time but sometimes I’m not. I get things wrong, quite a lot. I’m human and I’m sorry.

 

This article was updated 24/3/13 to include #ff and several edits.

The Launch of ‘The Night Rainbow’

On Wednesday, I was delighted to attend the launch of Claire King’s ‘The Night Rainbow’ at Daunt’s wonderful bookshop in Marylebone.

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I’ve gone on about ‘The Night Rainbow’ (a lot, sorry) for two good reasons. Firstly, Claire is a friend. We worked together many moons ago in London and shared that Northern sense of humour that made the full on heads down madness of London a little more bearable. And, since I started writing, she has been a great source of encouragement and help.

Claire brings people together and good things happen; it’s a gift. I love seeing my friends do well in any aspect of life but, outside sport, it’s rare to be present at a moment when someone’s dream comes true so I wanted to be there to celebrate her success.

Secondly, when I put all my bias and partisanship aside and sat down quietly with a proof copy of the ‘Night Rainbow’ over Christmas, I thought it was an extraordinary book. I could see why Bloomsbury snapped it up and why they have put a lot of love and care into it. It has its own beguiling mood and rhythm which is captured perfectly by the trailer. .

Being a photographer, I took my camera along and took a few photos just to capture the moment*. The setting is fabulous. If you haven’t been to Daunt’s, go and visit them. There is nothing better than talking about books, whilst being surrounded by books (oh, and drinking wine). It was lovely to see a collection of Night Rainbows in the shop window and a huge pile of them on the shop counter beforehand; even better to see that they had all been sold at the end of the evening to find their way to new homes far and wide.

I took away two things from the evening. The first was that, as much as I love Twitter, making personal connections with someone just adds something else entirely. Secondly, that as writers, editors or just book lovers, we really need to champion our remaining bookshops and libraries and we must never undervalue the skills and sheer hard work that go into writing a novel and bringing it to an audience.

So, after a very long wait, it gives me enormous pleasure to write my final sentence. ‘The Night Rainbow’ by Claire King has been published by Bloomsbury and is available from all good bookshops.

*If you’ve a strong objection to having your photo on the gallery e.g you’re wanted by Interpol, please let me know the number of the photo and I’ll remove it.

Restoring My Twitter Mojo

Two people I have come to like and greatly admire for different reasons have decided to leave Twitter recently. They both gave very eloquent reasons for leaving and I respect their wishes entirely although I am extremely sad to see them go. They have helped me through very difficult times in ways which they will never understand and I’ll always be grateful to them. I consider them real friends in every sense of the word. However Twitter has an immediacy of communication akin to a real life conversation (albeit in dialogue of 140 characters) which can never be replaced by other forms of contact. It feels like a friend has announced that they are moving to Australia. You’re pleased for them and you will always be friends but somehow there is a weakening of the ties and the feeling that somehow you’ve been left behind even if that’s not the intention.

Inevitably, as a result of their actions, I began to question my own relationship with Twitter and Facebook and how I use them. Facebook is easy for me. I hate using it. It is a visual migraine. I find the adverts and the games annoying, the constant changes in privacy functionality  incredibly irritating and there is a natural limit to how many pictures of my friend’s children I can bear, as much as I love children (some people seriously overdo it!). I’m sure people can find my posts equally dreary. However it is by far the best (only?) tool I have for keeping in touch with many of my friends who I would inevitably have lost contact with over the years as they moved around the world and overall  I get some benefit from it. Last year I was able to share the sad loss of my friend and instructor Eric with all my ski buddies scattered around the world. I’ve reconnected with old school friends lost in time and those people I have met through work or travel for a brief period and wished that they lived round the corner. I dip in and out of Facebook. If anyone really needs me, they’ll message me. It’s not perfect but it will do.

Twitter is much harder for me. I got onto Twitter and found a strong community of short story and flash fiction writers, picked up a whole bunch of friends from a podcast, found out what was happening locally and built up some followers too. It provides a platform for publicising my (spasmodic) output of flash fiction and it keeps me connected to people when I am alone. However I have begun to feel the same pressures that my two friends felt and that, rather than being an asset, Twitter is destroying the headspace I need in order to be creative, productive and happy.

There are many problems in the world and if like me, you believe that life isn’t just about winning at the expense of others, then there are a lot of causes that are worthy of support. Inequality and the demonisation and exploitation of the vulnerable would sum up most of them. However I am beginning to become overwhelmed by these. Yet I feel to ignore them is dangerous.  The economic circumstances of the 1920s and 30s gave rise to a cruel and terrible period in our history and we are sailing in similar waters today. If we switch ourselves off and say nothing, then we run the risk of history repeating itself. Silence becomes mistaken for agreement and ultimately our voices are extinguished. Twitter gives us all a voice. However I need personally to come to terms with the fact that I cannot fight every battle and perceived injustice.

I like to read what the people I follow say and have some kind of meaningful relationship with them but  recently I have started to become drowned in the thoughts of other people. Is this the fault of Twitter or myself and what should I do? Do I leave like my friends or is there someway I can go back to a more balanced use with which I am more comfortable?

I’m going to make some painful choices. I’ve decided to unfollow a lot of the campaigns and media outlets I’ve been following. One Twitter buddy shares very similar viewpoints so I’m just going to see her retweets and that’ll be it. I’ll comment on the ones I feel most strongly about but I’m hoping there will be a balance between being heard and in touch whilst not being overwhelmed with sadness and indignation. I have also decided to cut back following writers, publishers etc to a manageable number and not to follow back new writers automatically unless I have a particular interest in their work. I’ve always felt the need to be courteous to fellow writers but I’m annoyed by an ever growing number of writers who just plug their wares (See Some Authors Who Tweet Are Twits ). and I’d sooner follow and be followed by 300 people which I can interact in some meaningful way than follow and be followed by 10000 anonymous faces.

Now here’s the hard bit. I also need to unfollow some of my own followers and this will be much harder. I’ve tried using lists but found this hasn’t worked well for me. You might not care less or you may be greatly offended. If it’s the later I apologise sincerely and if you unfollow me as a result, I’ll understand fully but I hope that the above outlines my reasoning and I genuinely mean it when I say ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’  I feel I have some sort of connection with everyone but I need a timeline that moves at a more sedate pace not a constant scroll of consciousness. I’ve also installed ‘Anti-social’ which blocks my access to various sites whilst I’m working in order to be more productive. I may not be around as much but I’m hoping that all these changes will help me to get a better balance and stay positive.

I’d be interested to know what other people feel on this subject. Are you feeling the strain or is Twitter still working well for you?

 

Update: I’ve not cut down to under 250 follows and redefined my lists. It feels far more manageable. The trick will be to keep it down.

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