The fractured conversations of Twitter, part one: You don't know if your conversation partner is following you!
Despite many views that Twitter is about conversations, it's an imperfect conversation tool at best. Consider two recent exchanges, first via IM with a friend:
Them: dude, can you add me in Twitter? <URL>
Them: Can you follow me in Twitter so we can communicate that way?
Me: Sure, but why given that we can already communicate this way?
Them: Because I've replied to several of your tweets but you don't see them because you don't follow me. I prefer to reply in the medium in which the question is asked.
(I added him.) And then an exchange with someone asking them why I should add them as a Facebook "friend" when I didn't think I knew them:
Yes good question . simple Answer . We twitter mostly ( I am <twittername> ) . Also as a subscriber to your blog ...<snip>
Well, no, WE don't "twitter" because I wasn't following the person. (I am now.) And in fact when I looked at their Twitter pages there were indeed several different "@danyork" posts that I have simply never seen.
This is the problem inherent with Twitter "conversations"... you don't easily know if the other person is seeing your tweets.
There's the disparity between people you are following and people who are followers of your twitter stream. When I look at my twitter page, I can see these stats:
So updates/tweets from 78 people show up in the Twitter stream that I view. However, feeds for at least 115 people that read my Twitter feed are not being seen by me. I say "at least" because I know of at least one person I follow who does not follow me. There may be others. For those 115+ people, if they put a "@danyork" at the beginning of their tweet... I won't see it! And so their contribution to the conversation is ignored.
Now there's a separate discussion about why I haven't necessarily added all those followers to the list of those I follow (and I'll blog about that another time - suffice it to say that it's mostly an issue of just not having the time yet to check out all the Twitter invites I receive), but for the moment let's think about the impacts to the conversation. The person that starts following my feed may feel compelled to answer a question I pose... or to send along a URL they think might be of interest. Or to pose a question to me. So they do "@danyork" and type away. I never see it and never reply.
Does the person think I am ignoring them? Do they think I'm arrogant and don't view their posts as worthy of responding to?
And how would the Twitter user know? Unless he/she kept track of all the Twitter notices they received about who was following them... or went to my twitter page and looked to see if they were listed there (I'm suddenly imaging some blog readers and twitterers doing exactly that!)... they have no way to know that I am or am not following them.
So yes, Twitter is about conversations... but many of those conversations may be fractured or disjointed - or disconnected.