Twitter: The Web’s Playground

SUMMARY: Twitter gives a revealing look at the personalities of the most influential bloggers. Some are nice, some are whingy, and some are downright nasty.

I’m new to Twitter, only having registered about a month ago. I methodically went through and added the most important bloggers. I added them because I assumed Twitter would provide a constant stream of interesting comments, informed debate, and professional analysis.
Instead, I get things like this pop up regularly on my Twhirl:

note to that dick Matthew Ingram: I’m going to bed now and cant update posts when I’m sleeping. We’re not all in central dick time πŸ™‚

Duncan Riley, Twitter

I’ve never met Duncan, Matt Ingram, or any of the other people I’m writing about here. I live in Brazil, and before that spent most of my time holed up in a small house in London. I’ve never been to California or Silicon Valley. Hence, maybe this is just the kind of bantering that goes on there.

But from reading Twitter, and personal blogs, I think it’s something else. It’s like it’s a big playground, full of little gangs and cliques.

The Gangs

When you first arrive, you get shown around by some nice guys called Robert Scoble, Louis Gray, and Matt Ingram. They tell you how to be a good student, and they’re immensely popular amongst most of the children.

There are the fashionistas like Jason Calacanis, who drive to school in a BMW and walk around preening themselves. They’re OK, as long as you don’t insult their hairstyles.

After a while, you’ll bump into the seniors, led by Dave ‘the Whiner’ Winer. Often they exist as a gang of one, loners who spend most of their time complaining that it’s not really a school any more, since the younger ones have arrived.

It doesn’t take long to bump into the playground’s bullies, led by Micky Arrington. When there’s a fight somewhere in the playground, they either started it, or turn up with fists at the ready. You kind of respect them because they know what they’re talking about, but you always wonder why they have to be so aggressive about it.

Occasionally, somebody new appears, like Loren Feldman. Desperate for attention, he shouts horrible things at everyone. People fairly quickly become bored with them, though, and they fade back into obscurity.

As a New Kid

I’m only a new kid here, not many friends, not part of any particular gang. I wander around, listening to other people’s conversations, sometimes impressed but a lot of the time disappointed by my heroes.

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  1. Thanks for the lead to Mathew Ingram. I need more Canadians in Twitter list. πŸ™‚

  2. And then there are the teacher’s pets. Always trying to add helpful information, facts from history, etc., boring stuff. Don’t worry we are easy to ignore. – @lgedeon

  3. darknight247

    This is the most poignant and true post I have read about twitter. Really most of the time you have to sit back and enjoy it. Hope to see more of your posts make it onto twitter. BTW this was a re-direct from a Scobleizer & LouisGray Twitts. Cheers.

  4. Very interesting representation of the twitter world… i never thought of it this way but can relate to your point: Scoble is one of the nice guys and I was curious as to why Winer complains so much (j/k, Dave)… In any case, twitter definitely gives you insight into peoples personalities better than a well thought out blog posting. Any chance people are different in real life? I doubt it…

    Cheers.

  5. excellant post on twitter, i kinda feel the same way…there are people who put up interesting stuff and try to lead you through like scoble, kevin rose, garyvee…but there’s a lot of people posting stupid crap and being bullies..i don’t get it, but i keep trying to build a base of friends on there

  6. Great post, Dan. But then I would say that, since I’m one of the “nice guys” πŸ™‚

    Seriously though, there is a lot of truth in your description. I guess Twitter is like a lot of things: you get out of it what you put in.

    Thanks for posting that hilarious Twitter message from Duncan too — I must have missed that one.

  7. Dan, great post. One of the most honest posts about the micro cultures of Twitter I’ve read. And I got a good chuckle out of it.

  8. Great post. I’ve only been on Twitter for about a week and noticed many of the things you have. I find it helpful to follow the same people some of the more friendly podcasters and bloggers follow. I avoid the immature twitter users as much as possible.

    I personally don’t feel the same about Dave Winer that you do. I find a little cynicism a good thing. Keeps you thinking… Basically, my barometer for who is good and who isn’t is gauged by three things:

    – how much do the use profanity (my kids are often around)
    – do they make personal attacks against others
    – do they twitter less than a couple of times a day

    If they use profanity in excess, then I stop following them. If they attack other people, I stop following them (and maybe block them if they’re following me). If they don’t twitter often, then it’s a waste to follow them anyway.

    Just some thoughts…

    – @jhuebel

  9. I think all Canadians are “nice guys” but obviously I’m biased since I’m a Canuck.:)

    You should add another category – informers: people more than happy to share interesting things (news items, Web sites, online services) that they come across.

    cheers, Mark
    twitter.com/markevans

  10. @Jason: It’s not so much that I feel anything about the people, it’s more that it gives me a voyeuristic feeling.

    Before Twitter, I only knew these people through their books and their blogs, and it was like they were super-human cyborgs. Twitter makes me realise that they’re just human.

  11. shegeeks

    Very nice perspective on the tech community in general, even though you’ve narrowed it to Twitter. Welcome to the playground!

  12. What a great analogy – better even than the twitter-as-village meme that @shelisrael (I think it was him? Or maybe @pistachio) came up with a couple of months ago. Does beg a question tho’: who are the class clowns?

  13. Thanks for the comment. I liked your article a lot and am still trying to be the “cool kid” on twitter. It is proving to be a little more difficult than I thought.

  14. Thanks for thinking of me as one of the nice guys. I don’t think I (ab)use Twitter as much as some others, but it’s great you thought of me when putting together this great story. Very accurate in many respects.

  15. Playground twittering my arse – lets get down to the fundamentals.

    Pineapple – why?

  16. @Dave: You would love Brazil. They eat pineapple with steak and beans. Same plate.

  17. The poor demented fools – it is but a small step from there to chunks

  18. Great post. Really enjoyed the perspective.

    Love the comments on Feldman – we can only hope.

  19. A post with a difference! Loved it!

  20. Twitter use reveals indeed a lot about people.

    Other microblogs do likewise.

    Any major language seems to have its microblogs these days…

  21. Twitter is Fantastic. I absolutely love it and they are very different from other similar places, as they do give you more ways to communicate and enjoy it at the same time.

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