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Twitter is Bitter

August 4, 2010

Take a thick skin if you are going to jump into some of the more heated threads (better known as hashtags) on Twitter, you could be in for a virtual ‘acid-bath’.

The Angels

Now not all of Twitter is Bitter! Iconic88, Twitter’s self-proclaimed ‘Chief Happiness Officer’ is rich with positivity, great quotes and personal support. You would have to go a long way to meet nicer people than Puggles99 and Hollingsworth, although Roger protects himself by being a little selective. Perhaps most of all, the Ladies-Who-Tweet, are the virtual (and non-virtual) social glue on and off Twitter. There are way too many to list but patriciadodd, kristinrohan and karalee_ are amongst a dozen or so that come immediately to mind. Network with this type of Tweep (person on Twitter) and you will be uplifted. There are also plenty of hashtags that give great reward – for example #tedx will lead you to great conversations and presentations as will Viocorp’s #FutureForum (personal interest here). Now I think that is enough of a caveat for what follows – Twitter is (mostly) Bitter!

The Unsavory Side

Spam accounts, fakers (false accounts – usually celebrity inspired) and most of the TT’s (Trending Topics) are more unpleasant than not. As I put this post together, one of the leading Trending Topics is #thingsthatbotherme – you can guess that this stream (public flow of Twitter posts) is full of negativity. It is, after all, ‘things that bother’ the posting Tweeps. Negative topics outperform positive by a big margin.

The main trigger for this post is the 2010 Australian Election Campaign. The leading hashtag for posts about the election is #ausvotes. This stream is running at more that a dozen posts a minute, even in the quiet periods in-between TV current affairs shows or political announcements, both of which are drivers of a flood in Twitter Traffic. The most dramatic is ABC’s, Q and A show (#qanda) which has been running in the hundreds-of-thousands of posts, most of them during the shows transmission. The vast majority of Twitter posts are negative and if these ‘streams’ are your first experience of Twitter you wouldn’t be blamed if you never came back.

The 2010 Election #ausvotes Stream

Twitter is a network. Like your physical network it behaves differently in different circumstances. Your work colleagues may act differently when discussing sport than they do when discussing a current work project. They may also behave significantly differently at the office Christmas party. Twitter is a network and the players are people (mostly). These people are also discussing work, home, sport, culture, happiness, annoyance, travel, encounters, products, bowel movements and elections – all within the one network and all at the same time.

Many people want to keep their political leanings, religion and personal failings to themselves, others want to make these themes public, and yet others will try to bully you to adopt their world view (sound like your network?). It is intriguing that there are more passionate Labor supporters than the official australianlabor twitter account, more passionate Liberal supporters that the official liberalaus account (better not forget greensmps or greens or that 11 (vocal) percent will slam me – again).

There are also the highly aggressive nutters (and I’m not talking about the candidates), there are thematic doppelgangers imitating MPs, Leaders and high-profile Tweeps (don’t know where they get the energy) and even the active journalists are more Bitter on Twitter (I hope for their sake). I am not naming these Twitter accounts individually here, because although they can be entertaining, this post is not here to promote their acerbic rants (you can see them for yourself).

Lessons from the First Australian ‘Twitter Election’

Twitter was around for Kevin ’07, but the volume was low and it was never a forum that could have any significant influence. Twitter may not influence the election in 2010 either, but then this is one election that could come down to the wire and contains topics relevant to digital social networks, namely the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the conveniently parked (until after the election) Internet Filter. I can get Bitter on Twitter about that one!

Kevin Rudd was arguably the most active Politician on Twitter and look at what happened to poor Kev – the only first-term PM ditched by his own party since World War II. Its no wonder that Julia Gillard is only an infrequent visitor to Twitter and that Tony Abbott hasn’t posted since the election was announced. No such luck for their multiple clones! Despite the two leader’s collective 50,000 followers and the numerous RTs (re-posting of Tweets) that would occur following any post by either of them, they have both decided to stay out of the Twitter stream. Would they do this in any other easy to access forum with an audience of more than a million voters, a collective that is communicating at a rate of more than a dozen messages a minute? Of course not! They are staying away because Twitter is Bitter!

Thoughts, comments, flame me to a crisp ;)

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