How to Use Twitter Without Twitter Owning You – 5 Tips

152 Comments


(Photo: Timothy K. Hamilton)

Total read time: 5 minutes.

I’ve evolved as a user of the micro-blogging tool called Twitter.

That said, technology is a great slave but a terrible master, and Twitter can turn the tables on you with surprising subtlety. This post will explain how I use Twitter and the 5 rules I follow to keep it from using me…

I use it mostly as a digital diary for recording the fleeting moments, fun online findings, and useful tools that are worth sharing but not worth a separate blog post. For those of you who want more from me than 1-2 posts per week, Twitter is where I put most of my discoveries.

It is also amazing for real-time polling of followers on topics ranging from strength training to the best online back-up tools (in descending order of preference: www.getdropbox.com, www.sugarsync.com, www.jungledisk.com, the last of which uses Amazon’s S3).

I avoided following people until one month ago, as I didn’t want another inbox (which direct messages or “DMs” produce), and I didn’t want to inadvertently hurt the feelings of acquaintances I might neglect to follow.

Following no one avoided both problems. I elaborate on this approach in a short video here.

I started following because I was interested in observing effective, interesting updates and also measuring the impact of following on my time use. Secondarily, I noticed some fine print in Twitter’s seldom-read Terms of Service (bolding is mine):

*Spam: You may not use the Twitter service for the purpose of spamming anyone. What constitutes “spamming” will evolve as we respond to new tricks and tactics by spammers. Some of the factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming are:

* If you have followed a large amount of users in a short amount of time;
* If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following;
* If your updates consist mainly of links, and not personal updates;

Though it seems these rules aren’t yet strictly enforced (some business and RSS accounts are almost exclusively links), I didn’t want to risk being banned, as I find Twitter both fun and useful. [Update: as several readers pointed out, I read this and got things backwards. Following no one is fine; following more people than follow you can get you banned.]

The 5 Rules of Keeping Twitter Use Under Control

1. Don’t post and read at the same time.

Here’s the problem with following others, as fun as it can be.

You decide to make a quick post on Twitter.com, but then you notice the stream of updates from the people you follow. Then you click “older” a few times and peruse a few quick links like “World’s fattest cat (pic)”. Before you know it, 30 minutes have passed and you have forgotten what you were going to post, as well as your to-do list. Repeat this whenever your mind wanders throughout the day = nothing done.

Having your friends’ updates as the default dashboard helps Twitter’s pageview count but can kill productivity.

I suggest writing updates (“tweets”) separately from reading friends’ updates, so that you can better prevent entering the hyperlink blackhole. I read friends’ updates after 5pm and use Ping.fm, which automatically shortens URLs, during business hours to update both Twitter and Facebook status at the same time. I found TweetDeck and other applications, while full of cool features, too seductive and easy to overuse.

2. Set alerts or blocks on Twitter usage.

My time on Twitter immediately more than doubled once I followed others, despite the misperception that I was still spending roughly the same amount of time on the site. I used RescueTime (Disclosure: I am now an investor in RT, but I recommended them for months before we were introduced) to track usage and then set alerts, which is how I measured the increase and reigned in overuse. Use a program like RescueTime or MeeTimer to alert you when you exceed a pre-determined time on Twitter, or when you’re about to load the Twitter page.

For those who want to stronger methods for preventing time wastage, download Firefox and use LeechBlock to block certain sites entirely for set periods. From their site:

“You can specify up to six sets of sites to block, with different times and days for each set. You can block sites within fixed time periods (e.g., between 9am and 5pm), after a time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour), or with a combination of time periods and time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour between 9am and 5pm). You can also set a password for access to the extension options, just to slow you down in moments of weakness!”

3. Follow those who won’t create another inbox, or follow everyone and go Gary V.

I follow mostly close friends and celebrities, both of whom are unlikely to send me many direct messages, as the former knows I prefer phone and the latter doesn’t know I exist. The other approach, which bruises fewer egos, is to follow friends and strangers alike but make it clear that you don’t read any DMs, a la Gary Vaynerchuk. Based on attempts to the do the latter on Facebook and LinkedIn, I’ve concluded that most of the world doesn’t read directions or alerts, so I opted for the friend and celeb option.

4. Don’t post unless you add more value than the attention you consume (both yours and others’):

1. Add value if you consume attention.

I use Twitter as a “micro-blogging” platform, exactly how it’s most often described. Just as I wouldn’t put up a blog post that reads “just ate a burrito. Mmmm… good,” as it consumes readers valuable attention without adding value, I wouldn’t put up such a post on Twitter. On the other hand, “Just had an incredible mahi-mahi burrito at [best unknown taco stand] in San Diego. Must-eat: http://www.website.com In NYC, try: http://www.website2.com” adds value with actionable details. Mundane perhaps, but still a cool “to-do” that ethnic food lovers can tuck in the back of their heads.

Some self-indulgent tweets are fine, but make sure 90%+ help or entertain your readers somehow. Information empty calories are parasitic.

2. Use the tool for its best purposes and ignore the rest.

Use a tool for what its best suited to do. Don’t make a Swiss army knife out of every social media tool or you’ll end up with nothing but overwhelm, passive-aggressive “friends,” and a dozen separate inboxes.

I use the blog for testing ideas/campaigns/memes, catalyzing social change, and introducing more developed concepts so I can watch and track their impact and evolution in the blogosphere.

I use Twitter to broadcast time-sensitive suggestions, questions, events, random facts, and happenings, and other ideas that don’t justify an independent blog post. I don’t want another IM program.

3. Linking is fundamental to adding value.

Twitter is perfect for honing your word economy and value-to-attention contribution: offer a brief takeaway and quicks links to more resources for those interested. Minimal attention impact for the uninterested with gateways to more goodies. Here are a few recent examples.

5. Do interact, but don’t try to respond to everyone. Don’t overuse Twitter out of a compulsion to please others.

To quote @karmakorrupt via Twitterholic extraordinaire @sacca: “Seeking approval from others is a full time job with no vacations or benefits.”

Remember: Twitter is something you chose to do. Unless you work at Twitter, chances are that you have another job (or family) that’s more important. Focus on doing big things and enjoying Twitter and similar tools in the downtime.

Related Links:
See Tim’s profile on Twitter
Measuring What Really Works on Twitter
Top 10 Twitter Tips for Beginners
5 Ways to Use Twitter for your Business or Career (NY Times)

Posted on: February 25, 2009.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

152 comments on “How to Use Twitter Without Twitter Owning You – 5 Tips

  1. Nice post, as I just signed up with ping yesterday. Oh a valuable lesson I learned was to use the http:// and then the website, as opposed to using http://ping.fm and then the website. I struggled with this but found the answer on the ping.fm forum. Just a heads up to new users on ping.fm

    Cheers

    Jose

    Like

  2. I am a fan of Twitter as well and have found many a useful tip, site, etc. from other users. That said it is VERY easy to get sucked in, as Tim mentioned, and to lose minutes if not hours of precious time. I have set aside my breakfast time for my only Twittering time of the day. Now, I know this goes against Tim’s advice on separating your work from your meals, and so on. But, this is a nice way for me to check in on Twitter in roughly 30 mins per day and get my morning nutrients.

    Glad to see you are following some people now Tim, would hate to see you get sh!tcanned by Twitter for appearing to be spammer. As you are one of the people that I can rely on for useful tweets.

    Like

  3. Good advice. I like that you mention:

    “Use the tool for its best purposes and ignore the rest.”

    That’s what I’ve been struggling with because I DON’T want to be in the grip of Twitter (and it’s tough not to buy into all of the hype of following, being followed etc.). The other day, I was in a Twitter induced trance and realized that I had given it over 2 hours. Not cool!

    Like

  4. I started tweeting fairly recently. It’s a better communication tool than I imaged. The are quite a few good tips and links as long as you follow the right individuals. As per rules, I try to keep a low limit on my tweets per day. Also try to have a balance of tweets, RT, and @ messages. It’s best not to follow individuals who tweet every few minutes for the entire day or that only link to their same posts over an over.

    Does anyone have a favorite Twitter iPhone app?

    Like

  5. Gennaro,

    I use the Tweetie iPhone app and like it very much so far. Both my wife and I have our accounts setup in Tweetie and it is an easy transition from one account to another. Plus, Tweetie feels pretty seamless when compared to the original Twitter.com user interface.

    Like

  6. Great advice Time. Hopefully people will take these tips to heart and we may get a bit more quality on Twitter. I wonder if it would be a good idea to add our twitter names here?

    mine is @iamchrisgreen

    Like

  7. Good post Tim,

    I can use some of the time tracking sites that you mentioned. At times I tend to be on twitter too much. Trying to find the perfect blend of time spent on here is the key.

    I also use adjix.com which gives you the option to delay your tweets. So that you can have a voice on twitter without actually being on at that moment. Good when you find more that one interesting article and don’t want to post all of the at the same time.

    If you have another service that does the same let me know.

    Janis

    Like

  8. I doubt twitter would ban you a) You probably know the people who run it b) Having a large amount of followers is the opposite to the breach you highlight.

    I love twitter for breaking news, interesting links etc – you’re tweets are perfect for that and a reason why I revisit your profile, whereas I wouldn’t for others. However you come in the celeb category for most.

    It’s great for running polls and ideas and with tweaking can be set up as a conduit for all your information.

    One of the best descriptions I saw of how to manage twitter (can’t remember where) is to think of it as a river. You just dip in every now and then, but you wouldn’t attempt to consume/feel all the water – all the time.

    Like

  9. Hi Tim,

    All good tips. I’ve also found that using 3rd party tools has greatly enhanced my ability to chunk my time accordingly (tweetlater.com) as well as to find people to follow (twellow.com), for example.

    There are so many tools popping up that make the Twitter experience more useful, and while I know you ‘re not a big fan of a number of these, I think some with less stringent Twitter rules might find these tools handy. Here is a link to Blending The Mix’s top 100 Twitter tools for those interested: http://tr.im/gLTH

    A word of caution: be careful in giving out your Twitter username and password to access such sites. Twitter hasn’t yet allowed full access to their API (I think) so some of these site require you to give up that info. Others, like LinkedIn and Facebook, do in similar fashion, but discard it after use. . .so. . .just be aware, that’s all!

    Cheers,
    Doc

    Like

  10. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if you previously had a lot of followers, but followed no one, you ran no risk of being labelled a spammer, did you? Since…

    ” If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following” is the opposite of your previous situation.

    Maybe I’m just confused…

    Like

  11. Hi guys,

    I read that ToS, and unless I misundertood it, it seems to me that it is the other way around, you can’t follow too many, compared to those who follow you.

    So, not following anyone would in no way put you in danger of being banned.
    “If you have a small number of followers compared to the amount of people you are following”

    Also, interesting post Tim.

    Like

  12. Hey Tim,

    I agree Twitter can pull you in too much if your not careful. The upside for us is the ability (for the first time) to connect with our peeps in real time while traveling around the world. For example last month I was in Rio looking for directions to a restaurant in an obscure location in Leblon- Boom-15 seconds later 20 responses. I think your spot on with your 80/20 assessment of it.

    Best,
    Rob

    Like

    • Hey Tim!
      Great post you got here!
      The tools you recommend are absolutely brilliant, especially RescueTime!
      Very useful tool.
      Great guides and tips ;)
      Thanks,
      Kim

      Like

  13. I think you’re misreading the Terms of Use slightly. You can’t have a high proportion of following to followers. In short, the opposite of what you have. So no need to worry about that…

    Like

  14. This is an awesome post that is very timely! I too stopped having twitter email me anything… if it’s urgent people find my site and email me from there.. otherwise it can most likely wait until I’m on again. Thanks for the tool links, I am going to check them out. The tweet this button is giving an error message here and on your facebook… just an fyi. Thanks Tim!

    Like

  15. Good points. It really is pretty amazing to see how much time one can waste if you actually take the time to measure it. Great job on distinguishing and helping readers to focus on important things like family vs. fun but potentially time wasting things.

    Like

  16. Great post Tim. I am new to Twitter and am just trying to understand how best to use it. It can consume you quite quickly.

    To your point about being banned for spamming. You indicate that the fine print defines spamming to include having more people as followers than the number of people you are following. Since you were following zero people, but had people following you, you wouldn’t be considered a spammer by that definition.

    But, I like to promote social culture as somewhat time-consuming as it can be. I think it is good you are following others now, it will give you additional perspectives.

    Like

  17. Thanks for this. I’ve been finding out some of the same things myself lately with Twitter. And great to find your feed! And I’m going to post that quote somewhere to remind myself:

    “Seeking approval from others is a full time job with no vacations or benefits.”

    Like

  18. Great post Tim!

    I had struggled with leveraging Twitter as a networking and information gathering tool, while maintaining the principles of efficiency you set forth in 4HWW.

    I recently began using http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta/ which is very similar to a blog aggregator like Google Reader.

    TweetDeck allows you to sort tweets into 10 columns (by keywords) so now I only read the relevant tweets for me.

    Hope this helps you and your readers!

    Thanks,
    Brian

    Like

  19. Hi Tim,

    I met you at BizTech day in San Francisco last fall and was curious about your “no follow” approach to Twitter. Thanks for sharing how your own use of Twitter is evolving, and for these guidelines about efficiently using Twitter, especially with regard to time management.

    I’ve just begun using Twitter as a marketing tool for my businesses, so this post comes at a good time for me!

    Best regards,
    Cindy

    Like

  20. I’ve never shared your vision of twitter. I didn’t like your first policy (“I dont’ follow anyone”), at least you are changing that a little bit…

    It seems that reading someone else’s posts on twitter is for you some kind of burden, waste of time, boring/irrelevant activity (not to say replying). It is consistent with the vision on your book (“do not disturbe me, I surely have something better to do”), but I don’t like it. Seems like you only pay attention to other people when you seek for some benefit, and ignore them elsewhere. But that is not a fair way to build strong, bidirectional relationships…

    Which is fine if that’s how you want Twitter to work for you. But twitter is a great place to stay in touch with people you care about; reading their tweets, replying when there’s something to say so they know you are listeting… are the basics in the way I use twitter.

    That means investing some of my time on it? Well, I find that building true relationships is not a waste of time.

    ###

    From Tim:

    Hi Consultor,

    Thanks for the comment. It’s a bit buried in the post, but I do read my friends’ tweets and my @replies especially. I just do this at set times – generally after 5pm – so I don’t self-interrupt all day. That said, each person can use Twitter as they see fit.

    Happy tweeting,

    Tim

    Like

  21. Great advice. I only recently discovered Twitter (well – I discovered it months ago and resisted it for just as long). Once I did launch into it, I quickly became obsessed and started spending way too much time on it. Happily, I’ve brought my usage back under control. Many of the methods I’ve used to curb the habit were similar to what you’ve outlined here. If only this post had come sooner! :)

    You’ve also pointed out some great new tricks for me to implement. Happy Tweets…

    Here’s me -> twittersteer.com

    Cheers,
    Adam

    Like

  22. Useful post Tim. I tend to apply the interesting or quality rule to Twitter when tweeting as with other social media tools – if a tweet doesn’t add value for people then I don’t see the point, albeit I know people tweet in different ways as a way to build relationships. I use it mainly for internet marketing work, not personal use. In fact lots of my friends/colleagues haven’t even heard of Twitter and don’t get it at all. I’d be interested in any stats which broke down Twitter useage by country – I’m UK based – I guess that must be available somewhere and would be good to know if anyone can point me in the right direction.

    Like

  23. Tim,

    I recently joined the world of Twitter. I was having a hard time with knowing what to do with it. I began following you, noticed how you used it, and loved how you turned some potential time killer into a useful application. Your post on it is only too timely.

    I thoroughly enjoy all your posts/tips/stories/book(s). Thanks for thinking the way you think, and giving others a new perspective on things. You have definately changed the way I approach a variety of things.

    – Mark (aka “incufan1″ on twitter)

    Like

  24. Tim, you’ve got no concern re Twitter terms of use – they look out for those with the opposite problem: Lots of people followed; very few followers. Follow only if you see a benefit!

    Like

  25. Hi Consultor,

    Thanks for the comment. It’s a bit buried in the post, but I do read my friends’ tweets and my @replies especially. I just do this at set times – generally after 5pm – so I don’t self-interrupt all day. That said, each person can use Twitter as they see fit.

    Happy tweeting,

    Tim

    Like

  26. Thanks for the tips about twitter, not that I really needed it. I personally hated the idea of getting twitter because it seems vain to think that people want to know what i am doing on a minute mby minute basis, but did anyways because i wanted to connect with fans of our blog. I only go on the site to post and watch people we have decided to watch me and that’s it.

    thanks for the tips, hopefully i wont get consumed by social media.

    Like

  27. Tim,
    Thank you for the great synopsis of Twitters’ use/misuse. As a raw-newbie to blogging and all things related, I found Twitter to be more of a novel idea without value (I did however find this article through someone who tweeted..twitted…twittered???) or specific purpose and was only recently intrigued by an application called “Twitscoop” that graphs the surge of particular keywords.
    I’m not certain the value of this application but maybe someone out there can figure that part out.
    Like you, I felt that there had to be some stringent, self-imposed measures to limit use and avoid “addiction”. Still working on the real use/value aspect but I do like to use it as a diary post. Throwing out a quote, idea, link etc… if I think it has any merit.
    Thanks again.

    Like

  28. Tim,

    Question:

    I noticed that there are not that many @Replies in your timeline which I really like because I can get to reading your posts easily. Most people have enormous @Replies to wade through. Do you delete many of your @Replies or do you just not respond to very many of them?

    Thanks in advance

    Like

    • @Brian,

      I don’t tend to publicly respond to @replies, as I find it just clutters things up. I get tired of seeing a million “@somebody Totally agreed! LOL…”, as the comment means nothing out of context.

      I often respond to @replies with a direct message of my own. Just my preference.

      All the best,

      Tim

      Like

  29. Tim,
    On the topic of social media and how it can consume your time – you may have seen the article picked up today all over the web – http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123509424821028985.html?mod=rss_Technology. When articles like this appear you know Facebook and Twitter have become what we once referred to in tech circles as ‘ubiquitous applications!’ What do you think – could you give them up if you were/are a Lenten observer?

    Like

  30. Great article, I find myself wasting wayyy too much time for little to no return, I am afraid to post links to my articles out of fear of looking spammy, so I never know what to say LOL I am shy on twitter too now!

    Like

  31. Seth Godin doesn’t use Twitter. Is it a good tool? Yes. Is it for everyone? No. I haven’t found it useful at this stage and see it more as an additional interruption. Maybe one day…

    Like

  32. Thanks for the post. I’ve been twitter-phobic for some time. I think it’s because I didn’t set down and set up parameters before starting my blog and now I’m re-grouping and starting a new blog, well planned out. I was a bit worried I’d do the same with Twitter.

    Like

  33. Great tips Tim. Balance is the key here. I started using twitter recently and have decided to designate 2 time frames for my twittering: a short session in the morning and evening. I focus most of my time on creating value through others through my writing. If you provide useful service, they will come, through twitter or a million other channels which you can’t possibly think of.

    Ryan

    Like

  34. Tim
    Great post and all so true.

    I tended to get sucked in to twitter and then time just disappeared.
    You have to understand what twitter is good for and stick with that.

    Rich

    Like

  35. As with any social media tool, remember it’s just that, a tool.

    Learn what it can do, decide what you want to do with it and set your boundaries in advance, (and practice the discipline it takes to honor it).

    Every social media tool has it’s strengths and it’s drawbacks, make a conscious effort to examine what those are, otherwise it can become a time-killer instead of a powerful tool.

    Live Your Dreams,

    Jill

    Like

  36. Twitter IS a time-suck, so Tim’s use of it is very understandable. Having too many “friends” (contacts) makes it almost impossible to keep up with interesting distractions.

    Like

  37. I keep my Twitter usage fairly simple. I follow 13 people (2 of which I know in real life, the rest being people who actually provide good information) and because of the time zone differences I can consume 90% of tweets in a few minutes because most of the tweeting occurs whilst I’m sleeping.

    Like

  38. Tim – thanks bruddah. 2 tips I like most are sticking to DMs to rpely to the many @’s one can get, and, sticking to only useful info – then again, gary Vee feels peeps ARE in fact interested at when we eat, sleep and sh*t!

    Talk soon bruddah, keep killin it!

    –Z–

    Like

  39. Hi Tim,

    Very good and useful tips on Twitter. We only so much time in a day, and its just a waste of productive time, to be lost in all the noise in Twitter land.

    I’m will be careful on tip #3 tho.

    Will be retweeting this. Thanks.

    Dean Henry

    Like

  40. Thanks for the tweet about costliest keywords, glad to see that doctors and lawyers are taking the biggest hit there :P Anyone know of a place to see the cheapest ones?:)

    Like

  41. Tim-

    Your tweets are full of win. By the way, sort of off topic, but if I remember correctly you were asking for recommendations for the 4HWW 2.0. More case studies and models to analyze re: muse creation would be much appreciated.

    Like

  42. Lovin’ it Tim. Especially:

    Twitter is perfect for honing your word economy and value-to-attention contribution: offer a brief takeaway and quick links to more resources for those interested.

    This tip is great for those trying to create email newsletter content as well.

    Like

  43. I’ve been using it for a while, mostly because I linked it to Facebook and it auto-updates my status there.

    So it kills 2 birds with one stone, I also put it in my blog sidebar so when I don’t update at least there’s something new to see. That’s what Microblogging is about for me.

    I find yours a very effective but non-personal way of using Twitter, which fits your lifestyle and ethos.

    Like

  44. Tip from a busy doc:

    If you tweet mostly about websites or blogs you’ve read, ditch any interface but this: sign-in to Fleck Lite (http://fleck.com/lite), and drag its bookmarklet to your browser toolbar.

    When you read something of interest, hit the bookmark — it autosaves the URL in a short form, and opens a tweet window, where you can add your observation. If you highlight text on the page and hit the bkmk, it autoinserts that text ahead of the shortened URL.

    No time lost reading other tweets. It’s a one way interface: you to Twitter.

    Like

  45. Tim, I gotta say — every now and then, you write a post where I think you just flat out miss the boat. For me, this is one of those posts.

    Social media is about being social; it’s about listening and respect… IMHO, your tweets come across like you’ve got head phones on.

    For me, it’s hard to take your “How-to” seriously when you don’t seem to participate, and only started a month ago. Saying you didn’t want another inbox and that you follow others out of fear of being banned tells me you don’t quite get it. And your “5 Rules” could easily be adapted for keeping your intake of [ice cream] under control.

    Now, I’m not one of those who thinks you have to follow everyone who follows you, or that you have to respond to every tweet, etc., but you also wouldn’t wear head phones to a party.

    Some things take time and investment. The good news is that 4 hours a week should be plenty.

    Peace

    Like

  46. This is really great, Tim. Probably the first article I’ve seen re: Twitter with some actual, helpful content. I’m excited about social media and want to know how to maximize its use, but my precious minutes and hours were seriously getting sucked away into a void. Now I have some resources for pacing myself and making sure I’m running it – not the other way around.

    Like

  47. i ve read a new stageplay by award winning off broadway playwright Larry Myers who takes on twitter..
    it is a funnysad contemporary digital slapstick tragedy
    he s got a grasp on communication our zeitgeist and may be the ultimate twitterati

    Like

  48. While I totally understand time constraints of following people with Twitter I’m wondering if the philosphy of not following others really works (for Twitter). Does it not create a gap?

    If everybody chose not to follow others then would Twitter not fall apart.

    Like

  49. No. 4 is a good point. I unfollow people who post things like “just ate breakfast” or “running to the store to buy underwear”. I really don’t care about that kind of information. Someone people post them as well as good stuff, then it’s a question of how good is their good stuff.

    When open Twitter, I want to see URL…of stuff I like.

    Like

  50. There are two things I would like to address here. The first is that I am not a twittaholic, I just never got that into it. I use it as a marketing tool from time to time but really only update once or twice a week. Maybe I should do more but I just don’t see it worth my time.
    Second I am never less than comment #50 on any of these posts and I check it every morning. I do that with a great widget from Firefox called, oddly enough, Morning Coffee. I sit down and read a few news blogs on trading and market conditions. I read a few of my favorite blogs (including this one) and then I am off to start my day. Sometimes it takes me more than 45 minutes but usually not more than 1 hour.
    So with me checking everyday and never being less than #50 on the comments I wonder if all these comments on here are kind of defeating the 4 Hour Work Week ideals. Are there always the same 50+ people ahead of me? And if they are why don’t we all put some of the principles to practice?
    I have had a really hard time doing that, and seem to spend more and more time in front of the computer. What I have learned though is to put more time in front of the computer doing productive things.
    Sorry to sound bitter or maybe a little harsh. I love the blog, and kudos to those of you with top comments. With the amount of traffic I am sure that it helps your blogs and sites out a lot.

    Like

  51. Actually, TweetDeck, once you learn to use it, can get you through the highlights of Twitter pretty darn quickly. The key is to *group* the people you follow.

    I turn TweetDeck off when I’m working, and on a break, I check out (as in quickly skim) just the groups of people I really need to. (work-related, close friends)

    andrea_r: twitter user since 2007. ;)

    Like

  52. Tim

    I found you by looking at my Facebook updates. Someone had tweeted this article. That’s the great advantage of Twitter. It can bring someone like me to your site that minutes before didn’t know you from Adam.

    Great observations on Twitter use. I think new Twitter users feel like they are on a blind date. Everyone starts out timid, then says too much and lastly comes to the conclusion that they have to fine-tune their relationship.

    I’m using it at this point as a learning tool. I tap the minds of the top people in the fields that I’m interested in. I look at links they suggest and I learn.

    I don’t let it eat up my time. I’ve learned to just glance at it on Twirl. I only follow the stream of those I’ve really connected with. I learned early on that it’s not about numbers or who follows you, but who you follow.

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  53. The key, for me, is great tools. Tweetdeck for monitoring and keeping up. I can pop it open, see everything and then minimize it. Best dashboard I know of. Equally, TwitterSpy lets me follow topics and post via GoogleTalk on my Blackberry.
    I am always looking for new ways to sift information. My current project is a FriendFeed mashup: http://is.gd/kc9u

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  54. Excellent read, gives me a better understanding how twitter works. I just started so I’m following more than are following me. Other than that I fit in with what was said. With the exception of keeping track of my time, being retired I had time to spare. Now that our retirement programs got killed, I want learn how the Internet works, then maybe sit home and make an extra buck. Not wasting time.

    Thanks

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  55. Hi Tim,

    Great points. I’m new to Twitter. I held off as long as I could!

    I signed up about 6 weeks ago (Jan 14th), so I am a Twitter newbie. I too was concerned about Twitter consuming too much time.

    Thanks again for sharing your ideas.

    Your Pirate Lifestyle Guru,

    Rob

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  56. About #4. “Don’t post unless you add more value than the attention you consume (both yours and others’)”

    I am completely alone >90% of every week, no-one to talk to, no-one to exchange opinions with, no-one to bounce ideas off of, some thoughts just keep gong round and round in one’s head, and so I thought I’d try Twitter as a possible therapeutic tool for regaining some sort of way of getting back into mainstream society. To suddenly find that a few people are following you, even though it sounds minimal, is such a change from being ignored by everyone.

    And “I use the blog for testing ideas/campaigns/memes, catalyzing social change, and introducing more developed concepts so I can watch and track their impact and evolution in the blogosphere.” – how pompous.

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  57. i think its polite and correct to follow everyone that follows you, but i will unfollow if they are trying to sell me something. i like reading the minutiae of life and it give a great insight into peoples lives, especialy celebrities. i have decided that from now on i will only read the first page or two because otherwise i get bogged down trying to read all 40 older pages and meanwhile new tweets have arrived. i cant stop adding people though, i think i will have to limit it to 1000 which i am fast approaching!

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  58. Beware over editing! It’s true that 95+% of what crosses our bow is dross, but it is often the insignificant that informs us most deeply on our search for personal authority. If we only listen to opinions of those in our inner circle we may miss the truth we need to hear. Obama said in his nomination speech that it was critical to hear from those he hadn’t convinced. They will take him to the center of his task. If truth surfaced where we expected it we would all be experiencing Nirvana. And we are not. What we are experiencing is the result of over editing – choosing not to see.

    Elizabeth Gilbert speaks of the Creative Genius and Greek mythology. The gods are none other than the archetypes that play through us all and lead us to our greatest creative achievement –our authentic Self. The circumstances that evoke the hero’s journey are often cataclysmic. We glimpse the majesty of our highest Self, are lured by Sirens of distraction, brave the Minotaur of our own ego, or ride the seas of circumstances out of our control. These gateways of awareness usually come through people and situations we would readily avoid. There is a saying that no one would have crossed the ocean if they could get off the boat in a storm.

    It is not insignificant that the overwhelming success of Eat, Pray, Love, is in response to a book about Gilbert’s own heroic journey through loss, suffering, humility, and fulfillment through a multitude of simple acts and the courage to embrace the unexpected. The heroic journey is not about doing but about being.

    Twitter and niche social networks are portals to virtual tribes. Brilliant opportunities beyond merely fast tracking life.

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  59. @Tim Ferriss,

    To disable DMs:
    Settings > Notices > change “@Replies” to “no @ replies”

    From their support page, “No @replies: never see any @replies in your timeline, ever. In this case, you would not see a reply from anyone, regardless of follow state, including replies between Sheila and Ace, Dutch, or anyone else.”

    Long time lurker, first time poster. Keep up the great posts. And, I too, work best in the early AM hours.

    Cheers,
    Devo

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  60. I’m lucky…I still have yet to become totally addicted to Twitter. I’ve set up Google News alerts for specific topics of which I want to keep track but beyond that…I just have Tweetdeck open and respond when inspired.

    Data points, Barbara

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  61. Great post, thank you!

    Initially I found Twitter very confusing and quickly got sick off all the “I’m having a coffee”-posts from random people I didn’t know. OK, that was my own fault for following the wrong people but ever since I started monitoring who I follow and actively seeking out people that have interesting and relevant stuff to say, I have found Twitter one of the most useful tools on the internet.

    I think I’m only starting to realize the full potential that lies within sites like Twitter and I’m excited to see where this will take us.

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