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Twitter Sins

I've been threatening to do this for months – admit to my Twitter mistakes made since the beginning, and some I still continue to make.

People are on Twitter for different reasons. I won't go into them here. But firstly let me say that these three postings below on Twitter use are very helpful. They are advice; not prescriptions. I suggest treating them that way – as, I believe, the authors would.
Kimberley Ramplin @Kimbo_Ramplin
Malcolm Farnsworth @mfarnsworth
Drag0nista @drag0nista

These errors of mine are not in any particular order.

Sending before brain is engaged

I've done this and repented at leisure. If I'm tired or something's come up and I have to rush off from Twitter for a while, I may hit send on a dubious tweet and for hours I don't see what I have written, nor the responses. There's no point in my trying to undo it then, especially if it's objectionable to someone who doesn't follow me, so I can't DM.

But – 'least said, soonest mended' isn't bad policy. Nothing I ever said was a federal crime.

Late at night I am particularly prone to the really dumb tweet. Forgive me.

On usenet I had a 12 hour rule when I responded with irritation to someone. i.e., I held it back and looked at it again at least that long after. I rarely sent it in its original form. Often I trashed it. There's a lesson there somewhere.

Satire, irony, sarcasm, jokes

I'm more wary now. My flippant mood at some times has been interpreted otherwise by the reader. Something smartarse can easily irritate. I still do that at times. I can't judge every person's mood nor please everyone, but care is needed. A quick, genuine apology if required is good policy. Nobody's perfect.


I've sometimes been too familiar with people I hardly know. Most are reasonably forgiving – but some have elephantine memories and nurse grudges eons beyond forever.

Not that I'm ever going to be anyone but myself. Tolerate me or unfollow. I rarely mean to be rude, but a joke can misfire. It's best to know someone a bit first.

Talking too much?

That is, tweet too often. At times I do. Sometimes I talk solely with the one person for a long time to the exclusion of others. I don't regard this as a mistake as such, but the discussion may be irrelevant to everyone else.

If we follow each other in some bilateral discussion, DM may suit best. It's a matter of judgment. Mine's far from perfect. I'm sure I've been unfollowed – definitely muted – for cluttering someone else's tweet stream. Sometimes I may never get un-muted.

[If someone unfollows you, too bad. Get over it. I don't use unfollow-checkers. I usually find out it's happened only when for some reason I try to DM them.

Some do use unfollow checkers, and then accost the person on open Twitter, asking for reasons. It usually looks pathetic.]

Keeping on a thread too long line – the clash between being polite and appearing to want the last word

As a corollary to 'talking too much', here's one mistake that's vexing all round. When does a discussion thread end? Usually it's obvious, but there's a fine line, I've found, between being polite by responding and a hint of determination to have the last word. Some people must have it, but usually it's not the problem.

If I feel like it appears to be a tweet of mine that seems an attempt to have the last word, then I usually trash it. 'Last word' is not my intention. Setting the record straight may be.

I don't see any harm in drawing a line under a discussion, or just stopping. If the person wants the last word, they've got it. If they're just being polite, then problem solved. If their feelings get hurt, it can't be helped. It has to end sometime!

Blog-pimping too much?

Some may see it that way. How else do you get it out there? It's nice when someone's read it and the URL is tweeted by them, but if I've written a blog piece as a public document, I'm prepared to take the flak. 90% of postings by people who aren't famous would never get read by genuinely interested people otherwise.

Possibly I talk too much about my illness.

Illness is rarely a welcome Twitter posting, especially unsolicited. Maybe it's a mistake to talk about mine, but hell, it's not flu. One important reason is to disseminate information, put an opinion, be challenged.

If not for Twitter I would never have met some remarkable people dealing in some way with my illness or similar – Twitter friends who have made an isolating condition bearable.

But as you can see if you took at this blog, it's far from the only thing I talk about. It would be a gloomy tweetstream if only illness were discussed.

Failure to check the tweetline first

Coming in at the end of a discussion without knowing what went before can be irritating for the other participants.

Including people in a tweet who don't want to be

I did this more at the start [I think!] than I do now.  Some people loathe being added to a discussion they don't want to be in, or with people they dislike or with whom they have nothing in common. 

[Don't assume I'm one of those who prefers not to be included – I don't mind being pinged when someone thinks a tweet may interest me.]

Constantly targeting high profile members of the Twitterati

Looking at my earliest tweets, most were directed at these, because I simply didn't know anyone else. They were the only ones I was following and I had no knowledge of the Twittersphere. Most were generous and responded, but aiming at them is not something to keep doing. I made other friends.

Bombarding high profile tweeps looks too much like celebrity stalking. It will end in Twitter tears.

Butting in

A tweet thread is open to everyone and no-one needs an invitation, but I've sometimes poked my nose in when it would have been better just to be an observer. There are ways to enter a discussion with a group that may include strangers. The 'bull in a china shop' approach isn't one of them.

There are coteries too. Best to stay out of them, I've found.

Tweets are usually ephemeral

Even what looks like a massive clanger barely makes a mark on anyone but oneself. I just get over it. Fortunately, I'm not important.

Some people follow only those who follow them back. That's a bit sad. To me, following is about seeing what an interesting person has to say. If they choose to follow me, that's a bonus but it's not what Twitter is about.

To finish: idiosyncratic preferences
• I'm not keen on a thread that includes so many people there's little talking room. I take the view that if most follow me I need include only the commenter.
• I find irritating the tweet that has no context. You know what I mean. Ones like:

"If only they didn't!"

What message is it sending? To me, it's an attention plea. It's begging you to bite. Nup.

• Locked accounts. OK, it's for privacy. I get it. But I'd have to be very keen to follow you if you expect me to ask you if I can. Sorry. It's not you. It's me.

• Smileys and exclamation marks – they have to be judiciously used. If in doubt that someone may get my joke, I'd rather use a smiley than not.

• Batch posting – I suspect if you automate a group of ten postings tweeted simultaneously, people are likely to pass over them all rather than read any. This is particularly true if they're the same ones recycled.

I can think of many more of my Twitter sins, but that's enough to start with. If you want to confess yours, or add to mine above, feel free in the comments section below. 

This posting, "Twitter Sins" is located in my blog's sidebar because it's really for Twitter followers only.


  1. coterie … now there's a word not used nearly enough! my biggest Twitter sin has been including a tweep in a conversation i thought was relevant to her, only to find out that my first tweep and her were MORTAL Twenemies! xt

    1. I know someone who would heartily agree with you in that. Me? Honestly, I don't care. Feel free to ping me. [Maybe I should include that in the text above. I will! – thanks. I hate missing out on tweet treats.]

  2. I've been using Twitter (seriously) for about 9 months (?) even though I registered, I think, about 4 years ago. I gave up very quickly back then. I just didn't "get it". Unlike using Facebook, which was relatively easy to work out as I went along, Twitter was much more dynamic and didn't seem at all intuitive to me. There were points of etiquette and protocols/acronyms I didn't even know that I needed to know!

    It took my dear friend, Jill Favero, going to Easter Island and threatening to torture me with not seeing her photos unless I got my head around Twitter, to take the plunge.

    So, I had to take the time to practice, make mistakes, keep putting my foot in it, being trolled by American gun-lovers, jumping into conversations where I didn't belong - and having the same done to my conversations - etc etc, to learn the rules, to be safe and comfortable and to get the most out of this extraordinary addition to my personal, intellectual and political life.

    I have only two other rules I can think of at the moment to add to your excellent tip-list:

    1) I will not abide incivility. There are a couple of people I follow who are high profile who e.g. viciously name-call politicians, and swear outrageously in tweets. I keep following them if they also have interesting insights - but I won't retweet uncivil tweets or participate in those conversations. BTW - I am not a prude. I enjoy swearing for emphasis now and then. I just don't think Twitter is the place for it - and it can get pretty vicious on there! Sometimes Tweeps try to accuse, blame and rile - but I always try to remain steadfastly civil. They tend to back off and either go quiet, or start being civil themselves. I'm quite prepared to hit the "Block" button if the aggression becomes too much for me to be bothered with. I never retaliate.

    2)I try to be meticulous about acknowledging my sources - whether it is from a newspaper, a radio podcast, another Tweet, a link from a Facebook post etc. (But I generally keep FaceBook and Twitter communities separate - or, they keep themselves separate! Not sure which!)

    I'm sure I'll think of other things to add to this kitbag of TwitterTips. I sense it is a bottomless bag. Thanks for taking the time to do this, Denis. Wish I had these tips 9 months ago!

    1. Yes, my beginner's experience was almost identical. Joined up, waiting for something to happen. Nothing. After I started the blog, I decided to try again and did nothing but advertise a new blog posting. People started following and talking. Kinda took off from there.

      Just one other response. Swearing doesn't bother me either, even though I generally don't. In fact, I admit to enjoying the tweets from some of those who are very sweary but make it into an art form à la [au?] Malcolm Tucker. Swearing's offensive to me only when it's badly done.

      I was very concerned when a close Twitter pal actually toned down a response to a tweet by me with asterisks where good solid swearing would normally have been. I hope she reads this and gets back to form. She knows who she is. And where would me mate Sweary be without his artistic creations?

  3. I'm hopeless as I never comment on this wonderful blog when you are so kind about mine.
    Let it be known that I am a sinner on the Twitters, times eleventy (barring the locked account ... grrr).
    Funny to think back to those posts. Farnsworth's is brilliant.
    Back to the avalanche that is TweetDeck ...

    1. It was you I promised to do this confession. [I just checked and you posted it on 30 Dec 2011!] Time sure flies when you're having fun.

      You don't have time to go trawling through acres of blog entries. I don't expect it of anyone. And I'm not kind re yours, I'm just stating the facts [= my opinion].... When you write a bad one I'll tell the world – deal?


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