Bernhard Häussner

Twitter - What am I doing?

27.09.2009, 16:13

Everyone is writing about twitter now. Everyone is thinking he's missing things going on at twitter. Newspapers report about eyewitnesses tweeting things. Twitters user count and press representation is was rapidly growing. So what's it all about? Essentially, it's about a microblogging service that started in 2006 as a small project of Biz Stone and Evan Williams, who wanted their colleagues to answer the simple question "What are you doing?".

I have been a member of Twitter since March 17, 2007 and have tweeted 439 times since then until now (actually not too many updates). Anyway, I noticed a change in how people use twitter. This usage history resulted in a rich variety of uses of twitter. Here are some behaviours I collected over the years:

The What-are-you-doing-guys

There are some users that nearly only answer THE question when it comes to twitter. You are likely to find mostly tweets like "@having breakfast" or "preparing lunch" in their profiles.

It's really funny to follow one of those What-Are-You-Doing-Guys and then meet them. You won't have anything to say, because you do already know (nearly) everything about your fellow tweople.

Also you do really have a log about all the small things you did in life. This might be very interesting some years later.

The Chatroommates

These tweople that only use twitter like a chat are a bit incompatible to the others. They have evolved in the SMS times, when twitter was THE way to text your friends. You might find many senseless tweets like "ok pals I'm off" or "@yomama sure".

The 140-Excited

Some people seem to not want to tell everyone what they are doing and don't have too many friends on twitter, so they don't really have to use twitter. But everyone does, so do they. This is why they seem to focus on (bad?) jokes, proverbs and short quotes.

The Newsfeedorz

When you have found a stream with only headlines and links or 6 of 7 tweets starting like "new blog post:" you know you have found a Newsfeedor. They use twitter only for posting "news". There are famous ones like CNN and rather not too famous ones. And of course many advertisers have found a new channel at twitter. The very bad thing about them: It's usually not original content and it's most of the times better available through RSS.

The Readers

This group is a bit underrepresented. Some of them don't even have a twitter account. They are reading through someones profile (subscribing their stream as RSS) or using one of the services that aggregates twitter messages, like Or they use twitter as a real-time opinion-of-the-tweeting-world search engine. I think the twitter makers had a good reason to change their homepage to a mere search page.

The Retweeters and Answerers

A phenomenon at twitter is retweeting. If you want to pull the attention of your readers to a statement of someone else you retweet that (you just tweet it again putting RT @name in front of it). Or you tell everyone your opinion about it (like: opinion (via @name)) or as direct answer (@name blaaa). Now some tweople only do this. If you look through their stream you will find dozens of answers and you don't get what it's all about. This is a true Retweeter/Answerer.

The Trendy

This is by definition a very popular behaviour: Commenting on the trending topics on twitter. Some "answers" are really funny - and of course it's a cool way to share personal experiences. It's a kind of very fast global FB. Just don't overdo it. (And don't just write "#iamsinglebecause it's trendy". )

So what's correct?

As always - nothing. So what do I do? Simple: Mix. I retweet what I like or want others to know, I answer questions, I keep a log of some things I did, I stay informed about my friends, and I post stuff I put into the cloud.

You can always find new scenarios where you can use a 140-char-messages-posting-page. For example I have started to collect new/strange/biased/funny (German) words. And sometimes I post cryptic messages. For example this one related to the sense of life, a movie, Alice in Wonderland and the time I arrived at school that day.

And because it's always 140-character limited you can display your twitter status e.g. on your website. I do that through my lifestream. My homeserver that serves as a very neat clock too also shows my twitter status to my family.

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