Twitter – Killer App or Overkill?

I’ve become quite a fan of Twitter, although I’ll readily admit I never really “got it” to start with. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, and also in a recent tutorial video, Twitter makes a lot more sense once you add a group of people to your network. Having a likeminded group of fellow Twits from which to tap into some collective wisdom turns Twitter from a curious plaything into a rather amazing personal learning environment.

Twitter has an open API (Application Programming Interface), which mean that programmers who can think of interesting ways to mash the basic Twitter feed into another service are able to tap into the guts of Twitter in order to get it to power their own apps. There are a number of interesting tools/toys that hang off the Twitter API, from useful local clients like Twitterific, Twitterroo, Snitter, Spaz and Twitterbox, to fun implementations like Twittervision and Twittervision 3D. And just to show how circular life is, I’ve just been alerted to Twitterposter, thanks to, none other than my very own Twitter network.

Twitterposter creates image grids of the top Twitterers’ icon files, arranged so that the more influential (most followers) are shown larger than the others – sort of a visual tag cloud idea. Two things struck me as I browsed the grid… one was the number of people whom I actually recognised, at least by reputation. @Scobleizer, @ijustine, @Biz, @Gruber, among others. Seems that despite its vastness, the Internet is still a finite place full of very real people.

The other thing was just how big some of these Twitter networks can become. There were several I saw with well over 4000 followers and the largest following I saw was @Scobleizer with 6893. That’s crazy enough, but he is also following 6923 people!! How anyone could manage that sort of volume is totally beyond me, or why anyone would want to. Surely there must be a limit to how many in your network is the “right” number? If you can believe Dunbar’s Number, the “right” number is about 150. I tend to agree, and imagine that things would start to get a little messy after that. Just doing the math, I’m following about 100 people at the moment and I get tweets popping up every couple of minutes (especially during the North American daytime), so I imagine that following nearly 7000 people would have tweets popping up every few seconds? That’s just crazy stuff, and I would think totally blows away any usefulness that you might be able to get out of the collective wisdom of the network. Maybe someone with a large follow list might leave me a comment and let me know how that works for them. I’m really curious.

PS, In late breaking news, for a long list of Twitter-based apps, take a look at, courtesy of @whynot88. Thanks Anne!

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CC BY-SA 4.0 Twitter – Killer App or Overkill? by Chris Betcher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

7 Replies to “Twitter – Killer App or Overkill?”

  1. Hi Chris – one of the problems I foresee with new Twitter users is the fact that others need to Follow you to receive anything you Twit about. So if I wanted to build a network that supports my teaching I can add many many people (Even many thousands if I want!!) to watch what they have to say very easily. But when I have a question or need some advice I want that request heard. Unfortunately unless a broad group of people have decide to follow you – the question falls upon a narrow audience.

    I get Twitter, and think it is a great micro blogging tool. No doubt those that have a large group of fellow professionals as “Followers” will perhaps get more from it than those that are starting out or have a narrow audience for their thoughts.

    To build a Twitter following, or to put it more appropriately, a supportive professional network, takes time and unfortunately I do not think Twitter is a tool that can be fully appreciated in the short term.

  2. Ok Chris … you’ve convinced me .. at least to give twitter a go. I’ve enjoyed your training days and been inspired by them and I figure if you see Twitter as a useful tool then perhaps there must be something in that.
    Things is how do you build up a network if noone you know twitters? I’m particularly interested in building up a network of fellow educators.

  3. Hi Mark, I started by finding someone on Twitter whom I knew, and seeing who they were following… I then scanned through their follow list to see if I recognised anyone, usually other people I had heard of through the blogosphere. I added those people to my follow list. Then I looked at who they were following, gradually adding people as I found them. I tried to follow people who I thought were interesting and who I thought might follow me back (it’s pretty pointless talking into a vacuum if no one will follow you back!) and eventually I built a network like that.
    Lately I have been getting lots of Follow requests, of people adding me to their follow list (which I find really bizarre, but hey!) Usually I click the link to go to their Twitter page, and then click through to their blog. After looking at their blog I then decide if I want to follow them back… there is a sensible limit to the number of people I follow, currently it’s about 120, and I think about 150 is the maximum I want to have in my follow list. I think there are nearly 140 following me at the moment…
    Strange I know, but surprisingly engaging!

That's all well and good, but what do YOU think?