Algorithm Angst in Twitterland #NaBloPoMo

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

There are days when Twitter seems like the final frontier of social media. There’s a certain lawlessness to shouting out into the Internet ether to see where it lands. By lawlessness I mean disorder and randomness.

I have been on Twitter for about 18 months and now look back on my Twitter evolution. There was no doubt that in the early days of my exposure I just didn’t get it. However, like any virtual community and platform experience teaches us the unwritten rules. Whilst there are many social media gurus out there blogging and writing about Twitterland, these are rules that you can only learn from the inside looking in.

In real life they say you are judged by the company you keep. In Twitterland they say you are judged by what you retweet.

Retweeting is somewhat of a science in itself, with the use of the acronyms RT and MT and the vexing question of when does repeating a Tweet move from the realm of the retweet to the modified tweet? And then there’s the issue of whether you simply retweet as in copy the tweet into your feed or do you quote the Tweet and say “RT @ [insert Twitter ID of the person you are retweeting] [Tweet text]”. Doing it one way or another affects the original Tweeter’s influence ranking, on some virtual index somewhere. But these are things you can’t know before you dive in.

And then there’s the Twitter algorithm. Helpfully or unhelpfully, Twitter has a “similar to” feature. This is a list which is attached to your Twitter profile which contains Twitter’s suggestion of those Twits who are similar to you. I hate my similar to list. There I said it, I feel better now.

This is nothing personal to those on my similar to list. I know nothing about these people, I’m sure they are very nice. But if this is meant to be a mirror to my Tweeting soul, I feel it is a little cracked.

You may have heard of the concept of the filter bubble and the notion that in the virtual world everything is specifically tailored to your tastes and preferences based on the data you pump out. The data includes who is on your friends and followers lists. So there you are unknowingly trapped in your little bubble reading about the things you like and what your friends like and oblivious to what is happening beyond it based on some algorithm that predetermines to what you are exposed. The likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter are at great pains to emphasize that their algorithms are entirely objective, purely based on data. However, at some point the algorithm has to be programmed by a human who inevitably has his or her own biases reflected in the output.

So Twitter tells me that my bubble consists of mommy bloggers. And I am not sure why.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

True it is that the first three descriptive words in my Twitter profile are Mother, Wife, Blogger. However, my tweets tend to focus on business, leadership, social media and life on general. Added to this is the occasional parenting post and humour tid bit. I will follow mommy bloggers who follow me first, but I certainly don’t seek them out. I don’t post about recipes, cooking, craft, fashion, coupon shopping, shopping in general, parenting tips or drinking alcohol at the end of the day. And, I am not promoting a business from my kitchen.

So Twitter, I just don’t get it. Why does my bubble not consist of business people, humorists and in fact, the occasional male? Am I therefore being judged by the company I don’t keep?

Apologies to any mommy bloggers who may be offended by this post. You guys form an amazing network and pump out great information for those who are interested. It’s just not for me. Probably because I use social media to destress and to expand my non practical horizons.

Perhaps the programmer of the Twitter algorithm is really a mommy blogger. In which case, I have some great suggestions for who she can follow on Twitter.

Have you had any strange platform algorithm experiences? What are your views on the Twitter algorithm?

About the curtain raiserhttp://raisingthecurtain.netI have spent my life in offices. For now I am putting that behind me and preparing for the second act. Middle age didn't come with acceptable signposts so I am making my own through my writing. A journey shared is more fun than going it solo.

21 thoughts on “Algorithm Angst in Twitterland #NaBloPoMo

  1. I’ve been on Twitter for almost two years and knew nothing of an algorithm. And I never pay attention to the ‘similar to’ suggestions. Guess I’m not using it right, but then again, I already knew that. But I don’t worry about how many stars my tweets get or whether my tweets languish in silence with no one responding (which is often the case); I just enjoy a little back and forth with some fun tweeps. 🙂

    • I love the immediacy of Twitter too. I never use the similar to suggestions, but I do wonder what people make of them when they see my list. I think it is designed to get you to follow or for others who have followed you to follow those on the list. The more connections there are the more effective Twitter is.

  2. I don’t know much of what you’re talking about. I usually forget to use RT, @, or #. I tweet several things per day, but I hardly ever look at the Twitter feed to see what others I saying. Heck, I’ve only got so much time! I’m there, but then again I’m not really.

    Special report today on the “Story Sprouts” book launch in L.A.
    Lot’s of pictures in this one!

    Tossing It Out

    • Going through one’s Twitter feed is time consuming unless you have organised your followers into lists, so you can focus who you are really interested in. The other way is to search by # to follow some topic that you might be interested in. I have heard Twitter likened to radio, namely something that you have on in the background until something interesting comes along and captures your attention.

  3. Currently Twitter has me well tagged with the similar to. It has 1 each of the things I am: social media coach, author, book blogger (well book reviewer but close enough). I share things that I think will interest my followers and potential book buyers (once I write that book LOL).

    As a coach I guess I should pay more attention to algorithms but I tell people to be themselves and talk about the topics that intersected their interest and their ideal reader/target market so I figure as long as followers are going up while they are having fun (or at least not hating it) every things good.

    I’m still working on adding the RT in front of things but too many tweets are too long and I’ve gotten lazy with trying to rewrite without losing any of the message.

    • I’ve noticed that Tweets are getting harder to RT because of their length. It happens quite a bit with blog posts that I am trying to retweet – between the headline, the via reference and the publication name, that’s already more than 140 characters already. I don’t understand that approach especially as we are moving from a search to a share culture.

      • Yeah I was taught to leave 20-40 characters free so RTers could add comments or tag others. But a number of people are using tools that let them tweet more than 140 characters. I was taught one of those tools and promptly forgot it. LOL

  4. I do have an account. Can’t remember why I signed up and have never USED it. Receive e-mails to catch me up on what I’ve missed. I can’t keep up. I can’t spare any time out of my day. And then there are those acronyms. Why do I need to learn a grammatically ungrammatical language when it took all these years to become grammatically closer to correct. 😦

    I’m tired now. Need a nap.

  5. I just started using Twitter two months ago. I’m clueless! But thanks to some friends, like Carrie Rubin up there, I’m having fun. It’s kind of cool to put information and random thoughts out there. Not having very many followers makes it easier to do that. 🙂

    • It is a great testing ground because of the immediacy. It tends to be faster paced than the other social platforms. It also seems to me to be a little less personal because you tweet to the whole world thereby allowing a bit more experimentation. Despite Carrie’s protestations, I think she has the Twitter thing well and truly licked :).

  6. Informative – I’m twuless with twitter – I have an ‘account’ but never use. I wish you luck with yours lovely, but sadly I have no words of wisdom I can impart 😦

  7. I have checked my similar_to list for the first time – had to google how to get it – you need to tweak the URL, right? Or did I miss some button / link? Anyway I find it OK!
    I feel the results are dominated by most recent interactions (?)

    • I don’t think you have to tweak the URL, I think it just appears at the bottom of your profile. Glad yours checks out. It doesn’t reflect my recent interactions which is why it has me stumped.

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