Saturday, August 02, 2014

Tweets and Blogging: What's Signal, What's Noise?

Years ago, when the Internet was younger and fewer people were on it because it was expensive and slow, Net surfers would talk about the signal-to-noise ratio of certain websites and, before that, newsgroups. If you went there, how much time would you waste? Was it worth it, especially if you had a slow modem and paid for access by the hour? (Once upon a time, you data usage wasn't unlimited ... except maybe for your first month of a new service.)

If you're really dedicated to a certain topic or hobby, you didn't kid around much. There was one big problem: this is the Internet -- everyone kids around. It's part of its charm, as it's filled with references to Star Trek and Monty Python. No one takes anything seriously. And a lot of people appreciate this. And a lot do not.

Fast-forward to today (using a metaphor from a device many young Net users don't own), with social media taking the Internet to another level, users are paradoxically talking longer with their own dedicated pages and videos while at the same time limiting themselves to 140-character tweets and ten-second film clips. Anyone can follow anyone else and see everything that have to say, all consolidated into one mighty newsfeed. (Actually, several ... there are still many different platforms, even if they seem to merge, or at least combine symbiotically, every day.)

This brings me to three subjects I wanted to address: my blog posts, my Twitter feed, and everyone else's Twitter feeds. Seriously.

I maintain several blogs, using the word "maintain" in a very loose manner. Basically, I update this one, the math blog, as regularly as I can. (Not exactly, I could go a little more often with text posts, but I hesitate, waiting for a Muse to come along with another comic.) The others are side projects, which only get discovered through accidental results on search engines. I don't publicize my reading or cooking blogs, other than their appearances in my blog roll. I also have one for the 90's trading-card game Guardians by FPG, Inc., which may or may not still exist. (The company I mean. My page exists. The game does NOT anymore.) And, finally, I have an online writing journal, which is closed to everyone except me because if you could read it, then everything in it would be "published" and I couldn't sell "first publication rights" for anything. As the circle said to the passing line, "You're off on a tangent."

This blog is composed mainly of comics, but also Articles. The non-comic posts fall into two categories: math-related & other educational stuff, and whatever I feel like talking about. The former is self-explanatory. The latter includes my love of geeky things as well as random rants. It's my blog and I can write what I want. But do people want to read it? I don't know, but I do tend to be a little on the apologetic side when I stray far from where I should be. I'll go where I want, but I try not to do that too often.

My defense for my tangents is simply this: you, my readers, are getting to know a little bit more about me. I'm letting my guard down a little so that you can see that I'm not just some tightly-wound teacher who lets off steam by telling bad puns (or even good ones). I'm a three-dimensional person and there are things I like. On the other hand, pulling back the curtain is fine, but it's not the reason most of you came here.

That said, many people come to the blog through links to specific posts or from search engines. Those people probably will never see this post. I don't know the number of regular readers I have that come to this blog through an RSS feed and not through my posts on Facebook, Twitter and Google. (I broke down and finally starting posting there, too.) To all of you, who are interested in everything I have to say, I'll let you know more about me every now and again, but the main focus of this page will always be the Math.

This brings up my Twitter account. Thanks to a recent app, I now know what I first (long-forgotten) tweet was:

Finally got a twitter account. Why? Darned if I know. Someone asked me to. Whether or not I actually remember to use it remains to be seen.

I recently posted a goal: 1/3 of all my points should be related to this blog in some way; i.e., self-promotion. Let's face it: that's the reason I started the twitter account in the first place. I'm not texting my "bruhs" all the time. (I actually spelled it "brah", from the closed-captioning on "Hawaii Five-0".) Second, I think another 1/3 of my posts should be something related to education, for the simple reason that mostly other educators are following me because of this blog. This could be random mathematical observations, or it could be me taking part in some "edchat", one tweet at a time. Finally, I let people know that I'm a real person. I read other people's tweets, and I respond. I follow geeky things dealing with sci-fi and comics, and I'll respond. You're getting to know me a little more. Is that noise taking away from the signal? I'd rather hope that it was fine-tuning the signal so you had a better overall picture.

This brings me to my final point for today: your tweets! Now, I'm not talking to all of you because, frankly, I don't follow all of you. I can't. I don't know how people follow 1,000 accounts. I can't keep track of 50, and some of them I should drop for various reasons. The silliest is because they tweet so rarely that they're lost in the shuffle. More reasonable (for dropping) is the person that tweets 30 times per hour, every hour. If you're always my entire screen, you're an attention hog. I lost a couple of people for this. Once in a while, fine. Sometimes you have a lot to say or share, okay. But it can't be constant.

However, there are other people who have their own signal-to-noise problems. Worse, for some of them, their noise is their only signal. Self-promotion is fine, it may be the reason I'm following you. But have something different to promote. If I get 20 tweets in a day (or even a week) promoting the same thing, you're overselling it. Especially if you have nothing else to talk about. And let your guard down once in a while and just talk about your day, or your family, or your dog, or the last movie you saw. (If you're going to talk about the great meal you had, skip the pictures.) I'm ready to drop people of this, too. I'm ready to start tracking other people's tweet and closely as I'll track my own.

It's social media. Be social about it. Have fun! You'll be more interesting to read and follow. And then I'll be more likely to visit your site or (and you know who you are) buy what your selling.

By the way, I'm still not selling anything. I'm doing all this because I enjoy it. Some days more than others.

1 comment:

(x, why?) said...

Your comment was Noise.

Go away, and take your spam with you.