Twitter’s three channels make it manageable
If anyone has a predisposition to become the sort of Twitter-induced continuous-partial-attention basket case that Kathy Sierra has warned of on her blog and others, it’d be me. (It’s just the way my brain works — capable of intense focus when I’m locked in on a problem, but also jaw-droppingly prone to spur-of-the-moment digression at other times.) So I’d be advised to take heed, and be mindful of my Twitter usage and habits. As I’ve said before I believe it’s a good tool; this Web Worker Daily post sums up many of the basic virtues.
So how to use it, but avoid falling into the timesucking abyss?
Simple, I think. Twitter can be used in any of three communications channels: web browser, IM program, or SMS on phone. It’s very easy to switch from one mode to another. And for me, the web-browsing mode is pretty much all I’m going to let myself use, except in rare circumstances.
If I use the web-browsing mode, I can treat a Twitter window the same as Marshall Kirkpatrick has described using a Netvibes window as a place to turn to several times a day, to scan key feeds. Keep a lid on that, and Twitter becomes something to look at for a few minutes at a time, between 3-5 times a day.
Exceptions to the rule:
- I’m trying to keep up with the night perambulations of dozens of people (as I was at SXSW). Or otherwise in a situation where I need to keep up with what a bunch of people have to say, where they are, etc.
- I’ve looked to Twitter friends for quick advice on a question. (Switch to IM mode to catch responses.)
Others I’m sure, but for me, keeping IM, email, SMS usage as a planned-for rather than reactive activity is key.