Cool article on Twitterverse

April 17, 2009

In 2003, author Mitch Albom brought us The Five People You Meet In Heaven—a touching tale about the death and after-life experience of a maintenance man named Eddie. Albom’s book is full of warm sentiments and life lessons about the people who play meaningful roles in our lives ... or so I hear. I haven’t read it; I just liked the title as a jumping off point for this article. You won’t find many warm sentiments here, but you will find profiles of a few archetypes that populate the Twitterverse.

(Note: If one or more of these profiles describes you, that’s OK. No approach to tweeting is inherently better than another. Keep doing your thing.)

Sleepers & Eaters
Most of us eat and sleep every day. In fact, I’ve made a personal commitment to sleep at least once and eat at least three times every day. Sleepers and Eaters distinguish themselves by announcing these activities as they happen. For instance, the typical Sleeper will tweet that he or she is tired and heading to bed, and then bid all their tweeps a good night. Six to 10 hours later, the Sleeper will tweet that he or she is up and ready to take on the day (possibly mentioning a cup of coffee in the process).


Speaking of coffee, Eaters offer us live coverage of their daily food and beverage consumption. It could be a Starbucks drink, a pulled pork sandwich, a microbrew, or a frozen custard; it doesn’t matter—the Eater will name-drop the item and where he or she got it, then provide an evidentiary TwitPic and/or a “yummy!” punctuator. Upon seeing a particularly yummy TwitPic, the rest of us look down at our ham sandwiches and grumble.

Sample tweets: “Fajitas from On The Border! Yummy! [TwitPic]” and “Great day. I’m exhausted. ‘Night tweeps!”

Instant Messengers
Known for their frequent back-and-forth conversations with other individual Twitter users, Instant Messengers often appear as though they mistake their Twitter client (e.g., TweetDeck, etc.) for their IM client (e.g., AIM, Yahoo! Messenger, etc.). But appearances can be deceiving. In reality, Instant Messengers simply don’t mind a public exchange (or “tea party” as they’re known around the schoolyard) about plans to get together for coffee or the finer points of Christian orthodoxy. Of course, not everyone who uses Twitter’s @reply feature is an Instant Messenger, so how can you know if you fit the bill or not? Simply consider your Twitter patterns. If after two or three @replies between yourself and another user you feel compelled to direct message, IM, email, or call them instead of continuing the convo on Twitter, you’re not an Instant Messenger. For everyone else, add the Instant Messenger merit badge to your scout sash.

Sample tweet: “@[friend] LOL! Where u wanna meetup tomorrow?”

Broadcasters are the kinds of Twitterers who like to keep their followers informed. If they hear a bit of breaking news, they quickly tweet a link to it (Broadcasters recently helped to spread the news of Sully’s Hudson River landing minutes after it happened). They report. We decide.

Broadcasters also perform an editorial/programming service by reading online blogs and articles all day and linking to the best of what they come across. Most of us could probably get by with ditching our RSS feeds and relying on Broadcasters to supply us with links to good content, but I personally fear the eventual consequences of that kind of Twitter news & content aristocracy. Let’s move on.

Sample tweet: “Breaking news: A plane just crashed in the Hudson—[shortened link to news story].”

Mystery Linkers
It’s easy to identify a Mystery Linker—they link to mysterious stuff using vague language and a shortened URL. Because of the proliferation of shortened URLs in the Twitterverse (courtesy of tinyURL,, and others), people have no idea where a given link will take them unless the Twitterer in question gives them some indication. Mystery Linkers are notorious for withholding that indication so that their links remain a mystery. Does the link lead to CNN? YouTube? A PDF? Or, heaven forbid, MySpace? You won’t know unless you click.

Sample tweet: “Wow. I’m speechless—[shortened link to who knows what].”

Proud Mamas and Papas
Yes, of course, all of us with kids are proud mamas or papas. But that doesn’t mean we quote, describe, and TwitPic our little ones a dozen times a day ... not that there’s anything wrong with that. The only problem is that as a parent you’re designed to think your rugrat is the cutest/funniest/smartest kid ever, while all the other parents who follow your tweets are programmed to think the exact same thing about their rugrats. Ergo, no one else is as impressed, amused, or touched by the tweets of a Proud Mama or Proud Papa as they are. Again, no harm done—just know that the rest of us are likely to skim past updates on your little tyke’s latest shenanigan.

Sample tweet: “Brody just asked if Jesus could beat up the Easter Bunny! So cute!”

Indecisive Instant Pollers
This Twitterer profile is a fun group. They aren’t sure where to eat on a Friday night so they poll the Twitterverse. They don’t know which movie they should rent so they poll the Twitterverse. (Disclosure: During the writing of this article, I appealed to the Twitterverse for recommendations on iPhone games.) On one level, this technique is fun because it is useful for the poller and invites feedback and conversation from their tweeps. One another level, Indecisive Instant Pollers can develop a lazy reliance on the Twitterverse to provide them with information they probably should’ve researched on their own or could attain by performing a simple Google search instead of composing a tweet. When the Twitterverse becomes a crutch, it’s time to look at yourselves in the mirror, you Indecisive Instant Pollers.

Sample tweet: “I’m hungry. Where’s a good Korean BBQ place in downtown Chicago?”

Please Retweeters
You know those emails that implore you to forward them on to your whole address book lest your friends and family be stricken with bad luck, communism, or mad cow disease? Please Retweeters aren’t that bad, but they do implore you to forward their tweets to all your followers. The problem with this tactic, indicated by the “(Please RT)” tag at the end of a tweet, is that it usually follows an update that isn’t all that worthy of a retweet. In other words, tweets that are worthy of retweeting tend to get retweeted with or without the “(Please RT)” exhortation. If you aren’t sure if the content of your tweet is RT-worthy, that’s OK. Unleash it on the world and see what happens. If you feel compelled to solicit retweets from your friends, whatever you do, don’t threaten them with mad cow disease if they decline.

Sample tweet: “Free donuts tomorrow AM at New People Church!!! (Please Retweet!)”

Thanks for studying these common species of Twitterers with me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to ask the Twitterverse where I can find a yummy lunch and then I’ll probably try to take a nap. If you’ve enjoyed this little article, please tweet and retweet it or someone you love will get a mild papercut.

Scott McClellan is the Editor of COLLIDE. Let him know which group you belong to and what other Twitter species you've observed on the COLLIDE blog

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