The problem with Twitter is information overflow. The reason for this overflow can be summarized with one simple sentence.
What are you doing right now?
That sentence opens up a whole can of worms.
It is totally egoistic. "What are you doing right now?", doesn't say that, what you are writing should, preferably, be interesting to someone else than you.
It doesn't say: You are sharing this with the rest of the world and you should at least think twice before you write "I am eating a donut".
"Right now", is devastating. It encourages you to write something without thinking. If it was to be taken literally, "I am publishing an uninteresting message on Twitter" would be the content of 90 percent of the tweets.
One thing it does not say is "Let's have a public dialog", but that doesn't stop most people from satisfying their IDOL-wannabe-souls from publishing their personal dialogs without thinking twice about spamming everyone else who is following them. Direct messages exists, even within Twitter, if you are not happy with other instant messaging tools or Skype.
So what can be done about Twitter?
Probably nothing since the current behavior is so ingrown in people's minds, it will be impossible to change. But here are a few ideas:
A new better introductory question. Instead of "What's happening?" maybe:
What would you like to share with the world?
Think TED! What's an idea worth spreading? What would you like to share with the world?
It implies that it should be interesting to at least someone else, other than yourself.
It doesn't have to be right now. It is even preferred that it is something that you have been thinking about for a while.
If it is a conversation with someone else, please make it a conversation with someone else, not a public display of your stupidity (or intelligence, if you prefer that)! Use Direct Messages or IM-tools.
If the tweet cannot be said in 140 characters, you have failed. Twitter is a micro blog and if you are not able to say what you want in 140 characters, please write it up in a normal blog and tweet a link it. Sending five consecutive messages on the same topic only shows that you have failed to condense your message down to it's essentials. If it cannot be said in 140 characters, don't tweet it, blog it!
I am aware that not everyone thinks that Twitter sucks and that I am not using it properly. I should not look at old tweets, etc., etc., but I want to use it like this.
I am therefore working on a filter for filtering out all the crap. The filter goes under the obvious name, no-crap, and it currently contains 4 filters:
- A Bayesian filter is like a personal spam filter and allows you to classify certain tweets as crap or not.
- A stop-word filter is a filter, that does not allow tweets with specified words, such as Viagra, to get through.
- A max-per-time filter stops the tweeters that tweet tons of interesting things, but do it at the expense of others. You can, for example, set this filter to max five tweets per day.
- A duplicate-per-time filter stops the re-tweet overflow that can happen if something interesting comes a long. It compares the tweet and does not resend tweets higher than a given similarity.
This is currently a hobby project, so it does not get much attention. I invite anybody to steal my ideas, and to merge them into the current Twitter clients.