Thinning the herd
One of the better analogies I've ever heard for Twitter is that it's like a really crowded party: there are lots of conversations going on at any one time, and just like at a party one can casually listen in on a number of them simultaneously and choose to engage those that are most interesting. I've been trying to execute that metaphor for the last year or so, gradually following more and more people and accepting that there will be important stuff that I miss as a result. The upside is that I get exposed to more interesting stuff than I might otherwise find. But upon reflection, most of the "interesting stuff" I've been seeing on Twitter is largely ephemera: small time wasters that entertain me for a minute or two, and then fade away forever.
Since my first tweet in late 2007, I have made a pretty conscious choice to limit the number of people I follow on Twitter. I only have so much capacity each day to read what's happening in the world, and the more people I follow the less I can consume from any of them. I regularly stop following people who get really tedious or simply tweet so much as to dominate my feed. And I've resolved for 2012 to further reduce the number of people I follow.
I've decided to retire from the "crowded party" and instead focus on the people about which I really care, or at least those people who have things to say that affect my life. I already have plenty of ephemera in my life (anyone reading Boing Boing has enough ephemera to keep them busy all week long!), so I don't really need to be exposed to more.
Whereas Owen has decided to abandon Twitter, I've purged many from the list of people I follow on Twitter down this morning, and will likely reduce it even further in the days ahead. For the time being, I've elected to keep following a few "noisy" people (Cory Doctorow and William Gibson being the most prolific) because I do get some interesting news of the world from these folks.
This may well reduce the overall utility of Twitter, but I hope that it will improve my sense of connectedness to the people about which I care.