Things I Hate about Twitter

June 23, 2015

I am not going to cover trolling, pointless celebs, racism, misogyny or the whole world of Twitter idiots. If I was fool enough to follow any of the people falling into those categories, I would have no right to complain (though I appreciate that some perfectly sensible people get these forced upon them). My gripes are focused on the switched-on legal fraternity that the SCL feed @computersandlaw follows. You would think that they would be paragons of social media virtue, but I am afraid it is not always so. I find the combination of personal and work-focused tweets perfectly acceptable, even revealing, and it is in the Twitter DNA. But there are some tweeting sins that are avoidable and deserve no absolution.

{b}Gripe 1: Conference pictures! {/b}

‘Look at this panel of people I am looking at – one of them is even talking’. Or ‘look, there is a room full of people and beyond them an illegible Powerpoint screen behind a man with a beer belly’ (all the more fun when you can only see the backs of heads of the attendees and a blinding light is reflected from the bald ones). Or ‘look, here is a group of people looking hopefully at a panel of speakers of whom I am one’. Or, a special favourite of mine, ‘look, here is a room in which in half an hour there will be a panel of speakers/group of people of which I will be one’. We could make these picture useful by playing ‘Where’s Wally’ but we can be pretty sure he’s taking the picture.

Let’s just make this clear. I am not against tweeting pictures (dogs, holidays etc) but looking at conference pictures is a waste of my time. The only people who might want to see the picture are the people in it and, #distraction, any minute now they will stop listening to the speaker and get out their phones and look. And then take a picture of you. Eventually, everybody will take a picture of everybody else and nobody will have the foggiest idea of what anyone said because they are too busy taking pictures of each other and posting them on Twitter.

Perhaps you took the picture and posted it on Twitter to prove you are there and not lounging with your lover in some sleazy hotel. If you had been with the lover, I have a horrible feeling that you’d tweet a picture of the bedroom!

{b}Gripe 2: ICYMI{/b}

ICYDK – sorry in case you don’t know, it stands for ‘in case you missed it’.

I get that you have written something on your blog that is useful and important. I also fully understand that tweets can be missed. But tweeting twice seems plenty, and tweeting to the same source four times or more is just annoying.
It is bad enough if it is a declared ICYMI but if you give your original tweet a face-lift it is far worse because I will go and look again. Time wasted is time halved (or something like that).

The really annoying triple tweets that get this high onto the list of gripes are the ones where sufficient time has passed for me to have no recollection of having seen that source material before. I have been known to get excited about a new development that I covered on the SCL web site weeks before. Some of us have goldfish-like memories. Take pity.

{b}Gripe 3: The amazing article – best thing you’ll read today{/b}

No. I don’t mean this blog post, although …

There is a tendency – perhaps the excitement of discovery was too much – to tweet a link with an enigmatic, click-bait influenced tag that says nothing about the content bar how wonderful it is. Disappointment invariably follows. It may indeed be the best thing ever written on the sex life of the dung beetle but, while I may share your interest in IT law, I don’t share all your interests. So it would be nice to have some indicator of what the amazing material you have linked to is actually about. Otherwise, you might just possibly be wasting my precious time. So do think twice, it’s not all right.

{b}Gripe 4: Tweeting the bleeding obvious{/b}

If your followers didn’t notice that the Conservative Party won the election then they are probably not interested or on Mars. Some people felt bound to tweet the fact – perhaps they have followers on another planet – but I {i}really{/i} don’t need reminding.

As a general rule, if it has made the news, anyone interested probably knows already. Please don’t tweet the obvious, especially days after whatever it was happened.

I appreciate that sometimes in these dark days one might tweet the result of a seemingly obscure IT-related court judgment, only to find that the BBC leads with the story 10 minutes later. That’s forgivable because I’ve done it. (One should celebrate the fact that one’s area of interest has now garnered so much attention but, frankly, I find this annoying.)

{b}Gripe 5: The unacknowledged paywall {/b}

You tweet a link to an ‘amazing piece of analysis’. You identify the subject covered (it’s bang on my topic de jour). Off I go – only to discover that I can read only four lines unless I pay Mr Murdoch. I cannot bring myself to do that.

Hey, I wasn’t that interested anyway.

{b}Gripe 6: Compliment tweeting{/b}

Somebody has said something nice about your blog post, talk, work or picture and you are pleased. Is it polite to brag about it by retweeting?

Of course, @computersandlaw does this but that’s different.

Because we have a serious educational mission, and because I say so.

{b}Gripe 7: Too quick{/b}

As you may imagine, SCL had a string of hard-nosed reporters with their ear to the ground. If it was newsworthy in IT law, they were dictating copy to our newsdesk within minutes of the event. But I am afraid that even the very scoopiest of them spent the last few years being scooped by Twitter every day. We haven’t been first with the news in ages.

Seriously, nothing beats Twitter for speed. The nearest I can now get to a scoop is to publish an embargoed press release at a minute past midnight. And, as I am sure you realise, press releases rarely contain any news and, when they do, someone leaks the content before the embargo.

Such speed may seem like a good thing, but it’s not – it’s annoying.

{b}Gripe 8: Interesting stuff{/b}

This is the greatest sin of all. I have a busy working life, a very full family life, a social life (of sorts) and a demanding garden. There is no room in my life to read interesting things, expand my knowledge and be informed. Enough interruptions to my working day arise from my obsession with checking cricket scores; I don’t need more. Please stop tweeting interesting stuff.

{b}The wonders of Twitter{/b}

I was going to explain why, despite all the gripes, I think Twitter is a wonderful research tool for lawyers and, with careful choices of sources to follow, how it can be the best current awareness tool ever. But I have a sudden urge to know more about dung beetles and haven’t got time.