Taming the Firehose

I spent the New Year’s weekend at my Dad’s house, which these days is nostalgic in more ways than ever. Dad is a luddite and his house is a technology-free zone—no computer, no Internet access, no online connection beyond the “dumb” phone I brought with me. He does have a television (which I don’t) and a microwave because his culinary skills are limited. It’s a different experience. Lots of football, a little hockey, and no Twitter. If we want a weather forecast, I can’t check the National Weather Service website; we watch the Weather Channel. If our timing is off, it’s ten minutes until the next local report. Where has my patience gone? Ten minutes isn’t that long.

When I got online after three days away, the world had gone on without me. There’s a bunch of e-mail, a new connection accepted on LinkedIn, and I cracked the 500 mark in Twitter followers. Well, it’s not like I expected everyone to stop interacting because I’d spent some time away, but I’m wondering how to keep up.

In August I joined Twitter and started this blog. It was a bigger bite from the social media apple than I’d previously attempted and I quickly discovered why Twitter is often compared to a firehose. In less than four months I went from following zero to 1,000 Twitter accounts and acquired about 400 followers. Over time I’ve modified how I keep track of it all, and I’ve a feeling another tweak is in order.

Here’s how it evolved:

  • At first I just followed everyone on my Home screen. With fewer than 200 accounts to follow, it wasn’t difficult. After participating in two large chat events in the first three weeks I started using lists, but they were to access feed by topic, not to manage the flow.
  • As my Following list grew, it became difficult to keep up and I created an “A List.” (That’s the real name of the list, but it’s private so you can’t see who’s on it.) It’s not quite like a celebrity A List, but a way to easily see the most interesting and informative Twitter accounts I follow. Some good ones aren’t on the list because they tweet too much or too little or because they only tweet on narrow subjects so I follow them on niche lists.
  • Early on I’d tried out HootSuite and liked it, so I’ve never tinkered with other social media managers much. I created streams for my main feed, the A List, and a few chats I regularly participate in. That way I can switch from topic to topic easily, without “turning off” the others. As most recurring chats post rather little between their scheduled events, these hashtags aren’t difficult to follow, but it seems to be getting close to some practical limit.
  • Then I discovered #UsGuys (or, more accurately, they discovered me in another chat) and the firehose was turned on full force. Because the other participants are so interesting and active, I not only followed them but added them to the A List. Mistake! It made the A List unmanageable and created too much duplication. So #UsGuys came off the A List (sorry) and I follow the two feeds, #UsGuys and my A List, side by side in HootSuite. That now accounts for at least 80% of my Twitter activity.
  • In the meantime I added some of my LinkedIn and blog feeds to HootSuite. They are not as complete as my Twitter feeds, but convenient for quickly checking other social media sites.

So that’s where it stands. My social media life is fairly well organized, but not good enough. These three days have reminded me that cyber life goes on and is only going to get more active. I’m looking for new ideas to keep it under control without missing anything important. Any ideas?

2 thoughts on “Taming the Firehose

  1. tim January 4, 2011 / 12:51 pm


    I am another Hootsuite fan. I love both the web and android interfaces. I’ve written about them in the past and have been impressed with their response and interaction with their user community.

    I’ve also gone through similar social media phases. I still don’t have the columns set up the way I keep wanting to but it works fine so far. Most recently I haven’t been managing my main stream very well, but instead just checking out the latest every once in a while.

    Interacting with people is different though. I get notified of mentions and DMs so I try to respond as close to real time as possible. I’ve been missing #BlogChat way too much lately. It’s almost a void in my weekly life when it slips by. As a blogger, I love interacting with ppls going through many of the same struggles and accomplishments.

    I’m thinking this social media thing will keeps us constantly tweaking the way we do things as social media itself keeps changing. Communication and how ppl react keeps changing in and of itself.


    • Karen E. Lund January 4, 2011 / 3:36 pm

      As I’m still very new to Twitter, my style is likely to continue evolving for a while. Technology changes so fast and the “softer” side advances along with it.

      The holidays were great but really messed up my schedule online and offline. Now that 2011 is under way we’re all getting back to our routines, including #BlogChat.


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