Rules of the Playground

One Step At A Time

Joanna Young over at Confident Writing wrote a post recently on why it’s worth sticking with Twitter which generated a huge amount of conversation.  One of the comments left was from Joely Black who writes:

The thing I like most about Twitter, that makes it so different from other online communication media, is the code of behaviour. In a sense it’s really old fashioned, but the demand that you show up authentically, that you don’t auto-DM people, that you don’t spam people, that all the conversations are public so you avoid the horrible stalky followers so easily.

Joely’s comment really chimed with me as it felt absolutely valid.  Twitter does function according to a set of codes which are regulated by the community.  It is, perhaps, the last bastion of old-fashioned manners.  Please and thank yous abound.  Attribution is closely observed.  Common courtesy (which is rapidly becoming less and less common!) is demanded from tweeters by tweeters.

Auto-DMs (Direct Messages) are an excellent example.  For a while, they were, if not actively encouraged, silently condoned and tolerated.  As numbers have increased within the Twitter community, it has become less and less acceptable to set your Twitter account to send a pre-written DM to all those that chose to follow you.  As this pattern of behaviour became increasingly condemned as lacking authenticity, respect and consideration, those continuing the practice were called out and unfollowed.

This, of course, is also the case for any other practice that is considered undesirable by the community.  Some of the outcomes of this are: a very vocal aversion to spam,  derision of soap-boxing  and a celebration of authentic connection.

To get on in the twittersphere you need to follow the rules of the playground.  They’re very simple: be polite, be considerate, and above all, maintain respect for other tweeters’ time, space and sensibilities.  In other words – PLAY NICE!

20 responses to “Rules of the Playground

  1. What a surprise! I came here via Twitter because you’d said you were launching your new blog and here you are quoting me.

    You’re absolutely right about the way we manage the social atmosphere. We have an agreed set of rules for behaving and every time we encounter a new event (such as the new Tweetup service) the group has to decide whether it’s to be considered acceptable.

    It’s lots of fun, and I think that’s why I love it so much.

  2. Ah, how this resonates for me. I have two twitter accounts, one of which I scarcely use as I have become completely fed up with the ‘look at me and, whilst you do so, let me sell you something’ brigade. The other (@groovy_granny) has drawn me into a new community of authentic communicators (I guess the other lot are too, but I’m not over fond of that variety of authenticity). Love the new blog, Amy. 🙂
    Jan x

  3. Amy, this is, of course, why I love Twitter too.

    My only caveat would be this.. Twitter is enormous, and everyone can find their own space. If people want to be promotional, and drop their pleases and thank yous, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t.

    I don’t think we should get too hung up on rules (and why should some twitter users have the right to dictate what they are over others)

    The whole point is that we all get to chose who we follow, as others have the freedom to follow or unfollow us, based on our behaviour

    I find that hugely freeing, and exciting

  4. mmm…Given that I could just have dropped the annoying followers on my other account I am interested that I found it necessary to open a new one. It absolutely felt like the right thing to do. Defies logic sometimes, this living your values stuff! 🙂

  5. Interesting that I should read this on the same morning that I finally get around to signing up to Twitter.

    I’ll be sure to take the ‘rules’ into consideration, but do also agree with Joanna. (who, by the way, directed me here)

    Thanks for another great post, looks like I shall be adding you to my feed list.

  6. Joely – I have to say a big thank you to you, as that comment on Joanna’s post really sparked off something for me. Was v. insightful!

    Jan – I absolutely think that there is a way to combine the 2, but that you have to take the right approach to doing so. Building those strong authentic connections is crucial to that approach!

    Joanna – Absolutely – I think in many ways we’re still only scratching the surface of what can be achieved with social media networks, which is partly why I find it all so exciting! I’m not convinced thought that its a case of the few dictating to the many. I think I’m more of the views that there is a general ethos on Twitter in particular that values genuine respectful communication.

    Jan – I believe that when we live according to our values, we live a life of fulfillment 🙂

    Matt – Yes, I was in two minds about terming what I was talking about as ‘rules’. Perhaps ‘code’ or ‘ethos’ would have said it better.

  7. I don’t know, Amy. I think rules was a pertinent term to use.

    I’m reminded of house rules: “If you’re in my house, you abide by my rules.” Which is nicely reflected with the opinion of “If you want to be in my Twittersphere, you’ll abide by my rules.”

    They’re not laws in the sense of if you break them you’ll get arrested, or on the net get banned for breaking rules set by the site owners. But they are nevertheless things you have to follow to do what you want to.

    I believe that is an integral part of the whole social networking scene… It gives others a look into your personal life (just like allowing someone in your home does). The rules you stated, I think, would fit into a similar set of… Maybe ‘etiquette’ is more pertinent term? For example: Not rummaging through food cupboards at someone else’s house.

    A generally accepted rule that is probably in place in most (all?) houses. The Twitter rules you stated are much akin to that, I believe.

  8. When I first started on Twitter in mid-2007, it felt as if everyone was either a tech head or a sales person. Mostly the latter. I felt initially that I was the only person using Twitter who wasn’t trying to sell something. That didn’t make me feel particularly confortable. And I was absolutely certain that if Twitter continued to appeal only to those two groups, its market would be far too limited for it survive, and a fantastic opportunity would be lost.

    I’m happy that Twitter has now reached the stage where it’s getting used for its intended purpose. But before using it, I firmly believe everyone should stop and look at *that* question on the Twitter web page, right above the box where you type. That’s what Twitter is about.

    And I’m now absolutely certain that, in the wake of events I’ve recently attended (#twotw, #edtwestival and #edtweetup), there are *very* exciting times ahead for social networking, for meeting new people *in real life* who aren’t remotely interested in you as a potential customer. These people in my experience have always played by the rules you’ve outlined above. And we’re able to meet people we’d never have met without Twitter.

    And – hey! – we can even have fun.

  9. It’s quite strange – feeling a sense of close affinity with people you hardly know on Twitterverse. Some of them of course are online buddies, fellow blog authors, fellow travelers in the digital wilderness. Perhaps there’s the magic in Twitter – it’s so ephemeral we have to make a decent effort to make it a fulfilling experience for us all. Or maybe it is not so. Maybe we’re making significant and enduring human connections after all to a broad spectrum of like-minded individuals. Gosh, I so love Twitter I’m prepared to be on best behavior 24/7. 🙂

  10. I’m quite new to Twitter. I signed up a couple of months ago, but I didn’t start using my account until the other week. I’m still finding my legs, and at times I’m shy of replying to people I don’t ‘know’… but I’m outgrowing that, because there is this general feeling of sharing experience and thoughts, and as you pointed out, there is a sort of etiquette ruling and smoothing the whole process.
    Usually, I’m not much of a social network person, but after neglecting Twitter for a few days and coming back today, I found that I had actually missed it. Now, me being me, this is definitely funny, and it may very well be that I _will_ stick to the thing.

  11. Amy, you put it so nicely and with a simplicity which is hard to refuse – I’d find it a challenge to flaunt the houserules.

    Baxter has it in a nutshell about meeting in real life those from Twittershpere – it’s not about selling, it’s about getting to know the people and I truly believe that’s how any networking and real business gets done anyway.

    Keep it coming, we love it x

  12. Matt – I think etiquette is a great word! There would be no serious repercussions for not following the established etiquette – you may just not get on as well as you might otherwise.

    Baxter – I too am extremely excited and enthusiastic about the future of social media. I genuinely believe that we’ve not fully comprehended the magnitude of recent digital developments. We live in curious times indeed!

    Jan – I think Twitter is making it easier to connect with like-minded individuals across the globe in a way that was simply not possible before. The simplicity of the form is what lends it its accessibility, don’t you think?

    Ivey – For some, Twitter can seem quite intimidating, but really it couldn’t be further from the truth. The majority of people are friendly, welcoming and genuinely interested in connecting. It’s a great network to be a part of!

    Jackie – Absolutely! It’s all about creating those strong connections, isn’t it?

  13. Amy,

    I love the new blog!

    This is an excellent post and one I felt I really wanted to respond to. So perhaps it is the openness of Twitter, it’s vastness. We never can know whom all reads our tweets and so that might put us in a position to be on our best behavior. Certainly Twitter functions like this massive conversation, a very public one at that. So I can see the unknowable aspects being enough to provoke us to play nice.

    So in the end maybe it is not about rules, but that we care about how we project ourselves in this medium. And personally, I cannot find a thing wrong with that and why I find myself drawn to it everyday!

    Thanks so much for this insightful post!


  14. Dear Amy,

    I love this post. Twitter is very interesting to me and I have wanted to write about it, but have not had the clarity to do so. Your insight has helped me better understand my appreciation for twitterland.

    It’s sort of “small-town” in a way. We are not anonymous, and it kind of levels the playing field. Everyone has a chance to speak, and it’s amazing how revealing our posts are, of our own ways of thinking and living.

    The straight forward and rapid nature of it seems to help eliminate so much garbage, and helps us meet at a higher level.

    Even though you are across the world from where I am. I feel goodness, and kindness from you in a very real way. I love knowing that great people are all over and I can actually “meet,” interact, and get to know them so easily. Awesome.

    Great fun!



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  16. Michelle – I think you touch on a really important point there. We really don’t know who is reading our updates, and we should always keep that in the back of our mind before hitting that button to send. In the last couple of days there was a story circulating about someone who tweeted themselves out of a job after being discourteous about his new employer. It really is just common sense to play nice!

    Turiya – Your comment reminded me of an excellent post of Laura Fitton’s which you can find here: It’s called Twitter is My Village. Think it’ll really resonate with you!

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  18. Auto DM? First time I hear about it. Now I wonder if I have it turned on or off?

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