Twitter Parties

Lately I have noticed the proliferation of "twitter parties" on my favorite communication service, Twitter.

Here is how, the first result on Google when I searched for "twitter party", defines it:

A twitter party is a fast and fun virtual party, using the twitter platform. Usually held in the evening, twitter parties typically last 1-2 hours and are a wonderful way for people to connect and discuss a topic of choice. Most twitter parties have an expert panelist and party host to keep the party on topic.

And how it works:

Twitter users tweet with a specified Hashtag (#) for the party. The party host will announce the hashtag prior to the event. If you look at the twitter party calendar, parties are listed by the hashtag (#). Users use their tweet chat client to search for the hashtag and join in the conversation.

Basically, a twitter party acts as a private chatroom. Participants are focusing in on a single hashtag via search, so for the duration of that party, they only see tweets related to that topic.

I don't like twitter parties. Sure, twitter is a great way to communicate with people, but while people you follow are participating in a twitter party, you have to see their dozens of tweets about it, which are usually not following a context apparent to those outside the party.

The people I follow (or rather, followed) who regularly participate in these have often retorted to me that I should switch to a client that supports muting a hashtag. Yeah, great idea. Tell me, do any of Twitter's official branded clients support that feature? No. (TweetDeck doesn't count. Yes, it is owned by Twitter now, but it is not, as of this writing, branded by Twitter itself). When Twitter rolls this out as an official feature of the service, then this argument can be made. Until then, don't assume every client supports it.

I consider twitter parties to be spam. Their participants rarely pay their followers the convenience of announcing, "Hey, I'm going to be flooding your stream soon, you may want to unfollow for a couple hours". Instead, my time and yours is wasted by having to scroll through party-related tweets, trying to discern whether or not each one is nonsense or not.

The only real solution at that point is to sever ties with the unfollow button. Which blows, because then you do miss out on the good stuff from that person at other times — you know, the kind of stuff that made you click the follow button in the first place.

A Better Solution

Twitter is a great platform to communicate. But I don't think it is the best vehicle for large scale private chatrooms. You know what is? An actual chatroom. It is private to only those that wish to participate, doesn't disturb the rest of the community that you've established, and you can probably get a transcript for further reference.

Heck, even AIM supports chatrooms. And I know you can export a transcript for that.

Wouldn't it be easier for an organizer of a twitter party to announce a site or the name of a chatroom within AIM to host these events? That way, only interested participants are talking amongst each other, and not polluting the streams of all their followers?

Surely using a service that was designed for being a chatroom is much better suited than a service that was meant for casual conversation between two or few people at a time. Seriously, you can only tag so many people in a mention before you don't have room to say anything.

Devil's Advocate

It would be unfair if I didn't point out one criticism that twitter partiers have made against me when I have made my criticism of their parties. I often go a little on the excess with tweets when there is an Apple event.

You see, though, I often do several things leading up to Apple events:

  • I send several tweets at different times of the day prior to the event saying I will be tweeting a lot about the event.
  • I welcome people to unfollow for a day if they don't want to read my tweets about Apple's new stuff.
  • I use a single hashtag for the event, so, in case someone's client does support muting, they can do that. I don't tell people to switch clients to accommodate me.

Also, it's worth noting that I end up having these tweet splurges about once every four or five months. Not weekly. And, if you're following me, it's likely because you want my thoughts on Apple and technology, or you know me personally, which, if you do, you know that's pretty much my thing.

All of this is to say that Twitter is not the best medium for a massive private chatroom. A private chatroom, however, is. Let's not unintentionally waste our friends' time.