I’ve been using Twitter for a while now, and in that short amount of time, I’ve heard a lot about how other people are using it, too. Twitter started out as something special, but if we’re not careful, it’s going to become another part of the dregs of the Internet — a haven for spammers and friendwhores.

The allure of the site for me was the microblogging aspect. Random things pop into my head throughout the day, and some of them are serviceable enough to share. This wasn’t a problem in my old job, because I worked in the same room with a bunch of like-minded peers who often agreed with me and had more input in the same oeuvre. Now, however, I have an office, and can’t shout random observations about whatever pops into my head to my coworkers. They’re for the most part older than me, and not as interested in video games, comic books, programming, and old 80’s pop culture as I am. By microblogging on Twitter, I was potentially able to share these thoughts with like-minded individuals.

But, as with most other things on the web, people are seeing this new platform for sharing as a chance for self-promotion. This comes in two flavors, both bitter: those who want to make money off of it, and those who want to increase their status on it. Both of these reasons are wrong and worsen the site.

Those who try to make money off of it usually do it wrong. My follower count hovers around 50, going up and down by two or three accounts every day, as spammers find me, follow me and 1,000 other people, then get reported and banned. The spammers are easy to spot: every single tweet is a link, and they usually mention a) making money or b) sex, apparently the only two revenue-generating topics on the whole wide web. There are a few commercial accounts who get it right. One I’m particularly fond of is Amazon’s MP3 store (@amazonmp3), which posts a daily discounted album every single day. The key difference between this use of Twitter and the spammers is that they are offering something of value to me: cheap downloads of music. The spammers, on the other hand, are only trying to make money for themselves. They want to take, take, take without giving back, and they’re tearing Twitter apart.

The other kind are the friend whores, the people who do anything to get others to follow them. I’m sure one or two of the daily fluctuations in my Twitter followers come from people who follow me only because they expect to be followed back. This isn’t the way the site is supposed to work, fellas. You follow me because you think I have something interesting to say. I follow you back if I believe the same thing. This isn’t some sort of commodities market, where we trade shares in each others’ tweets. The point of twitter isn’t to gather as many followers as possible. I have to admit that in my early days, I was guilty of exacerbating things. I would reciprocate follows. This led to trouble when I logged on and realized that I really didn’t care about so-and-so’s self-promotion or auto-generated messages about tools they were using. I would ignore their posts, and at the same time miss the point — your Twitter feed is for hearing things from people you find interesting. Your signal-to-noise ratio should be infinite, because you should follow only those people who interest you to begin with, and you shouldn’t find any noise cluttering your feed.

I’m sure Twitter is doing something to combat the spammers, but I’m not so sure about the others. Twitter has lots of neat applications, but the company can’t really help it if their site is overrun by the self-promoters. The best technology in the wrong hands (and I don’t mean evil or even malicious hands) can become worthless. I’ll continue to use Twitter the way I think it should be used, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find like-minded individuals. The thing with the web is that if one site doesn’t do what you want, there’s usually another out there gunning for it. The question is this: will Twitter realize this before it’s washed out by its own users?

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