I got a bit annoyed with Twitter this weekend. I’m following about 400 people, even after I culled a lot of them, and I want to keep following all these people, but I’m getting a LOT of tweets I don’t care about. The problem is that I follow many people because I know them, and for some mysterious reason I make friends with a lot of people who are involved in politics and policy-making, and they tweet a lot. A LOT. My own interest in politics is at the same level as my interest in public transportation or nutrition: I don’t hate it, I appreciate that it exists and is important, I’m even happy to talk about it once in a while, but I don’t need to see tweets about it all the time. I suppose the same applies to many people who follow me because they know me, but don’t care about any of my science-themed tweets. It’s a side effect of Twitter having become both a professional and a personal communication tool.
I know I can solve this particular problem by using certain programmes and apps, and I don’t need to get advice on that. (In other words, if you respond to this by recommending TWeetdeck or lists or something, I know you didn’t read past the first paragraph.) This is not a rant about Twitter in general, it was just an example about a more general mix-up I’ve experienced, where interests get muddled.
I’ve also experienced it when blogging. When I choose to write a blog post about something, I do find the topic interesting, but often only in small amounts, or from one particular angle. What I like best about it, is the writing itself. I wrote it because I wanted to write about that topic, not because I love that topic. When I write about X, Y, and Z, the message I want you to get from that is “Eva likes writing”, not “Eva likes X, Y, and Z so much, let’s talk to her about those things all the time!”
The things that interest me continuously are much harder to write about. Part of the reason is professional: I can’t really write about everything. But I don’t even have the urge to write about it much. I don’t spot it as blogging material, because it’s always there. The things I do spot are especially those things that are not continuously on my radar.
That may also be one of the reason that, as many people have experienced, it’s harder for working scientists to write general audience pieces about their own field of research than about a more distant topic. Aside from the issue of language, you simply can’t spot what’s interesting anymore, because you’re constantly surrounded by it.
Now I’m wondering what urged me to write this post. (Meta klaxon!) It’s certainly not a deep-rooted permanent interest in the psychology of blogging and Tweeting. Once again, it was something I noticed. In particular, it was the programme for SpotOn London.
SpotOn London has three concurrent tracks: communication, tools, and policy. Even though I’m speaking in the communication track, most of the talks I’ve circled in the programme are tools talks. I rarely write or tweet about tools for science communication and publishing, but – or sould I say “because” – it does really interest me. I’m even going to bring my non-coding self (not to be confused with non-coding DNA, although technically that’s part of me, too) to the hackday the day before the conference. I’m also really looking forward to the “The Journal is Dead, Long Live The Journal” session, about the future of publishing, even though I never blog about publishing…
I can get frustrated when people don’t seem to get what I do and don’t care about, but I realize I’m projecting a particular image via blog posts and that image doesn’t always reflect what I love. I also signal “interest” when I follow someone on Twitter, but that can be amicable interest (following a friend) rather than a sign of approval of all their tweets. Maybe I need to figure out how to make it clear what *I* like, and not worry so much of what everyone else thinks I like…