Twitter and the Radio Amateur

I received notice a few weeks ago that it was the fifth anniversary of my @ke9v Twitter account. We’ve come a long way since 2010. In those early days I wasn’t certain that Twitter had any particular value for radio amateurs, and I’m still not fully convinced (more on that later). But I have reached a level of interaction with the service where Twitter has found a niche in my daily routine.

I think it’s become even more interesting over the last year or so as the company has made various analytical tools and data available to users.

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After five years and 17,000 tweets, I just crossed the 2,500 follower mark. If that sounds like a lot, it’s not. Not all of them will be watching the screen at the moment I “tweet” something and few will travel back in time to see what they might have missed from me. I normally get two or three hundred ‘views’ on a single tweet — about ten percent of my total followers.

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Occasionally something of interest gets retweeted by several others and that tweet might get 800-1000 views. Earlier this year I had one tweet that got a lot more attention — nearly 10,000 impressions — but that’s not yet been repeated.

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I wouldn’t have known any of this before Twitter began making that sort of data available.

For celebrities and politicians (is there a difference?) Twitter has been a great way to allow dedicated worshippers to hang on to every word and photo shared. For the rest of us, Twitter is something completely different. It’s a good source of breaking news. I remember a few years ago when there was a rare earthquake felt here in the Heartland. Within twenty seconds Twitter lit up with thousands of tweets asking “did you feel that?” followed by reports from all around the area. 45 minutes later, the earthquake was reported on the local television news channel.

As an amateur radio enthusiast, I use Twitter to stay in contact with others, share photos, interesting links, and other shards of ephemera. Live photos and commentary from Hamvention and similar events seem well received. But mostly, it’s just another way the Internet holds us all together.

Just a couple of mornings ago I was sitting in a local coffee shop when my phone buzzed. It was a radio ham in Great Britain wishing me a ‘Happy New Year’. We’ve never met, in person or on the air. We bumped into each other on Twitter and frequently share our experiences in life and the hobby via this medium. How cool is that? Instant communication between like-minded souls on disparate continents. It’s incredible.

Nothing is frictionless and Twitter is no exception. Things that frustrate me are accounts that are locked down. How am I to decide whether or not to follow you back if I can’t take a look at some of your recent tweets? There are those who follow, unfollow, and repeat. I’ve gone to blocking those. Everyone has an opinion on politics and religion and a little of that goes a long way. When it becomes a steady tirade or sermon, I unfollow.

I don’t want to buy more followers or your book on “succeeding” with social media. Spam still sucks, even on Twitter.

The entire model for non-celebrities seems built on reciprocity. I follow you and you follow me. But if I follow you and you don’t follow me back, then I unfollow you. It’s narcissistic sure, but that seems the way it works. Most users take advantage of some tool that lets them know if someone unfollows them — so they can reciprocate. I use those same tools to discover inactive followers. If you haven’t tweeted for three months or more, I usually unfollow. It’s nothing personal and there’s no real reason to do that except I like my follow/follower numbers to reflect reality where possible.

I make use of lists to filter the tweet stream. That permits me to focus on what I consider to be higher value tweets. It’s one way to improve the signal to noise. Another is to make liberal use of the mute function.

After five years, I don’t think it can be said that Twitter is invaluable for the radio amateur, but hardly a day goes by that I don’t engage with it.

Perhaps that’s the best endorsement that can be made for including it in your own ham radio adventure?

Author: Jeff Davis