Twitter, You're Fired

Rob Conery | Opinion

Many have noticed that I've shut down my Twitter account. No, I wasn't suspended and no, I'm not having a mid-life crisis meltdown. I finally "got smarts" and did the math: Twitter costs me a lot more than I get from it.

You'll Disagree. That's OK

I had 6989 followers the day I shut Twitter off. Oddly - and somewhat hysterically - this was the second time I'd done this. The first time Twitter said "see ya" and yet never actually deleted my account. It acted as though it never happened - a bit of that Twitter "engineering magic" that seems to be so alive and wonderful at the company.

That's a pretty decent number of followers - and I know a number of people who would pay some damn good money if they could buy that number. The odd thing is this: the only reason I know that number is because I checked it when I deleted my account because I knew I'd be writing this post.

Not that I've never checked it before - I have. But in the same way that you check how many gray hairs you might have or whether there's toilet paper under the sink. I don't take much stock in these things - they're just numbers. It doesn't make me a better person because I have a certain number of followers.

I should also be honest with you and tell you that this didn't "just happen" - my wife went away for a week and I had to watch my daughters (5 and 8) while she was gone. Scott and I decided it would be fun to record this weeks of ours (he's in Disneyland with his kids) and talk about "disconnecting".

My leaving Twitter had everything to do with that week as a single parent. And I recorded all of it - which I'll pop on a forthcoming This Developer's Life.

I'll Spare You The Philosophical Rant

"... but you already know what I'm going to tell you". You've read it before, you know the core reasons that Twitter utterly fails at any relevant and meaningful communication. It used to be that it was great for things like "Hey look - Jon and Phil are at Vesuvius having Lemon Drops again - maybe I'll go join them" - which (at the time) was pretty interesting and fun.

That's kind of changed with Foursquare and Latitude. It doesn't really matter to me much anyway as I live on a rock in the middle of the Pacific

a million miles away so if I want to have Kim-Chee and Lemon Drops with Phil and Jon... well I'll probably not be using Twitter to make that happen.

It doesn't really matter - you haven't read this far anyway and it's likely you think I'm nuts, that I've "imploded", or maybe just an idiot.

There's Some Math To Consider

I'm a big fan of

Tim Ferris's 4 Hour Workweek. When it came out I remember reading it through 3 times over, and buying copies for friends and family. It's important to note: I'm not Mr. Self-help, I don't own a single other "process" book (except for the World of Pooh) - this one however did something that no other book did: it used math.

No arm-waving, no "just think of a thing and you'll have it" whack-black-magic. It clearly pointed out that most of the stuff we do on a daily basis is crap, spun up by our need to feel relevant.

Let go of that "Need to be Relevant" and all of a sudden you're in freefall. Consider: you follow PersonX at Microsoft and they tweet that they've released "EF4 CTP5 Preview X License Plate Fundamental Service Pack" and then a slew of people shit all over it and then 5 times as many freak out and defend it and the comments on ScottGu's blog go nuts and you read the post ... and you find out that it's interesting but you'll wait for CTP6 Preview 11 Full Release before you commit.

Maybe an hour passed, maybe 3. Maybe you've written a post in response (in support or being cranky-pissy). Worse yet maybe you've read this link and thought "WTF Microsoft. I've got to get the hell out of here" ... and then wrote up your very own "Adios .NET" post - motivated by the swell of bleeting, echo-tastic self-flagellating voices rising up through retweets.

Perhaps it's the opposite. Perhaps you read the dissenter's tweets and thought "what a bunch of snobby assholes" - deciding right then and there that their whole focus is just to piss on Microsoft, so whatever technical approaches they suggest, whatever ideas they have (or Open Source projects they run) must be tainted with Technical Asshole Sauce.

Or maybe not - maybe you met your wife through Twitter and you guys spent your honeymoon next to a pool in Kauai, iPhones out, Tweeting about how cool it is that your uncle bought you the trip for a wedding present and how you're going to name your kids after this really cool mountain named Makana ("it's so totally cool - it's Hawaiian for 'gift' even though I totally hate poi").

Hmmm. I spose that was a rant wasn't it :). I promised myself I wouldn't - but it's OK if I let a little one squeek in there isn't it? I wanted to go on a bit here, but Louis Black really nails it (NSFW):

Didn't You Say Something About Math?

OK let's break it down and throw some money at it: if you, like me, work on contracts then you've just lost 2, maybe 3 hours of billable time. Also - consider this aspect: you've finished your work and a couple of hours to kill before you're due home. Do you:*Read Crockford's Awesome Book on Javascript so you can play with Node?

*Go to the gym like you've been meaning to?

*Pick up the guitar that's collecting dust and (damnit!) learn that song that's been in the back of your mind?

*Check 'What's Happening' on Twitter and get sucked in to following links and conversations from people you've never met?Some might respond that they read/play/love/do-awesome - but I have a feeling most will say they hit Twitter or read up on their RSS. If you're one of the latter (or prone to doing it) - consider that this time is supposed to be a "break" for your brain. It's just been thinking non-stop for 2-3 hours and it needs to remember that it's alive.

Shutting it down and turning "creative" literally allows your brain to "cool off". This cool-off doesn't take too long - perhaps 20-30 minutes (the same time it takes you to come down from getting really pissed off) and when it's ready to go again - it will actually go on ahead without you!

Driving to work, riding a bicycle, doing yoga, going for a walk, playing guitar, running the soccer pitch - it's happened to all of us: BAM!. The big idea. The solution! The answer...

This happens when your brain is allowed to rest and to cycle things with the noise turned down. Don't believe me? Have a listen to this:

RadioLab: Dreams. In this episode the RadioLab team goes into dreams and the way the brain will "repair and re-enforce" the connections made during active time. They also talk about how one side of the brain can actually "turn off" while the other is active.

Bringing this back around to my point: if you can actively manage your brain (and its repair cycles) - you will become a sh**-ton more productive.

But productivity, of course, is only half the battle: you also have to produce stuff you get paid for. That's where booting Twitter really comes into play - you focus on things that pay you money - not things that make your ego feel good (like writing cranky/happy posts about EF).

If you're thinking "but what about my career!" - I don't know a single person who has gained... anything from their Twitter account. Open Source and Blogs - yes - Twitter, no. I do know a number of people (including myself) who have almost lost jobs/work/money because of Twitter though...

So here's my equation:

P = 8 - 12T

An inverse relationship where P is productivity (hours), T is Twitter usage (minutes), and 8 is Rob's Twitter Abuse Constant - otherwise known as "hours in the average work day".

Whatever Dude

Could be I'm completely wrong about you - but this is the case with me at least. I like writing posts as I really like the written word. I like surfing, I like playing with my kids and playing my guitar.

I also like writing code and billing for it, or making videos for Tekpub.

If Twitter caused those things to happen more - then it would be a net positive. It just so happens that Twitter causes those things to happen less. So I've made my choice.

Enjoy your life - A hui hou.