Archive for October, 2008

Heuristics for Twitter Following

How do you decide whether or not to follow someone on Twitter?

Everyone has their own “attention bandwidth” that they can devote to Twitter and other social-networking platforms like Facebook,, Plurk, Pownce, etc. Some people can follow thousands and not bat an eye; others cap their following count at a firm number and have an “add one, remove one” rule.

Here are my own personal heuristics for deciding whether or not to follow someone:

  1. Do I feel overwhelmed right now? If not, I’ll probably follow.
  2. Have they followed me? Unless they get dinged for some other reason below, I’m likely to follow back.
  3. Are they spammers? Dinged without remorse.
  4. Do they use a recognizably “real” name, or something like CrazyHippo45? The more real the name, the more likely I am to follow back.
  5. Do they use a real photo in their avatar? If not, I’m less likely to follow.
  6. Do they tweet consistently? If they have big gaps in their tweetstream I’m not likely to follow.
  7. Do they have a reasonable followed/following ratio? I don’t personally care too much about absolute numbers, but if they follow 2,000 people, and only have 20 followers, something smells.
  8. Do they post about topics I’m interested in, or topics I’m not interested in?
  9. Do they have frequent tweetorrhea (e.g. posting 40 times in any single hour): probably won’t follow.
  10. Are they following or followed by people I’m following or followed by? +1.
  11. Can they spell? You’d be surprised how important this is to me.

What are your personal rules for deciding whom to follow on Twitter?


Concert Review: Amy Grant

Last night my wife and I went to see Amy Grant at the Overlake Christian Church in Redmond, WA. This was a polite show, a conservative show; the crowd was mostly young, female, and capital-C Christian; none of the liquored-up hooliganism you might have seen in your younger days at a Def Leppard or Guns ‘n Roses concert.

First, about the venue: HOLY SHIT. This was my first time in a so-called megachurch, and I can not believe how big the auditorium is. You could fit a small city in there, with room left over. I felt like I was in a hockey arena. Pretty impressive, but as someone who is used to the old-school architecture of St. Mark’s Cathedral, OCC felt a little sterile.

Amy performed from her selection of older hits – this was the “Lead Me On” tour – and did well, if not spectacularly. The funny thing about Amy Grant is that she’s not a terribly great vocalist, but despite that, she has a vocal presence that is compelling and attractive.

She was accompanied by eight musicians that she has toured with for many years; they were steady and predictable, with no (apparent) mistakes. The only gaffe of the whole evening came during a rendition of a new, unrecorded song that Amy is working on, when she had a hiccup on a guitar chord.

Funniest thing: Amy Grant can not dance. You might imagine that a popular performer with 25+ years of stage experience might have discovered some shake and bake somewhere out on tour; but no, she dances like a white person – i.e., poorly. She’s not as bad as Elaine from Seinfeld, but she’s definitely no Grace Kelly either. It doesn’t matter, though – my wife and I both enjoyed the show, and that’s what counts.

Ken Kesey’s Crypto-Nazi Numerology

Two days ago, a couple of skinheads were arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate Barack Obama an many other African-Americans.  After breathing a sigh of relief that these idiots got caught, one thing stood out: the neo-nazis have their own numerology!

In all, the two men whom officials describe as neo-Nazi skinheads planned to kill 88 people — 14 by beheading, according to documents unsealed in U.S. District Court in Jackson, Tenn. The numbers 88 and 14 are symbolic in the white supremacist community. […] The numbers 14 and 88 are symbols in skinhead culture, referring to a 14-word phrase attributed to an imprisoned white supremacist: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” and to the eighth letter of the alphabet, H. Two “8”s or “H”s stand for “Heil Hitler.”

Aside from being momentarily surprised that these guys could even count to eight, this sort of coded message doesn’t surprise me. Numbers have been used for centuries as short-circuit references to emotionally-charged subjects: 666, 911, hell, even 69.

Regarding the number 88, I was even more surprised to pick up Ken Kesey’s Sometimes a Great Notion last night and read on page 76:

I half rose from my seat to demand of the grinning giant looming above me in a sweat shirt, number 88, “Whither wilt thou lead me?” fixing him with the most withering Shakespearean gaze my goof-balled eves could muster.

This is Leland Stanford Stamper, dreaming of a reunion with his older half-brother Hank, who has his own views about racial purity. On page 89, Hank brings up the “Family Anthem”, of which part is:

I figured … that we’re a family first, and that’s the most important. We got to keep ourselfs free of racial pollution. We ain’t some bunch o n——s or J–s or ordinary people; we’re Stampers.

Also interesting: On the bus trip home to confront the psychological mess he’s made of his relationship with Hank, Leland passes a road sign that says “88 Miles to Eugene’s Second Market”.

Could this 88-means-Hitler nonsense have been around in the early 1960’s when Kesey wrote his book? Could he have been aware of it and used it as a hidden shorthand for Hank Stamper’s racial attitudes, or of rural Oregonians in general? I suppose anything is possible.

Seattle Times Stays The Course

…the course of endorsing Republican candidates for office, that is.  Today they announced their endorsement of Marcia McCraw for Lieutentant Governor of the State of Washington.  Brad Owen has served in that role for twelve years of mostly uncomplicated and uncontroversial stewardship, but the Times believes that McCraw’s candidacy “represents an opportunity for an infusion of new ideas and energy.”

This is sort of like endorsing Sarah Palin for Vice President.  In the event of a death or injury to the Governor (god forbid), the Lieutenant Governor steps in to take the helm.  Does anyone really believe that McCraw would be a better choice for that role than Brad Owen?

Following on the Times’ endorsement of Dino Rossi for governor, I can’t say I’m surprised.  But I am glad that almost everyone around recognizes that the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and not the Times, is the best newspaper in the state.

Steve McConnell and Me

I don’t know how I’ve forgotten to post this photo of me with one of my software heroes, Steve McConnell. I attended an Agile seminar at Steve’s company Construx last month, and attempted to get a photo with my iPhone, but the picture was never taken.

Thanks to my friend and colleague Hank Meuret, Steve came by the office a couple weeks later and was kind enough to pose with me for the following photo.

Do Plants Have Rights?

Fifteen years ago, when I was a semi-leading light in the College Republicans group at the University of Washington, this article on the rights of plants would have set me off, either humorously or indignantly, depending on my mood. Now that I’m a dirty socialist ivory-tower liberal, I believe it’s actually instructive and thought-provoking to consider the arguments without a knee-jerk reaction.

This was perhaps the most contentious statement of the document:

The Committee members unanimously consider an arbitrary harm caused to plants to be morally impermissible. This kind of treatment would include, e.g. decapitation of wild flowers at the roadside without rational reason.

What do you think?

(h/t Mark Mattingly)

Great New “Shift Happens” Video

This is another remake of Karl Fisch’s famous Shift Happens presentation. It’s an animated version with some great background music that I can *almost* identify…if you’re into thought-provoking, inspirational presentations, then give this a try.

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