Vanity Twitter

If follower numbers were an index of wisdom or virtue, Twitter would produce some very strange results. I’m not sure why some people are so anxious to obtain ‘followers’. If anyone tweets a request that I should follow them, I usually ignore it on the grounds that anyone so blatantly clamouring for attention is more likely to be a ‘broadcaster’ than a ‘dialoguer’. In any case, I don’t follow as many people as currently follow me for the simple reason that it would be a physical impossibility. I try to follow people with different backgrounds, interests and opinions from my own, as well as those who are particularly knowledgeable and engaging on topics that interest me. So what is vanity Twitter, and why am I unenthusiastic about it?

Vanity Twitter is all about me, my interests, and my business (frequently, especially my business). The vain tweeter will read everything he/she can about how to build follower numbers and will ruthlessly exploit every known technique for doing so (often dreamed up by other like-minded tweeters). In addition, the vain tweeter is a master of the art(?) of the self-promotional tweet and subjects us to a never-ending stream of unwanted information about his/her wonderful achievements, ‘motivational quotes’ and so on. Dialogue, there is not. Unfortunately, religion is not exempt from this kind of vanity Twitter, although it is usually given a gloss of gratitude for graces received.  At base, however, it is as frothy and empty as any other kind of vanity Twitter, and because it does not really engage with other people*, I wonder whether it can achieve anything of substance.

Are you a vain tweeter, or do you try to use Twitter to engage with others? What have you learned from using Twitter? Have you any tips to share? Do you think religion is a difficult subject to explore on Twitter? Over to you.

• I think the @pontifex account does Twitter rather well, despite what I say above. The pope cannot engage with others on Twitter as you and I can because of the sheer numbers involved.




Blog and Web Statistics

What is the point of monitoring web and blog statistics? I don’t just mean visitor numbers, but all the extra information one can obtain nowadays about where visitors came from, which page they landed on, which page they left from, what they did while on site, etc, etc. When I have my web developer hat on, I dutifully look at site statistics provided by Google and others because clients often obsess about them. It is a good way of establishing what does or does not ‘work’ on a specific site, especially if a client is adamant that something should be done this way and no other. (Fellow web developers will groan in sympathy if I add that the less  people understand statistics and rankings, the more they fret about them!)

Rarely do I check the site statistics for iBenedictines or our community web sites (e.g. because I don’t see the point. We do the best we can to produce sites that reflect our purpose in being online, which is not the same as that of a commercial enterprise.  Some of the features most important to users (e.g. our email prayerline) are never going to attract much attention except when needed, so I wouldn’t know how to use their particular stats to improve visibility, usability and so on in any meaningful way. Much more important, from our point of view, is the testing process and feedback we get from individuals. That is what most radically affects what we do and how.

So, what are we to make of blog lists and rankings complied by eBuzzing and the like (a question prompted by @redjules’ compilation of stats for women bloggers: see )? Personally, I’d say don’t take them seriously. There are many excellent bloggers and writers on  the web who will never come very high on search engine lists or attain any degree of ‘influence’ on Klout. Most ranking bodies are a little coy about the algorithms they apply, so I question whether trying  to ‘improve’ results, especially if one is creating sites from a Christian perspective and with a Christian end in view, is ever worthwhile. Of course it is legitimate to try to raise awareness of a site and encourage people to visit it, but there is always a temptation to concentrate on the score card at the expense of the game itself. Chasing higher rankings sometimes leads people to lose sight of why they began writing or blogging in the first place and can result in self-absorbed and indeed fundamentally selfish behaviour online (e.g. commenting solely in order to get a link back to one’s own blog/site). Ultimately what matters is that the writer writes something worth reading; and that the reader is challenged, consoled or led to engage, as the case may be.

Whether you are challenged, consoled or just enraged by what I’ve written above, I do hope you’ll now engage.