Twitter for Developers, Cutting the Bullshit, Quelling the Trash Tire Fire

It’s been over a decade that Twitter has been an active part of the developer community. It’s grown in popularity from day one, and now holds the uneasy crown as the place for hot takes, trash from politicians, and the general tire fire that is the news. In many ways, that’s what they’ve aimed for. But then there’s us developers, people who make software, who make Twitter, who build all of this technology internet stuff right? We’re here using Twitter still, even amid the backstabbing and Twitter UI’s API’s being yanked from under us. They’ve of course in the past also banned UI’s and somehow here we are still using the service. However, I digress, Twitter’s wrongs against developers are numerous after we effectively built the service. In spite of all this we developers are a large contingent of people on Twitter. It’s still an amazingly useful medium for software developers, and especially new software developers, to get involved with. It’s a very effective tool to strengthen our careers and continue conversations within the developer communities themselves. One just has to avoid the cruft, and that’s what I intent to tackle some of in this article.

This list I’ve put together is of things that I personally have learned, often by stumbling through and discovering myself. These activities on Twitter do have a net positive effect on your career and ability to communicate with the world and local developer communities. First I’ll cover positive use cases of Twitter that are immensely useful as a software developer. These are even compounded if you’re an advocate of open source, cool technologies and libraries, and other miscellaneous things.

1. Twitter as a Communication Tool

First and foremost, Twitter has been and does – mostly – continue to be a communication tool. I make use of Twitter to connect with people for conference organizing, code projects, open source work, to have geek lunch, nerd brunch, and many other things that come up. It can and ought to be one of your primary communication mediums in that it connects many of the key active people within our overall communities. More so than email and other mediums by a large percent. If you intend to have a long term net effect and grow your presence and activities (conferences, meetups, coding groups, etc) you want to foster Twitter has become the de facto medium to be active on.

2. Twitter as a Collector of People

Twitter, even though it does seem to attract some of the most villainous scum (literally, not a figure of speech or hyperbole) and have some pretty horrifying problems (people calling in SWAT’s on people (extremely illegal), death threats, harassment) the net benefit within the community to bring people together has far outclassed pretty much any other system out there. Hacker News doesn’t, Facebook doesn’t, Google+ is cancelled, and about every other social media platform has failed to bring together the develop community in an effective and useful way.

3. Twitter for Answers

Even though I don’t often go to Twitter to find answers, sometimes I do. Often it is a last resort. After all, Twitter is most efficient at providing a place for links, quick blurbs, bumbling and babbling threads from people, and of course cat pictures and hot takes.

The combination powers of Twitter with other services however exponentially increases the ability of Twitter to help with answers. For example, write up a solidly written question on Stackoverflow or one of the branched out services and then post the question on Twitter, maybe inquiring for some retweets and boom, doubling, tripling, and greater multiplier of people looking at the question that can provide a prospective answer!

4. Twitter, Firestarter

One of the things I’ve also found Twitter good for is an outlet for pushing and often straightening out bad behavior in the community. Ever done something racist? Ever known someone to pull some misogynistic action? Yeah, unfortunately I know of these things happening too, and Twitter forces apologies and better behavior among people. But it also is a place people can wreck themselves and be just as destructive as they can learn to better themselves, especially those humans of us that have poor behavior and disrespectful tendencies.

But just as much as individual behaviors among us, Twitter has been used to straighten out some pretty trash behaviors from corporations. Sure, they’re not really people, but the conflagrations of this notion – true or not – make for pressure to be applied to corporations through other means besides the products and services they sell us individual humans, which to often are things we have to buy regardless, and this medium provides us an avenue to induce better behaviors in spite of purchases.

There of course is the positive and negative of this forced societal behavior and in many ways, improving corporate behavior throughout the world, but it’s here. Pressure of the people, often organized and started through Twitter, including against Twitter itself sometimes, is heavily rooted in activity right there on ole’ Twitter itself.

GSD Tactical Twitter

Alright, now to the meat of things. Twitter is great at all these things but how does one make the best use of it without it turning into an outright tire fire trash dump of distraction and stress? Well, it’s moderately easy, but one has to be careful.

1. Find Good and Entertaining People

My personal advice when starting on Twitter is to skip the companies. Don’t follow any of them. Same goes for organizations or any group account of sorts. The key to find good content, good common ground, and useful links, news, and related communities is to follow individuals that are involved in those things you want to be involved in already. The following are some specific examples, and for me, great people to follow.

2. Lift Up Others, Tweet to Others, Get Involved

When on Twitter, one can just lurk. It’s a completely valid thing to do. However lurking isn’t super high value. You just won’t get that much out of it. Instead, get involved. Find a link with something interesting, write up a tweet and post it. See something interesting someone else just tweeted, respond! See something that isn’t right, maybe tweet why it isn’t.

Always a good idea, regardless of the trash that is often on Twitter to still stay courteous, kind, and friendly. Remember, not everyone is from the mold you’ve come from, or seen things the way you have, so tread lightly and friendly and things mostly work out real well. Overall, people are attuned to helping those that help themselves and helping those that we run in social circles with.

All in all, get involved, tweet at, with, and all around your fellow Twitterers. Your return will improve and in the process you’ll add more value for others too.

3. Follow & Prune the Firehose of Tweets

Alright, I’ve written to follow and lift up others. That’s groovy, but also you gotta bring the hammer down sometimes. When that firehose of tweets just gets a little overwhelming check out what tweets are helpful, rate them to yourself, and unfollow some people if it’s not the direction or the tweets you’re getting value from.

Even though it’s difficult when just starting to use Twitter, the ratio will be more followed than followers for you. But as time goes forward and you get past 50 followers, 100, 500, 1000 you’ll need to make sure to keep the list of people you’ve followed just equal to or less than how many people follow you. It’ll help keep your feed manageable and also help you to keep interactions beneficial for you, followers, and followed.

4. The Down-Low on Conferences

If you’re looking to attend a conference, Twitter via hashtags is a great way to get information on conferences. Dig in, dig deep. Talk to people about the conference in particular. If necessary get into direct messages and invoke the whisper net if need be. Sometimes conferences can be exponentially useful and sometimes they end up bothersome cash burning wastes of time. Figure out what you want from a prospective conference and dig in via Twitter, you’ll prevent wasting time and burning cash, and exponentially increase the positives you can get out of a conference.

5. Filter the Trash Fire

Ok, let’s get super serious. One way Twitter has become a trash fire for many or most people these days is because of the political trash dumped in. Much of Twitter for the general public is bot armies from Russia, crazies like the nutty Wohl kid, and other junk nut accounts. One way to notch this down to a minimal trash fire is to throw some filters (i.e. mute certain words) on your Twitter account. For example here’s my list:

filters-muted-words

Now as you’ve read that, remember that my goal has been to focus the stream on tech content with a little heavy metal, a few cats, and other entertainment here and there. For example I’m fine with sports events like baseball and football but really don’t want to get distracted by it in on my Twitter stream. On game day those events just overwhelm the tweets and things that are useful get drowned out.

Now a lot of the other stuff in the list is the horrifying reality of the United States today, reflected on Twitter, and part of something that I don’t want distracting me either. Overall this has made Twitter dramatically more useful for me again.

The Beginning of Something New, FOOD!

Ok, so I’m sure about 90% of geeks & coders are also foodies at the same time. We all like to eat. A good many of us also like to partake upon a beer, whiskey, scotch, mixed drink, or all of them in a sitting once in a while. What am I leading up to? That’s simple, I’d love to get geeks together; .NETters, Rubiests, Railers, PHPers, Objective-Cers, Cloud/Grid/Utility Computing, Netops, Devs of this, Devops or any of a host of interests to have dinner, grab brunch on the weekend, or simply a cup of coffee. Now, the hard part, as it always is when herding cats is to get them herded at the same time to the same place. That’s when I fell into a thought, why not have multiple meals during the month and pick various days and times so people can meet up at their choice of time each month. With that in mind, here’s my first sample set of options, we can all vote, and then I’ll setup and calendar and get things arranged for meet ups. If you have food choices and such, let me know and we’ll do another vote for each meet. That way we don’t get bored or tired of the same place.

Here’s the schedule options, please vote:

…and please do, retweet to your fellow Seattleite Geek or Nerd.

Improving the Time Suck of Social Media

Social media, albeit being a great boon in many regards, has also become a massive time suck for almost everyone involved!  Sure, news is up to date, down the the minute, almost real-time with every single little bit of craziness there to read about right now!  The t0-read, to-do, to-make, to-code lists all keep getting longer and longer and longer…

…and then…

Crickets.

That’s right, you might as well be listening to crickets.  Social media is killing many productive people’s productiveness.  I’ve decided I’m going to take a break, of some sort, just not sure what kind.  Maybe I’ll schedule myself some “social media time” or something.  Similar to “TV Time” for kids.  If only parents were better about that, maybe social media wouldn’t be the ADD person’s massive time blow that it is.  Well, as I write this I’ve determined the following.

Twitter

I’m going to time box the activity and use specific tools that enable me to effectively use the social media services.  Twitter, that needs to be done on a PC with Seesmic or something that allows me to truly and quickly interact.  None of this half-assed mobile super phone poking about on the Blackberry, or twiddling about with Twitter on the iPad.  Those other tools just don’t allow the speed and ease of viewing links and other such things that using a full on PC with power allows.  I want to get in, see what’s up, filter the crap I don’t want to read out of the way, tweet, and get the hell out of there.  I want bus time, walking time, and other activities back for other uses.  I want to just read a book, or just take a walk again.  No twittering while riding or walking anymore.  Done.  Gone.  Zilch.

My time box at this time is going to be limited to 15 minutes a day.  In the morning and in the evening sometime.  In that time I have the following things I need to straighten out;

  • Get synced up on who I am and am not following, and review my list of recent followers to see who I should be following.
  • Find a better way to track tweets.  Lists are useful, but there needs to be something more.  Maybe Paper.li or something of that sort.

Both of these tasks need knocked out with the time boxing I’ve allocated.

Facebook

This I’ve already relegated to minimal use.  I might use it about 15 minutes to 2 hrs a week.  I’m actually amazed at this fact.  Simply, I have a Facebook Profile because one kind of needs to have one being in the technology industry.  Also it provides a great avenue for keeping in touch with people that I might otherwise not be in touch with.  It’s good to know people I grew up with are doing well, providing a little morale boost here and there.  🙂  Plus, one never knows when a blast from the past might turn out to be a great friend, asset, or network contact here in the present!

Time boxing for Facebook is going to be limited to 5-10 minutes per day.

Blogging Here @ CompositeCode.com or elsewhere…

This is something that I find truly useful.  Not the time suck like these other web apps.  So really I’m not going to time box myself or set some arbitrary limit.  I am going to continue striving to have at minimum a blog entry per week.  One that is partially useful, even if it is just to review what I’ve done for the week, conferences or meetups I’ve attended, or something of that sort.  Hopefully I’ll be able to maintain some actual useful code how-to, cloud computing write ups, and other legit, honest to goodness, readable entries as well.  🙂

So no time box for blogging, this is something I truly love to do.  Write, write, and more writing.

With that I’m off to find some time tracking software to help myself stay in the time boxes I’ve set.  Cheers, and happy holidays!

Blue Moon Burgers >> Nerd Lunch

Tomorrow (Thursday) at Blue Moon Burgers in Fremont will be a nerd lunch.  If you’re interested you should definitely head over that way and introduce yourself.  (I’m 90% sure I’ll be there)

http://www.yelp.com/biz/blue-moon-burgers-fremont-seattle

-Cheers

Twitter Peoplez

I always see these #ff or #followfriday lists on Twitter.  I figured I’d put together a list, then I ended up creating another list, and another.  It appeared I was past my 140 character limit so here are those lists of Twitterers to follow.

Amazon Web Services Twitterers

Windows Azure Twitterers

Silverlight Twitterers

.NETters (No particular groupings…)

With that list I ponder – anyone have any additional suggestions for follows in these or other software development related areas?

Cool Places, Things, and Groups in Seattle So Far?

I am new to Seattle from the "I live here" perspective.  I have travelled here and visited more than a few times.  The last week or so I have been wandering a bit and checking out various groups such as Web Analytics Wednesday and possibly will check out the Startup Drinks Group in Ballard this Friday.  All in all I’m happier with my move from Portland to Seattle than I originally thought I’d be (because Portland is seriously awesome too).  Seattle is surprising me in a few ways that I actually didn’t expect, one of them is the tech scene presence is a little bit better than I originally thought it was (good job tech scene pplz).

There are a few points I am still curious about.  Maybe some readers could help me out with the following:

  1. Where and when do the people interested in Saas, Cloud Computing, and similar topics get together, hang out, have drinks, or otherwise?  I haven’t found too much going on around these topics.
  2. Ok, I have found a number of awesome coffee shops to hang out at on those days were I don’t go into the office.  So does anyone else have any suggestions for cool places to pull out the laptop and crank on some code and such?
  3. I really dig hearing about all the awesome startups in Seattle, which Seattle 2.0 is pretty awesome in relating, but is there anything else I should check out?

That’s my burning curiosities at the moment, so if any of your dear readers have any thoughts on these things, or know of anything please do leave a comment or three.  : )

I moderate, so if they don’t show up immediately it will eventually.  Thanks!

Seattle #altnet

Just a few of the key points brought up during the #altnet meeting on Saturday this weekend.  There were a number of other topics, but these stuck in my mind as something I am more interested in.

  • katas | How to transition the learning from katas into the more elaborate testing realm of fakes, mocks, stubs, and such.
  • Smells |  ViewModels, testing WPF and Silverlight.  How to test for latency,
  • Upfront versus down the road costs.  How to decide when something should be learned at a macro level.
  • UI Testing | What is a good method or practice to use to keep the testing time to a minimum.

These four points bring me to my current story list of code to write.

  • Knock out a kata or two, and elaborate on the katas so that they have a more real world use for Enterprise (and other) Developers that have lots of abstracted layers and other parts to move through.
  • I really need to get back to my Silverlight and WPF skills.  Somehow I need to bring these skills into my daily Azure Cloud work, which should be relatively easy, I just have to do it.
  • Not sure I will have time, but I would like to write up some cost analysis (not just $,  but in time, effort, and other costs) associated with certain up front design and up front testing versus testing or design after the fact.  Of course this entire discussion point is very relative, but I am sure I can dig up some information somewhere.
  • UI Testing.  It was an interesting topic at ALT.NET, but doubtful I will touch on it much until I get more dedicated WPF/Silverlight/Web UI Work.  Right now there just isn’t enough value it it for me (kind of based on the aforementioned topic).