WhatfettleAre you a Twitter Twit or a Twerp?

Update: please note this and the Ten Commandments were written firmly tongue-in-cheek, that I’m biassed, but I’m OK for Twerps to be Twerps, and recognise we all tend to be a bit of both at times. Please also note in UK English “Twit” and “Twerp” are equally derogatory, and both are often used as an affectionate mild rebuke, mother to son. Enjoy!

Ruminating on Twitter constraints, I see two kinds of Twitterers emerging: Twits and Twerps.

A Twit sees Twitter as a presence service. Twits love the ambient intimacy twitter affords with their friends, and tweet to build a meaningful permanent record. They strive to entertain, to be profound. Twits are often interested in adding metadata such as tags, plusplus and locations which may be farmed, searched and annotated later. A twit uses an @reply primarily to reference a user for the benefit of their other followers, and use a direct message to communicate with someone where their followers are unlikely to be interested in the conversation. A twit is always considerate to their followers, knowing that each message may potentially be SMS’d to hundreds of people. Twits always think about the question “What are you doing?”. A good twit will make you laugh, make you cry but above all feel connected. Exemplar Twits include @hicksdesign, @arielwaldman, @ev, @missrogue, @factoryjoe and @natbat, and most everyone I follow. Canonical Twit tweets:

See, you probably don’t know these people, but you can’t fail but empathise with them. Fun, isn’t it?


A Twerp sees Twitter as a conversation. It’s irc, only with free SMS thrown in. Most twerp updates start with an @ and are meaningless unless you too are a twerp. Twerps often follow 1000’s, because that’s the best way of dealing with other twerps and seeing their asynchronous replies. A Twerp will reference someone whose updates are locked with something like “@BigTwerp cool!”, which is like “the f-ing letter K!” , only it’s twitter and 100’s of people around the world paying. Really inconsiderate twerps use services such as seesmic to pump noise at their followers, repeatedly trumpet blog postings, endlessly muse on how they rock. They see twitter as just another way to “up their ante”. Twerps often fail to embrace twitter’s 140 character limit; they’re writing memos when they should be writing Haikus. To a twit, a twerp’s updates are just intrusive line noise. Phil put it well when he said:

Following @gapingvoid and @Scobleizer is like listening to one end of a phone conversation. When they’re on a conference call.
As a result it’s much easier to be a Twerp following a Twit than vice-versa. As you will have realised, I aspire to be a good twit, but am OK with twerps because I prefer to live and let live and have a simple rule: don’t follow them! I also feel twerps are inevitable given Downey’s first law of protocols which states:

any message path which abstracts away underlying transports is doomed to have them reinvented in extensions

Witness SOAP which by processing messages regardless of how they are delivered led to WS-*, and Twitter, not having a way of conversing spawned the @ reply, the power behind the twerp, leading to Downey’s first law of social networks:

a conversation may indeed leak onto any channel good enough to carry one

So the rise of the twerps was inevitable. however, other twits feel differently, formulating The Twitter 10 Commandments. Ignore these and you are most definitely a twerp!

Update: 10 commandments are now here, in stone, as a twitter user, so you can “follow tencommandments“.