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Do people in security tweet too much?

Mar 19, 20126 mins
Data and Information SecurityIT Leadership

I followed a Twitter conversation earlier between a few security pros regarding the frequency of tweeting — specifically, how much is too much. This has always been a sensitive issue for me, so I thought I should weigh in.

First, some acknowledgments:

–One of the friends in the discussion, Chris Hoff (@Beaker), noted that his complaint isn’t volume but variety. “RT’ing the same self-promotion is too much,” he said. I get that and generally agree, though what I see as variety will be seen as self-promotion from someone in the crowd. Opinions are tricky things.

–The larger complaint I often hear from people is about the sheer volume of tweets from myself and others. I tweet a lot, every day. Some of it is automated, in case you were worried that I do nothing but sit here all day pressing the button. I do have a life.

–The content I tweet is the security material I write, as well as what colleagues produce. I also write a personal blog that has nothing to do with security.

–Some have told me I tweet to much.

–I often look at the tweets of those who tell me that and wonder why they think the world cares about every random thought they choose to share. The thought is usually, “Who is this person to criticize my tweets when he-she is always such a cranky gas bag?”

–I realize this is an issue that extends well beyond the world of security. But security is the world I live in, so it makes sense to spend some time on the issue here.

Twitter’s role in the public conversation has evolved rapidly in the last few years. Even now, I think most of us are still trying to use it effectively. When I first joined Twittter four years ago, a lot of the people I followed tweeted about everything and did it often. Forget about the security projects they were working on or the opinions they had on some new software vulnerability. They would tell you what they were ordering for dinner, when the order arrived and how it tasted. People used to live tweet from conference keynotes, giving the line-by-line account. That still happens, but today it’s a lot more muted.

Today there’s a lot of debate and hours-long Twitter conversations I keep track of, but I don’t participate as much as I used to. I don’t share every random thought that enters my head, though — despite the gas bag example above — I don’t mind when others do. In the last two years, I’ve used my presence to push out content. There’s the content we constantly produce here, and there’s the content of the personal blog. I’m admittedly prolific, so the flow is continuous. There are also articles and columns from colleagues to share. I’m also big on retweeting content from others that I find value in and think others will benefit from, too.

There are frequent repeat posts. The reason is simple: Twitter is like a rushing river. if you have an article or research paper you’ve worked hard on and you want it to reach as many eyes as possible, you can’t let it go at one tweet. Different people are on Twitter at different times of day. If they work in the afternoon and evening, they are not going to see something tweeted in the morning. The early risers won’t see the content you tweeted the afternoon or evening before.

I also tweet older posts when an issue I wrote about months ago is back in the public discussion. One example is a post I wrote about surviving security conferences like RSA. Conferences are always coming up, so my reflections in that post are worth repeating from time to time. It’s also the case that people will be discussing an issue I may have written about days, weeks or months before, and I’ll throw it back out there in order to bring something to the table.

Some people don’t like it. One person on Twitter this morning said, “FWIW, multiple tweets are annoying and come across as marketing spam. It’s why I stopped following @billbrenner70.”

Fair enough.

I don’t see this as marketing for the sake of marketing. I see it as participating in the public discussion and hopefully adding something someone will find useful.

My attitude is simple: If you want to see the content I’m pushing, you’re going to stick around. If you don’t want it, you will unfollow me. I hold no grudges over that. It’s fair.

If I get annoyed or lose interest in what a person is tweeting every day, I press the unfollow button, too. Fortunately for me, I continue to gain more followers than I lose. My Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn connections are higher than they’ve ever been. If I ever see the trend reverse itself, I’ll assume more people than not are unhappy with my approach.

I do think it’s important to keep in mind why some people tweet. Some do it purely for professional conversation. Others do it to share raw security updates. Others are paid to aggregate content from other sources.

In my case, the work is editorial-based. We produce articles, opinion pieces and analysis all day long, nearly every day. Our mission is to make sure as many people see that content as possible. If you are on Twitter simply to make an occasional observation or follow someone else’s discussion, you probably won’t want to follow me all the time.

I’ll end by sharing the honor code I’ve come to live by on Twitter:

–I don’t call people names because I disagree with them. Life’s too short to waste on being mean to people.

–I don’t tweet everything I’m thinking of all day long. I don’t have the time, and I would bore people anyway.

–I don’t grouse about whatever is aggravating me during the day, like a disagreement with a co-worker or an argument with a friend or family member. I get annoyed when others do that, and it’s not always everyone’s business.

I do my best to keep it professional. Some days are better than others, but I think I keep it on the level for the most part.

If I have an off day, I’m sure some of you will let me know about it.

That’s fair, too. I chose to work in a public arena, and that’s how it should be.