In defense of the low-fiber tweet

Hey… You were one of my early influences into the realm of embracing standards so I thought you’d be cool to follow….

However, you seem to be one of the many techie’s that get a ton of followers and the ego takes over. I find no value in your 90% of your tweets.

It’s nice to know that Spiderman movies make you cry, but I really don’t care and probably most folks don’t either. But if they do more power to them!

Sure.. maybe it adds a little bit of personal intrigue but I’d rather see 90% value and 10% fluff. If I wanted to follow a comedian there are tons of them to choose from. And while I do follow some entertainers, that’s not why I chose to follow you, but it is the reason that I’m choosing to not follow you now.

Take the ego down a few notches and provide some value.

[Name withheld]

If you’re looking for web design “value” from me, read A List Apart and Both are free.

You can also download my first web design book free, or buy Designing With Web Standards, or attend An Event Apart, or hire Happy Cog.

Those are the means through which I provide web design value to the community and clients.

My Twitter feed is for personal expression, a basic human right.

Please close the door on your way out.

115 thoughts on “In defense of the low-fiber tweet

  1. As time goes on and Twitter services become more mainstream, everyone’s going to have a different opinion of how they should be used. I think you’re valid for doing what you want but I can also see how a reader who comes to expect value from you, because of the fact that you write such good blog entries amongst other things, might get a bit spoiled and want to let you know they aren’t getting value from something. That doesn’t give them a reason to be an brat though. There are more productive ways to influence the world.

  2. Riiiiight. How come so many people expect so much for nothing? Like they’re entitled to you behaving how they expect and in no other way.

    Go outside, little troll, do something useful.

  3. Ha.. While you are at it, please only publish your guaranteed to be exactly what i need articles. I have no room in my head or time in my day to read your other ones.

  4. Your “tweets” are the fruit of my internet existence. Without such nonsense, truth, humor, and sadness, I’d feel lost.

    I’ll take my Metamucil when and how I choose, thanks.

  5. As time goes on and Twitter services become more mainstream, everyone’s going to have a different opinion of how they should be used.

    And everyone who feels their opinion applies to the way someone else uses a publishing platform is wrong. I thought we learned this lesson with blogs, do we need to learn it again with Twitter and whatever comes next?

  6. Value? From a 140-character synaptic explosion, mostly written on the fly? If A List Apart created a Twitter feed, I might consider “value” a part of the mix, but I hoped I would find more of “My Glamorous Life” in the Zeldman feed, and so far I haven’t been disappointed a bit.

    Who makes up the rules for Twitter anyway? And why, at these prices, does anyone think you owe them anything?

  7. And the second you pull the plug on personal tweets, people will write to you complaining about that. Oh, the perils of cewebrity-dom.

  8. Nicely put.

    The funny thing is that I find your tweets more interesting than a lot of the self-proclaimed social media gurus

  9. Keep doin’ what your doin’ man. I love the fact that it isn’t “all web, all the time” from your twitter stream. I usually get a well needed chuckle or ” so true” from reading your updates.

    ~ Aaron I

  10. I find it strange that anyone would come across Twitter, billed as a micro-blogging service (I’ll leave to everyone to decide what they really feel it is) and assume that it’s ego that is causing someone to tweet about their life. If someone doesn’t find your breakfast messages interesting, they don’t have to follow you.

    I’ve had a great many conversations with people that feel that tweeting in general is ego-related, regardless of it’s intended purpose.

    I didn’t know talking about your life on a personal (if publicly viewable) account counted as fluff. Thank goodness we’ve got this fellow to help us steer clear of disaster.

  11. …. I can’t quite believe it …. what a horrible message you got there …
    shame so many people seem to be getting the use of Twitter wrong now, marketing, pushy promotion, spammers and with it – ‘these types’…. spoiling the good vibe… have they never heard of the ever so easy to use ‘unfollow’ button?

    as for your tweets — I love them <3
    My favourites page is dominated by yours ;) here’s a screengrab of 2 of my favourites :)

  12. I agree with you completely. It’s twitter! If you aren’t enjoying someone’s tweets, unfollow. Move on. Follow a condescending guru if that’s your cup of tea. Personally, I’ve unfollowed a lot of “gurus”

  13. d-d-d-Damn straight!

    I prefer natural stream of conscious tweets myself. And for that reason, I don’t follow most blogs, magazines, etc’s tweets. Including ALA. I get that tweet from you… 10% of the time that is.

  14. You go, Z. Reminds me of a tweet Jeff Croft received — someone announced they were unfollowing due to “lack of content”.

    This is when I get all snooty and remind people that Twitter early adopters generally use it to express themselves and keep tabs on what and who matters to them… not to provide “content”.

  15. As a related note, when did it become necessary to tell people when you choose not to follow them? I don’t think I need 6 billion emails telling me why the majority of the world doesn’t follow me. That would get cumbersome.

  16. How is it so wrong for you (or any other “public figure”) to just be a Dude? Your books are fantastic, and your opinions and life are interesting. Fuck everybody else and their expectations.

    Thanks for ALL your words, Mr. Z.

  17. I’m not going to fuel your reportedly gigantic ego with compliments, but at least you don’t commit the cardinal sin of Tweeting.

    “I don’t know what I want for lunch.”

  18. And with tweets like…

    The restaurant where I told her I loved her has gone out of business.

    … or …

    Dressed in a black leotard, our four year old announces that she is “Dark Vader”.

    … or …

    Be vigilant in love because even the strongest love can die. Be honest if love dies because prolonging illusion makes the end hurt worse.

    … provide more value to your life in general and let you depart from the routine (read work) and remember that there are many many things in this life that can actually make you happier and a better person.

    Keep the personal tweets coming… your audience is still listening.

  19. I can’t figure out why Name Withheld felt that unfollowing you wasn’t enough, but that he (has to be a dude, right? Chicks aren’t this petty…errr…nevermind) had to compose an e-mail to tell you that your tweets aren’t good enough for him. What a douche.

    Personal expression? HOW DARE YOU JEFFREY!

  20. I wasn’t aware that people used twitter for “90% value, 10% fluff”. Hrm, guess I’m doing it wrong. ;)

  21. I’m sorry “name withheld” but considering that the service is free, and that the content of the tweets is free, you have no reasonable expectation as to the level of quality of service… it’s free. You are free to follow or unfollow at will, and I do not need to hear you’re complaints about my twitter content. At least, that is my attitude when someone unfollows me.

  22. I once saw a conference attendee say the same kind of thing to Molly, regarding her blog. He’s lucky he still has a face.

  23. @Matt May: I bet “name withheld” wouldn’t dare say something like that in person. That’s a blessing and a curse–Twitter lets you say what you want without having to worry about your face

    P.S. I always look forward to Zeldman tweets, I only wish there were more!

  24. people don’t have the right to complain if they can (a) chose not to listen to what you’re saying and (b) if it’s being given free of charge or trade.

  25. You said:

    .. is for personal expression, a basic human right.

    Well, his email is that too. So cool down, shrink your ego and don’t fuck up with the people who see you as a leader / saw you as a leader.

  26. Wow. Very nice response (nicer than mine would have been). That person seems to have quite the sense of entitlement for something he/she “opted” in to and did not “pay” for. Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’. I’m following it and loving it.

  27. Personally, I enjoy reading your tweets. Even the ones that I don’t understand. And exactly how in the hell does this clown expect you to talk about your passion in less than 140 characters?!

    Some peoples’ kids, I tell ya…

  28. Hahahahahahah. Oh dear Lord. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

    Name Withheld,

    Nobody cares why you follow or unfollow anyone. Do as you please and STFU. Thank you.

    Hugs and Kisses,

    The Internet

  29. Someone actually spent the energy to write that email to you? Wow. I guess some people are taking the interactive thing too far. I like the “Zeldman Channel”, I never thought of actually messaging you and telling you what to talk about. Some people’s kids…. heh. Damn you Oprah and Kelso!

  30. Dear Mr. Zeldman,

    You were one of my early influences… so I thought you’d be cool to follow.

    However, I find no value in your 90% of your tweets because of my big fat ego.

    It’s nice to know that Spiderman movies make you cry, but let’s leave the crying to mythical creatures: I demand that every tweet must be a golden nugget of wisdom bathed in unicorn tears.

    Rather than simply choosing to not follow you now, I’m also writing this snarky kiss-off.

    You know, because of my big fat ego.

    Your pal,


  31. Wow, the sound of ass-kissing in here is hurting my ears. Zeldman is right, and has a right, as he says.

    Zeldman is good, a master even, at certain technical things, including how to maintain “A-list internet fame”, being good at taking criticism with grace. Not really.

    Grace would be finding value in this person sticking their neck out to offer sincere feedback – I’d love to get candid, even if dissatisfied feedback like this from my real users of my sites/feeds.

    I remember back-in-the-day when his site was decorated with random “hot babes” and I mentioned once that he might consider that women in his potential audience might be put off by it. Very similar response that time as well…from him and his sheep.

  32. If I didn’t find your tweets useful or interesting or of some value I wouldn’t follow you. This is because, I like to think, I’m not a moron. Complaining about the quality of someone else’s tweets takes a special kind.

  33. I love that this is files under “design”.

    Just to add to everyone making you a huge twitter ego maniac the likes of which have never been seen, I specifically follow you because you use the site to just post whatever you’re thinking. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  34. Maybe Name Withheld is the only one who has received an official copy of the Twitter Users Manual.

    I don’t think even Twitter HQ has a copy of that lying around.

  35. I’m seriously struggling to recall tweets of yours that are nothing but noise… and other than painfully brief @-messages, I’m at a loss to recall any.

    This reminds me, in an inverse way, of someone I follow who milked the Maureen-Dowd-thinks-Twitter-is-banal-and-that-sucks meme well past its expiration date. Sigh.

  36. Every single Twitter account contains a gallimaufry of personal data points. To be honest, I’m astonished ANY of us follow each other on Twitter.

    But we do. And I think it’s because that 90% does have value, and though most of it is to the account holder, the rest of us glean value from the cruft often enough to want to read. And that threshold of value is not 90% for most of us. In fact, I bet it’s much lower.

    I don’t know if the complaint author’s problem is that he/she doesn’t get Twitter. I wonder if it’s that he/she doesn’t get the nature of personal writing itself, or perhaps that he/she has faulty personal filters. Either way, I feel sorry for him/her.

    Ultimately, though, the criticism is less than constructive. Why do Zeldman’s tweets suck exactly? What is the value you’re looking for here? It’s clearly not Spiderman movie catharses.

    Please, try to make yourself more informative.

    PS: If you do plan on saying something to similar to Molly, please give me advance notice so I can remember to bring my Flip video camera to the beatdown.

  37. Take the ego down a few notches and provide some value.

    Goodness, the reflexivity of that statement back onto the writer is amazing. His or her own ego is large enough to demand that refining personal publishing to suit his or her tastes. I don’t think ego gets much larger than that.

  38. Your reaction is great, just a shame someone could POSSIBLY have tweeted that in the first place.

    There’s a phrase from Yorkshire

    There’s nout as queer as folk

    which, loosely translated, means the weirdest stuff we’ll bump into will be other people.

    More power to you — I (and a few others) love and envy your often brilliant twitter output. Thank you for it.

    Cheers, -Alan

  39. mahalie,

    Asskissing? Certainly not.

    What you have found is a group of people who comprehend that Twitter is not only a tool for yet-another-avenue of “brand pummeling” that self-proclaimed social media folks insist. It certainly is used for that purpose, but not for that ALONE.

    Twitter gets used for whatever people choose. Afterall, it is their account and they have the option to do with it what they will – so long as it falls within the Terms of Use constraints.

  40. Sounds like Mr. X doesn’t grok the spirit of Twitter; It’s meant to be self-indugent, take it or leave it.

    Spiderman movies are great. Ithink the third movie was a loss of form though

  41. You are right, Jeffrey. Still, I want more to chew on from your tweets than you give. But you are right.

    I began to follow you mid-AEA-Seattle-09. I stopped following you a day later. It just wasn’t what I wanted, but that’s okay. [ Name Withheld ] just needs to play it like it supposed to be played. Emphasis on “play”.

  42. While you may disagree with the critic’s precise angle, some people fundamentally view Twitter as of little or no value. Usually none.

  43. Jeez, what a moron. For what it’s worth, Jeffrey, I *really* enjoy your little quips and anecdotes. There are many times where you said something extremely timely, interesting, or just damn funny that had me right there with you (in a metaphorical sense, that is).

    To me you represent our community well. You’re in the trenches with the rest of us and you’re not afraid to show your human side. That’s golden and I will continue to follow you on Twitter, read your blog/books/articles, and applaud the work you have done to help make my job easier. Thank you.

  44. I get where the note author is coming from, though, I’ve un-followed many web dev/design leaders because they had diarrhea of the mouth. I don’t get that from Zeldman, his are more insightful than most of the “dude across from me totally looks like [obscure 80’s tv star]” tweets, but I still have to agree with the gist of the note, that you a) know why you have so many followers, b) know it’s not because you’re pithy, and c) don’t fucking care. I could just kiss ass, I guess. I’m sure it would help my goal to someday be a Happy Webby.

  45. I haven’t seen the latest Spiderman, but Jeffrey, YOU’VE made me cry with some of your tweets. Nuff said.

  46. Woah, that cheeky little…

    I very much enjoy reading your tweets, they probably count for at least 20% of what I get out of Twitter.

    It’s always interesting to hear about what such an awesome advocate of the web is up to, such as the Spiderman comment.

  47. While you may disagree with the critic’s precise angle, some people fundamentally view Twitter as of little or no value. Usually none.

    I agree Joe. And I’m fine with those people. Personally, I don’t like Indian food, and I know that makes me a totally insensitive, evil, despicable, awful person ranked somewhere between someone who drowns kittens and attorneys for the RIAA, but I’ve tried it multiple times and I just can’t cotton to it.

    But if I were to extend this to the commenter, I feel like he/she is complaining that Indian food needs more beef. He/she is missing the point.

  48. maybe he thought you might care
    _why_ he was unfollowing you, and
    did you the favor of telling you…

    it’s at least _possible,_ you know…

    and maybe even if that wasn’t so,
    perhaps it would have been more
    graceful for you to view it that way.

    you still could have chosen not to
    _take_ the advice, for the exact same
    reason you gave anyway, but it would
    have made you look better in my eyes.

    and no, of course i don’t expect you
    to care how you look in my eyes…

    nor do i expect you (or your followers)
    to interpret _this_ comment as me
    going out of my way to “do you a favor”.
    (most _especially_ not your followers.)

    life is one big rorschach blot;
    the trick is how to interpret it.


  49. LOL. Nice rebuttal.

    I think this is one of the cons of people like yourself being on most of the “top ## designers to follow on twitter” lists. Misguided followers expect you to throw out dozens of web development links and tips – with no personal tweets. Which is entirely unfair to you as a twitter user.

  50. Not that anybody cares about any of my projects, but… I keep one account (@thomshouse) for personal tweets, stream-of-consciousness, etc., and separate accounts for each of the projects I’m in charge of. For me, it’s a great way to keep track of progress on a per-project basis (I’m definitely my own biggest subscriber, haha) but for more established project managers and all-around code gurus, it would seem to be a good way to help follow news on *just* a particular project.

  51. Good post, the 2 points of view. I follow people because they tweet great info and links, but I also follow people that I want to know better or show respect.

    Once someone reaches certain level, like in your case, that you are well known in the industry, you don’t need to provide any more value, it would be ridiculous. Anyway it’s interesting to hear positive and negative reactions.

  52. I posted a link to this on my Tumblr, but I’m worried that it doesn’t provide enough “value” to my Tumblr followers. Could you please ask the author of the excerpt above to come visit and tell me how I should conduct myself on each social media platform?

  53. While I don’t think I could say anything that hasn’t already been said, I’ll just say this;

    I met Jeffrey at AEA in Boston last year and he is one of the true professionals in his business as well as one of the nicest, classiest, and funniest people I have had the pleasure in meeting.

    So forget the haters, forget the people who want to demean, bemoan and whine about “ass-kissing”, “sheep”, and all the other ignorant and tactless drivel they’ve managed to comment about here Jeffrey, and keep on keeping on.

    Some of your tweets have made it to my favorites and have given me a much-needed chuckle to start off a bad day.

    and please excuse the sausage fingers and the premature submission of my previous comment.

  54. It’s easy to comment on the rudeness of the remark, it’s even easier to ignore the core of the message.

    Twitter is the equivalent of html tagsoup.

  55. I like your tweets and your blog. I enjoy your writing and that is what I value in following you online. Some people just don’t get it…

  56. I really can’t wrap my head around it — he somehow felt that you owed him something, and became enraged enough to send you a personal email?
    If on this very blog you started posting about some new love of cardboard boxes, and then posted twice daily about them, I might unsubscribe (depends on how insightful those stories are, really). It would never be because I’m angry, though, or disenchanted.
    It’s the way the blogosphere (of which twitter is a kind of ‘child of’), people post whatever they want, and other people find posts that interest them. If they don’t interest them, they move on, and that’s that.

  57. “Please close the door on your way out.” What a charming way to say f… y… to someone. Keep tweeting, sir. I enjoy reading your daily “basic human right” tweets. Always a pleasure.

  58. @mahalie:

    Grace would be finding value in this person sticking their neck out to offer sincere feedback – I’d love to get candid, even if dissatisfied feedback like this from my real users of my sites/feeds.

    He’s sticking out something, but it’s not his neck. Let’s stay G-Rated and call it his tongue. He’s being deliberately, aggressively rude.

    Yet I agree with you that his poor etiquette should not be used as an excuse to avoid honestly assessing the value of his comment. What matters is what’s said, not how it’s said.

    User feedback should be viewed dispassionately. Rudeness or politeness is beside the point. What matters is what the user is saying. I agree with you.

    If a user says our font size makes A List Apart hard to read, or the content of A List Apart is becoming less interesting to her than it used to be for reason X, Y, or Z, we take that input seriously, whether it’s expressed politely or not. (It usually is, because we mostly attract smart, well-mannered readers, but that’s beside the point.)

    My problem with [Name Withheld]’s feedback isn’t that he is a boorish asshat.

    I don’t use Twitter the way Guy Kawasaki and other marketers do. It’s not primarily a “channel” for my “brand.” I don’t hire ghostwriters (as Kawasaki does) to relentlessly promote my every activity. Nothing against Kawasaki, but that’s not what Twitter is to me. And it’s okay that I don’t view Twitter as a marketing bludgeon.

    I also don’t use Twitter primarily as a place to dispense information about web design and web standards. One reason I don’t use Twitter that way is the 140 character limit. When it comes time to talk about design, I tend to write books, articles, and blog posts. 140 characters is great for checking in with friends, cracking jokes, or saying you’re lonely or hungry. It’s not so great for evaluating semantics in HTML 5.

    [Name Withheld] takes me to task for not using Twitter the same way I use web and traditional publishing. That’s just silly. Twitter isn’t made for that.

    Then, too, the personal stuff he discounts as being of no value turns out to be the primary value some people derive from following my Twitter feed. I’m writing for those readers, too, not just for him.

    I’ve been doing this stuff since 1995, and I’ve always blended the personal with the professional. There’s the blog post on “art direction on the web,” and there’s “My Glamorous Life,” an episode of which may be trivial, or may be about the death of someone I love.

    Some people like their writers to write only one kind of thing. I’m not writing for those readers.

    I heard the argument and rejected it before many people heard of the web.

    I’ve always blended personal and professional writing, and so have heroes of mine like Heather Champ, Derek Powazek, and Ze Frank.

    If someone wrote a letter to Ze Frank complaining about his funny videos and demanding that he make more Flash games (or write articles about Flash games), I doubt Ze would lose sleep over that correspondent’s dissatisfaction. Neither do I. This doesn’t make me arrogant or egotistical. It just makes me a certain kind of content creator on the web.

    If I blend the personal and the professional in my websites and books, I’m probably going to do the same thing on my Twitter stream, and if someone doesn’t like it, he can unfollow.

    As to your other comments,

    Wow, the sound of ass-kissing in here is hurting my ears.

    Maybe these people aren’t mindlessly kissing ass. Maybe they use Twitter the way I do. Maybe it’s illogical of you (as well as a bit impolite) to insult the other people on this page on the assumption that they’re expressing themselves dishonestly in order to curry favor with me.

    I remember back-in-the-day when his site was decorated with random “hot babes” and I mentioned once that he might consider that women in his potential audience might be put off by it. Very similar response that time as well…from him and his sheep.

    I’m sorry you were dissatisfied with a previous discussion here. Calling people who disagree with you “sheep” probably isn’t a great way to make friends or persuade anyone to your point of view. But I appreciate that you’re honest and used your real name and linked to your site.

    Visit anytime.

  59. I follow designers whose work I like in part because I’m trying to figure out if I could work with them if I were to hire them.

    I find it bizarre that people think that “famous” people are somehow obliged to stick to a program on their own time and on their own dime or to provide design advice anonymously out of context on Twitter.

    (I’ve tried myself to give design advice via twitter, but find the 140 character limit problematic. Maybe I just need to write more concise CSS?)

    The Zeldman tweets are a model to me: authentic voice, artful, witty, personal without overshare, business oriented enough to enhance his brand and net cred without being crass or phony.

    I found some of the recent AEA stuff a bit too hardsell, but apart from that I really like Jeffrey’s twitter feed. I’m also the father of a young child. That’s gotta help.


  60. @ mahalie

    Wow. Talk about open mouth and insert foot. That was amazing. It’s not often you get to see someone trainwreck themselves so openly and willingly.

    That was boorish and insensitive mahalie. You don’t see that do you?

  61. Just finished reading and something came to my mind that is how a person should behave when they have a business (e.g freelancer, designing, etc etc).

    Should they hold back their thoughts just to impress their clients?

  62. Your tweets are probably among the most favorited of mine. We all learned first about Zeldman the Web Standards guy. Twitter has allowed me to know Zeldman the man and father as well, and I appreciate that. Keep tweeting.

  63. Well said!! Why is everyone so up in arms if a well know person chooses to tweet personal and to many folks trivial stuff.. as the founders of Twitter have said it’s about curating your own information stream (both in and out). If someone doesn’t find your tweets of value then UN-FOLLOW….

  64. What an idiot! Why in the world did he find it necessary to write you and inform you that he was “NOT” going to follow you anymore?

  65. Jeffrey, I can’t tell you how often people write to tell me that they’ve been thoroughly disappointed in my Twittering this week, and then a moment later someone emails me to tell me I’ve changed their life.

    You can’t control how others will perceive you, so don’t try. Just make yourself happy.

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