The continuing etymology of the word “spam” is of interest to people with an interest in how words can develop, change meanings and take on additional, new ones. Originally used as a brand name for a tinned, processed meat, it was picked up and used in a Monty Python sketch and from there was adopted to refer to e-mail which was unsolicited, unwelcome and used to aggressively drive a message (usually commercial) regardless of audience. As time has passed, it has come to be used in terms of any unwelcome proliferation of information or advice.
Spamming on Twitter does not only refer to commercial promotion, but still includes it. More than that, though, it has come to refer to anyone posting persistently with information that is either incorrect, irrelevant or just plain annoying. If you are accused – justifiably or otherwise – of spamming will inevitably result in you losing followers. For such reasons it is essential that you consider seriously what you are going to post before you post it. If you strongly feel that it is relevant to your followers, then tweet it. If you are not concerned by the prospect of losing followers, then posting things that may be considered irrelevant should not concern you.
Bear in mind too that when it comes to relevance, telling people what they already know constitutes irrelevance. If you constantly posted that grass tends to be green, you would be spamming, and if you post well-worn political arguments in a feed mostly read by political experts, they may well accuse you of doing the same.
As Twitter gains popularity, it has also driven the popularity of another recent internet phenomenon, that of the desktop “client”. Not a website, but still connected to the web, a client is a program that draws information from and distributes it to a website without the user needing to visit that site themselves. While this is not always a necessity, it does increase the convenience of the service. One particular reason for using a client is that you may be surfing another site and want to keep as few tabs open as possible – so instead of going back and forth between Twitter and another site, you can use your client to tweet and to read tweets.
Additionally, and this may not be utterly advisable if you are determined to keep your job, a client can be a way of bypassing site-blocking software which prevents you visiting Twitter in the workplace. It also allows you to use Twitter in a much smaller area of the screen, so if you don’t want people to know you are using the web or the site, you can still use Twitter by means of a client.
Another advantage of using a client is that, as the software gets better, they make the use of Twitter’s other features simpler than using the site itself. Buttons exist to re-tweet something without needing to type out the RT prefix and the user’s name, and also to shorten a URL without needing to visit a specific site. For all the features it is still useful to go to the Twitter site, but having a client downloaded does make things easier.
One thing that has emerged over the course of the last decade is a common aversion towards text speak, or a phenomenon to which people have begun to refer as “txt spk”. This is particularly prevalent among people who feel that language should be respected by those who use it and that if you are going to use a word, you should use the full word. While character limits (first identified as a barrier to clear communication with the advent of text messaging) do confer a certain urgency upon not wasting a word or a letter, it is possible to tweet or to text with clarity.
While text messaging may be driven towards “txt spk” by the fact that you pay by the message and you don’t want to waste money, you pay nothing for a tweet and you can easily continue your message in a second post. Although many people are conscious that multiple tweets in a short space of time can look like spamming, when faced with a choice between this and being viewed as a dimwit they tend to accept the spamming charge. It is not exactly a fair charge anyway, when it is simply a run-on tweet.
One outcome of the Twitter character limit has been the increase in sites providing shorter link URLs. If you have tweeted about a news story or with a link to a site, a long URL can take you over the character limit. Step forward sites such as tinyurl.com, snipurl.com and icanhaz.com, which offer an easy way around this.