The different purposes of Twitter and LinkedIn – a personal view

If you are interested in a specialist subject – eDiscovery / eDisclosure in my case – which social media platform would you spend time on? Ignoring the Facebook empire and its creepy data-vampire, and ignoring those which are effectively closed groups, you are left with LinkedIn and Twitter as places to connect with others with similar interests. I live in Twitter, and use LinkedIn because I feel I ought to. Others think differently. What factors make one more useful than the other for business or specialist discussion? The question came up this week, and set me thinking about it.

LinkedIn is famously dull, full of people announcing things which don’t matter very much to anyone else but them, and of stalkers who invite you to connect with them and then try and flog you their company’s products or services. Like many people, I began by gratefully accepting invitations to connect on LinkedIn, but gradually came to realise that every new connection meant more garbage in my newsfeed, obscuring the relatively few posts about things I do actually need to know.

And there is stuff I need to know – announcements by companies I am connected with in some way, promotions or job moves by people I know, and links to articles which are interesting, important or both. Whenever I do actually scroll down the feed, I find something which is at least worthy, if not necessarily interesting, and I do a spate of Liking and Sharing. I post links to my own articles there, and get enough reactions to suggest that someone is noting their existence.

Occasionally, I put a photograph of somewhere pretty on LinkedIn, feeling rather impertinent as I do so, like waving a rattle in a library or eating in church. One or two others do the same, and one user posts cocktail recipes.

I should probably have been more assiduous in my LinkedIn use, disconnecting from people I don’t know and should never have linked to, and seeking out others with something useful to say. There is certainly a great deal of useful eDiscovery material in there, but it is buried beneath countless announcements about someone I don’t know being appointed to a company I’ve never heard of.

Cat Casey, now at Reveal-Brainspace, has made herself the shining light of eDiscovery LinkedIn, shaking up our feeds with posts intended to incite conversations with the people she names in her posts.  What are you seeing? What do you expect? What changes are afoot? It gets people chatting, and it has encouraged me to look again- just a bit – at LinkedIn for its eDiscovery content.

My social media home is Twitter. I was first drawn in by its eDiscovery players, but they have now either been dwarfed by others or defected to LinkedIn. What is more interesting (and not obvious in my corner of LinkedIn) is what is loosely known as Legal Twitter, a mixed assembly of people involved in the law in some capacity. Most of those are barristers, perhaps because many solicitors, particularly those who are not partners, feel inhibited by their responsibilities to the firm and its clients.

One of the problems about eDiscovery people is that many of them see only the one corner of the law and legal practice which directly affects them – the actual discovery part of the litigation or regulatory processes. Legal Twitter gives a context for all that – judgments in which disclosure / discovery plays a part, emerging trends in privacy and data protection which increasingly bump into eDiscovery, and the daily grind of preparing for and being at court (not least the disclosure aspects of that). As I write, a forensic investigator has a thread on missed evidence, and the complexity and cost of proper disclosure of phone forensics, following a Guardian article on (among other things) context and bias in investigations. I get my first peek at new privacy and data protection initiatives from Twitter, and much more which, whether directly concerned with eDiscovery or not, rounds out my picture of what is happening. It also allows me to reach beyond those who are already eDisclosure / eDiscovery junkies and to people who may have a disclosure problem one day.

And there’s much more, for me at least on Twitter: pretty pictures of people’s holidays, gardens, pets or cooking; glimpses into people’s lives; some politics (but you have to be careful about who you follow); history, art, and other cultural sources which help brighten the day; chatter about things which don’t necessarily matter but which , for those of us who don’t get out much (as none of us has recently), stands substitute for everyday conversation but with a much wider range of people than one could possibly come across by being out and about.

Overall, LinkedIn and Twitter serve different purposes, at least for me. Twitter has one major flaw for the kind of discussions which Cat Casey initiates so well on LinkedIn. On LinkedIn, a conversation is generally confined within a thread, visible only to those who choose to follow it or its participants. Twitter has aspirations to get you involved beyond your circle. Its own description of its feed says that it may include “other content that’s popular or relevant” – rather like a pub bore crashing into your conversation. There are two problems: one is that Twitter’s founder is reputedly rather unsociable himself, which may explain why Twitter fails to grasp the dynamics of ordinary conversation; the other is that Twitter (it is said) can only hire the developers who can’t get jobs at Facebook, so the algorithms are inherently defective. To the extent that there is a commercial aim, it seems to be the artificial inflation of conversation transactions in order to encourage investors and advertisers.

This is a problem if your aim is to incite conversations, because of the fear that your discussion will be spattered all over the timelines of innocent bystanders by the work of second-rate developers shoving “popular or relevant” content at them. I bale quickly out of Twitter conversations for this reason – presumably not the plan of Twitter’s founder, who thinks that everyone should want to be part of everyone else’s “network”. Networking is for LinkedIn.


About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in Discovery, eDisclosure, eDiscovery, Electronic disclosure, Litigation Support, Social Media. Bookmark the permalink.

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