Stephen Fry and ‘The Fry Standards’ For Twitter

Jan 29th, 2009 | By | Category: General, Microblogging

Actor and author Stephen Fry has a blog post today about his experience with Twitter. After a recent interview on BBC TV, during which he discussed the microblogging application, the number of Fry’s Twitter Followers surged past 80,000.

Fry sings the praises of Twitter, and its ability to showcase the best things about human interaction: “I love how Twitter confirms …that most humans are kind, curious, knowledgeable, tolerant and funny. The absurd constraints of the 140 character tweet seem oddly to bring out the best in wit, insight and observation.”

As one might expect, though, trying to keep up with your 88,260 followers, and also your 32,000-and-some people you follow, can be a little daunting, says Fry.

So he offers a set of guidelines, which may be helpful not just to the Uber-Followed, but also to schmoes like us, with a paltry thousand followers and followees.

“There are just one or two suggestions I would offer to make life easier,” Fry says. “By no means are these house rules or commandments, the spirit of Twitter should reflect the spirit of the internet which has always been – to some of us at least, one of openness and freedom.”

Fry’s suggestions, dubbed ‘The Fry Standards‘ by one of the post’s adoring commenters, and framed by Fry as “[n]ot a manifesto or rulebook, but perhaps useful, especially to new followers” are these:

1. If you are mystified by a reference, it’s best not immediately to post a “WTF?” “Please explain” tweet, but rather to look back along the timeline ( or even to use good old Google or your search engine of choice to chase down the reference….

2. I am afraid I cannot respond to any professional/speaking/interview/public appearance requests through Twitter. I would ask you to go through the usual channels if there are any enquiries you want to make. <snip> It’s important to me that Twitter is a friendly, sociable entity <snip>where business and PR are excluded.

3. <snip>….I am absolutely not looking to use Twitter as a market stall. I will mention but not push new ‘products’, just as most Twitterers do and just as we all do when we announce any posting to our websites or blog spaces. For me Twittering is not a commercial or PR activity, it’s a fun and fascinating way to interact with all kinds of people who have so much to say. Since the primary function of Twitter is to answer the question “what you are doing?” my tweets will sometimes, obviously, involve news of publications or openings or events. Just be assured I am not using Twitter to advertise!

4. Please don’t be offended if you Tweet or DM me with a direct question and hear nothing back: as you can imagine it is very easy for me to miss the traffic of tweets. Incidentally, while I like to be DM-ed, public tweeting and replies are the default and preferred way to use the service: save DMs for genuinely private or personal messages. Although I will often myself respond to a public tweet with a private DM, you can choose to reply through either channel.

5. I like to follow as much as be followed, but I am afraid the numbers are getting so high that it is almost impossible to follow each of you individually. <snip> If you ask me and I catch you asking and I am using a Twitter app that allows me to (or a web browser) then I will probably consent and follow you, but don’t be offended if your request passes me by.

On first glance, one could read these “suggestions” as “I’m-Too-Famous-To-Talk-To-You” guidelines. But thinking a little more about it, I’ve changed my mind.

‘The Fry Standards’ (cracks me up to say that, like it’s an established policy, like the Monroe Doctrine or Glasnost or something)…. The Fry Standards are a nice articulation of how many of us Twitter users look at interactions with our followers, and with people we follow.

If you were going to explain how someone’s Twitter experience might be improved, or advise a new user how to get the most out of the application, what Twitter “guidelines” would you spell out?

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply