Why are you following me?

I’ve been playing around with Twitter lately, and found the social aspects of it quite intriguing. In other social networks I participate in (like Facebook or LinkedIn), connections usually denotes there’s some kind of personal relationship (‘friendship’ based in Facebook or professional based in LinkedIn) between two individuals. In Twitter the most visible connection is the ‘follower’ notion, and at first I treated it with a similar approach as I do in other networks (meaning – being very selective as to who I follow and expecting only familiar faces in my followers).

Then (quite quickly, actually) I got the first unfamiliar person following me, and that got me thinking – cool, I’m interesting (that was my main motivation to following someone – I was actually interested in what they were saying..). I guess I thought it would be interesting to know this person who decided to follow me, so I followed back (and he did have a couple of thousands followers, so he must  be an interesting person, right?).

A couple of days later two other people started following me (and I followed them in response), and then this little flow of followers started, and I was thinking to myself – why is this happening? I know I’m interesting :-), but how do this people know? Do they actually read what I’m writing? I know I couldn’t possibly keep following dozens of people, how could someone follow hundreds or thousands of people? What’s the point of all that?

Then I heard of someone proposing a prize for followers (something like that, there are others..), and it occurred to me that some (hopefully only some) of my followers are actually only following me because they expected me to follow back.. Not that I mind, but I figured if I follow that many people sooner or later (probably sooner) my incoming twitter stream will be a big haystack, and finding the needles will become increasingly hard..

So, I got to thinking, how can I maintain a large number of followed people while still noticing the interesting information? There are some tools out there like Twitter search or Filttr , there are #hashtags and Tweeter trends, but it’s not exactly what I’m looking for.. Here are some of my thoughts, I’m not sure if some or all of them are already implemented somehow, I’ll be happy to here:

I’d like a way to distinguish between ‘information’ tweets (something happened somewhere), ‘status tweets’ (I’m going to sleep..), ‘reference tweets’ (hey, look at this site..) and so on. I’m not sure if there’s a tool that does that, and obviously it requires cooperation from the tweeter himself (you need to mark your outgoing tweet under some category, and maybe it misses the point of quick updates..), although to some extent this could probably be done in the receiving end using some sort of a learning client (bayesian based?).

In addition, if I’m already following someone, I don’t really want to see retweets of that person in my list (in fact, I don’t want to see double retweets at all..). This should be easier to implement, I guess, though maybe what I actually want is add some client side learning here as well – mark tweets as ‘not interesting’ automatically?

Another thing is – it seems to me like ‘all tweets are created equal’, and that seems to work out well, but maybe you could have the ability to highlight/promote a tweet? I guess you’d have to limit the amount of promotions (per day? charge for them? charge over a threshold?), but if I know that someone (who I already follow) consciously marked something as more important, maybe I’ll give it more attention..