Social Networking sites and often things Web 2.0 are based on user content. Users contribute what they like and from it is born something that came from a little bit of chaos and a lot of great people. Take for example Twitter hash tags, they are used to organize tweets around an event or idea. A lot of folks feel the urge to formalize it, to control it. You must mold the clay in order for a beautiful sculpture to form, right? It would be cool to give 100 people each a cubic inch of clay have them make something and then put all of the pieces together. The result I bet would be really amazing. This is user generated content.

The problem is in trying to control it. Twitter is about freedom, finding a gem in the chaos. It is a side discussion to a conference or to a political march and ultimately to life. In a lot of ways I feel like the tweeter stream is more like a stream in the @jamierob way (nature) and less in the @tomfite way (computer science), it flows freely and when you try to control a river it will go right around you. The commercial entities section seems to be getting the hang of this, better than the higher ed folks. There is a mentality in education to control what kids do in the classroom and to try to control what they do outside of the classroom (you must live in the dorm your first year…)

My advice: not only can you NOT control it, but you shouldn’t want to. If you really want to use the technology, just use it. Use it like everyone else, the twitter ocean is very big, and this time you aren’t special (the fail whale will catch you). Not only will going with the flow bring you a better sense of the how you can successfully use the technology, but your users will appreciate you more and will be willing to interact with you.