It’s the nature of Twitter that you baffle half the people who follow you & are baffled by half the folks you follow.

I wrote this tonight in response to an old friend who was teasing me about finding half my tweets baffling. It’s a comment I get a lot, often from Facebook friends who are subjected to all the tweets that I cross-post to Facebook. And in most cases, it’s because I’m often tweeting about relatively technical things that don’t make sense to folks who aren’t web developers, or at least, very heavy social media users.

I know how they feel. About half the stuff I read in my Twitter feed baffles me just as much as I (apparently) baffle others. And that’s a good thing.

Here’s why: while it can be uncomfortable to be baffled (an experience that is not entirely unrelated to feeling stupid, as I often do online) it’s a sign that you’re stretching. If you understand 100% of what you read in your Twitter feed, you’re either following the world’s most effective 140-character communicators, or you’re following people who only talk about stuff that is entirely within your comfort zone.

Where’s the fun in that? The whole joy of Twitter (or at least a good chunk of it) is discovering the undiscovered, or (as Donald Rumsfeld put it) the unknown unknowns. Click the cryptic link, read the web page that includes only 7 words you recognize, and next time you come across a post on the subject (whether it’s working with AJAX or resurfacing floors) you’ll recognize 8 words.

And if you’re the baffler rather than the bafflee, that’s also good news. It’s a sign that you’re not just preaching to the choir. You’re still saying the occasional thing that makes sense to people outside your lab, your field, your spiritual community. There’s enough variety in your tweets to both baffle and engage; to interest your fellow specialists while still appealing to your old friends. And hopefully what’s engaging some of your followers is what’s baffling to others, and vice versa: you’re helping all of them stretch their muscles, their knowledge, their ability to decrypt obscure and labored acronyms in a desperate attempt to stay within 140 characters.

Whether you know exactly what I’m talking about here, or you’re still feeling baffled, that’s ok. Either way, I’ll aim to get you next time.