I use Twitter primarily to share items I read via my RSS Reader or the New York Times. I share anywhere from a few to twenty some items a day. More when I am not traveling.

The engagement I experience via Twitter comes from people replying to, liking or retweeting items I share. This engagement comes from me getting to know these people better via Twitter or elsewhere online or offline. Trust is also built by each of us getting to know each other.

Twitter also represents a heck of a news feed from people with deep passion and expertise on countless niches. Whether reporter, blogger or anyone sharing their observations and what they read, Twitter represents a great news feed from trusted authorities with similar interests.

Such a feed is impossible to harness though if you’re following too many people. So yesterday I started refining my feed by whittling down the number of people I’m following.

First, I just started skimming through my Twitter feed to see what people were sharing. If the stuff a person was sharing didn’t offer much value to me (it may for others), I stopped following them.

I then started going through those I was following on Twitter. I wanted to see how much they used Twitter.  I found a free web based app, ManageFlitter, to help me identify those who did not tweet much, if at all.

Turns out there were a lot of folks not tweeting. Some stopped since I started following them — many I now see active on Facebook — and others I may have followed to meet them and it turned out they never much used Twitter.

I then looked at who ManageFlitter said was more influential. Whether someone is “influential” is highly charged. What does that really mean? While viewed as “un-influential,” in general, someone could be very influential to me because of the respect I have for them and the trust I have in the information they share.

So when it came to influential I was pretty discrete in who I stopped following. I am still following a lot of the “un-influential.”

When I was all done I skimmed through the entire list. Scary as it me be, I knew the six hundred plus I was still following. If not personally, at least by their station in life and how they add value to my life by what they share. I also wanted to mantain a “relationship” with most of those folks.

This morning, I started skimming through my feed. I found some good stuff and shared a couple things.

There is still a lot of stuff coming through. More than I can probably absorb. That’s probably because those I stopped following were not sharing much so the flow was not reduced much.

In addition, the Twitter feed represents news and information shared in a moment of time. An hour was all I could scroll back – and that took a bit of time. My RSS reader (Feedly or Mr Reeder) organizes info into folders and allows me to review news and information from an entire day.

But I am going to continue my experiment of reviewing Twitter’s home feed to see how I can a harness it. I may do some more whittling of those I follow, hoping I don’t pick up some resentment from folks who may follow who unfollows – not sure why you would care enough to do that.

I will also use Twitter lists for timely info for sporting events as well as lists to build relationships with strategic partners. The later I do by retweeting some of their things — when I can.

I know many of you follow thousands and thousands of people on Twitter. Some view it as the polite thing to do. To follow back those who follow you. Some even have software that goes and gets followers by targeting people to follow.

I see the greatest value in Twitter as a stream of news and information. Walter Cronkite had the UPI, Reuters and the AP. We have something arguably much more powerful in Twitter.

But to me, Twitter needs to be refined to work.

Image courtesy of Flickr by Pete Simon