Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Twitter...Are We Doing It Wrong?

I should be spending a little more time preparing for the social software proof of technology seminar that I am giving the next two days, but instead I'm spending time reading blogs about social software. Hmmm...maybe that actually counts. :-)

There's been quite a bit of buzz about Twitter in our community lately.  Rocky asked what all the fuss was about a few days ago.  I saw Andrew talking about Twitter being used incorrectly on Twitter yesterday, which I thought was funny and ironic.  Today, he elaborates on those short points and says that we are using Twitter as a chat room and that we shouldn't be doing so.  I thought my comment might get a bit long, so I decided to post here.

Looking at Andrew's thoughts and some of the ensuing comments, my initial reaction is that you guys are all spending too much time looking at this from a tool and technology point of view.  Social software is about relationships between people.   Twitter provides a dead simple mechanism for people to expose bits and pieces about themselves that can lead to a strengthening of those relationships.  It has a singular purpose...to let us learn more about others.  It may have initially been created to tell your friends what you are doing at this exact moment, but the community that has grown up around Twitter has fashioned a new use for it.  This is a hallmark of good technology...it expanded beyond the dreams of its creators.  The importance of the 140 character limit can't be understated either.  It encourages interesting ebbs and flows within a conversation or a person's thought patterns that you would not otherwise see if they had the ability to type free form.  It's a great way to fill in the blanks between e-mails and blog posts.

Twitter works because YOU have the say in what you want to listen to and how you want to participate in the grand conversation.  It's easy to filter out the noise and focus on what interests you.  With the rapid adoption of this model across other platforms, you are going to be hard pressed to get those who believe in it to leave.  I'm not saying that chat rooms don't have their place (they certainly do), but it's just a completely different paradigm.   I see Twitter as organized chaos that I'm free to jump in and out of at will, and there's something about that concept that appeals to me.  It's not about if we're using it for its intended purpose.  What matters is if it strengthens the connections I have to people I am interested in.  Does it help me build a feeling of community?  So far, the answer is yes.  Thus, I think our use of Twitter is just right.

Hey...if you want to follow me,  I'm chrisblatnick on Twitter.  See you there!


Dave Parillo said...

I'll start by saying I don't really see the point of twitter. I find your comment "It's a great way to fill in the blanks between e-mails and blog posts." interesting. Do you think you are really getting gaps filled in, or is twitter a way to pretend to pay attention to more people than would be otherwise possible without this technology?

I have used twitter once. I live near San Diego and during the Oct 2007 fires (which completely surrounded our town), the local PBS station had an excellent twitter feed that I checked out a few times a day for evacuation updates and other breaking news.

By any chance have you read Kathy Sierra's article on the Asymptotic Twitter Curve?

Charles Robinson said...

You either get everything someone posts on Twitter or you get nothing. That's not very granular, and it's one of the primary reasons I eventually gave up. Yes, it helps humanize people when you know something about them, but the flood of "I'm a 123 Maple Street" and "chocolate is good" kind of stuff finally got to me. I'm reminded of the cartoon that says "If you have nothing to say, say it on Twitter."