So there's your tweet from your sweet, Lance Armstrong. He's watching the Belgium cycling race La Fleche Wallone. Does receiving that information make you feel like you're part of something? And if so, what? And why?
Am I sounding negative? Even petty? Sue me. Everybody has a limit, and I've reached mine with Twitter, which isn't just the world's fastest-growing social networking tool. It's a religion, filling the hole in regular people's regular lives.
Don't look at me like that. I'm not the neighborhood crank, kicking you kids off my lawn. I've embraced the blogging revolution, bookmarking multiple sites and visiting them every day. More than 20 million Americans write a blog, many of them for audiences approaching zero. Less than 9 percent of the blogging public makes any money at all, and only 2 out of every 100 bloggers support themselves fully. But still 20 million people do it. And I get that. It's personal expression. It's art. Doesn't matter whether it's done well or not. Art is art. So I get blogging.
Facebook and MySpace? I don't get that, unless it's for dating purposes. Horniness, I understand. The need to tell people what you're doing at various junctures of the day? And to read what other people are doing? Gregg is folding clothes ... I don't understand. And I never will. My life shouldn't be that interesting to you, and your life damn sure isn't that interesting to me.
The only thing more inane than Twitter is people blogging about hating it. Even the people that use Twitter already know how stupid it is. Seriously, how much longer can it stay cool if Barbara Walters and CNN are talking about it?
Just bide your time a little more and then we'll be on to the next lame fad and on and on into eternity. :-)
You're all using it wrong.
Sure, using it to report your banal daily activities is shallow. That's not to say it's useless, because I've managed to run into people that I hardly ever see, or get interesting topical and CONTEXTUALLY relevant information that I probably wouldn't have gotten otherwise. In a lot of ways, this usage is like the Agents fad from the early dot com days, but instead of intelligent bots, it's your social network doing the work for you.
A good friend described it this way: Facebook is for the people you know. Twitter is for the people you want to know. If you're an old dog internet person, then you already know the power of connecting online. You got access to people on IRC or via email listservs back in the day that you'd never have gotten any other way. Those people became colleagues, employers, friends, or lovers in the real world. Twitter is more of the same. It allows you to connect with people that you ordinarily wouldn't have. Particularly about a specific topic or event.
I didn't get this either, until I attended a BarCamp where the back channel on Twitter was far more interesting that what was going on IRL. I got to connect with people who weren't even there, as well as follow along to sessions that I wasn't even in. In effect, it was like listening to everyone's thoughts about the event all at once. Wherever they were. Mind you, this was daunting and was very hard to keep up with the massive stream. But I think you can say that this ersatz version of omnipotence has extreme value.
And just like any other social network, when you connect with some like minds, you get to connect with their friends and colleagues. I think the danger here is drowning in an echo chamber. But if used well, I can quickly get a sense of competing ideas and perspectives on a subject. For free. It's the best research tool ever. With almost instantaneous results. Find me a better alternative!
Just like Metcalfe's Law, the value of a network is in the number of nodes. And that's why Twitter "wins" because it's grabbed the lion's share of users and user growth over the last year. But another dimension to that network is the value of each node. I get to meet incredible thinkers, doers, and people of action that I would likely not come into contact with any other way. Not unlike memestreams. But because each "bite" of communication is so small, it encourages a longer stream and a much more titrated frame. That's good and bad, but the good part is that you can't just have one bite.
I'm not defending Twitter. I rarely use it directly anymore unless it's to follow an event or peek in on a particular person and their work. The torrent of posts after you've amassed even a few followers is just too massive to be productive. I tweet stupid stuff in sync with my facebook profile using ping.fm, but that's because I keep my family and friends posted on what I'm doing. It's ironic that the reason why a tool like this becomes useful is because it makes you more productive with your social network, but then robs you of the gains because it requires you to constantly monitor it.
I do think that Twitter has IMMENSE potential, but probably not in human to human communication. There are many modalities for that which are superior and will probably get more traction. But I do like using it for machine to human or machine to machine communication.
For example, I altered a project from Make that checks to see if my garage door is open at certain times of day or under certain circumstances. This was a big problem for me as several tools have "walked off" because I forgot to close it or because it automagically re-opened after I'd closed it (probably a leaf tripping the electric eye). I modified the original design so that it would tweet the status of the door throughout the day and night, then had those tweets texted to my cell. I stopped just short of being able to send it tweets to either open or close the door remotely. I did this all with about $50 worth of electronics and virtually no programming. I doubt I could've accomplished this without something like Twitter as the conduit. The applications of something like this are massive.
Here Here, if you don't like it, HACK IT!
RE: 'This Twitter thing is annoying as hell' -- Gregg Doyel at 6:01 p.m. - CBSSports.com News, Fantasy, Video