Wednesday, February 20, 2008

All a-Twitter

In the last three days I have added Twitter to my blog, Facebook, BlackBerry and Firefox bookmarks. You can send a Twitter message, or "Tweet," from any of your registered devices or webpages.

So far Twitter has not changed my life. I was hoping to be able to quote “Sam” (Natalie Portman’s character), who famously said in the movie Garden State that The Shins "will change your life." Sorry, not this time, but Twitter is cool.

The buzz around Twitter is significant among the “highly mobile-Web 2.0” or “mobile Web” crowd. It’s like a new form of instant messaging about tiny chapters in your life. The Twitter website says it’s a “social networking and microblogging service utilizing instant messaging, SMS or a web interface” that answers the question, “What are you doing?” Every time you see something interesting on the Internet or in life, you Tweet it. It’s very ephemeral.

The buzz around Twitter has invited rabid technology comparisons (some say it is a microblog, others say it is SMS, or IM, or a Web 2.0 communications vehicle). I think it’s most like IM from a communications standpoint because you are sending a short messages to a public audience through a small text box by pressing the submit button. This is one of its strengths. Also, there have been a lot of blog posts written about it (see here and here) and discussions at Web 2.0 events. There's a “newbie’s guide to Twitter” here. Twitterholic tracks the top 100 Twitter users here. And so on.

Here are two weird things: The heaviest Twitters in the Boston area are PR people. This has no doubt contributed to the buzz. Also, the demographic for Twitter is not the classic F-book crowd. It’s an older demographic. (See Chris’ blog post for more data.)

Suffice to say that I like Twitter because it informs a whole bunch of people who I care about and who care about me. I also like it because it is the next cool thang.


Marina Martin said...

Once upon a time, I also did not "get" Twitter. I posted little bits of what I was doing and didn't interact with the community.

Today, if you asked me to choose between Twitter and an arm, it would be a hard call. You definitely can't have my right arm. But maybe my left...

Twitter is community, a support group, and perhaps most relevant to you, an immediate feedback tool. Have a slogan you'd normally run by a focus group? Throw it up on Twitter. Having an issue with your web site code? Throw it up on Twitter. Want to find a great place to eat in Timbuktoo when you're on a business trip? Throw it up on Twitter. (You'll probably also get company for your meal, if you want it.)

Twitter is also an immediate news source. There isn't a single story for me that didn't break on Twitter before anyone had the time to write an article for Google News. You can also get notices of local events (especially in places like Seattle) by tracking the name of your city and local hangouts. I've made lots of new local friends this way.

However, this feedback loop only works if you tweet valuable content and if you gain enough followers. You do this by being useful to other people first and by following them first (primarily). You can find new people to follow by using Twitter tracking, using a search engine like TweetScan, and/or following a bunch of people that someone you're already following is following.

I have a blog about Twitter at -- the posts under the "New to Twitter?" headline might be of interest to you.

Adrian Cho said...

Personally I found Twitter to be too high maintenance and too real-time. I felt like I always had to be Twittering about this or that and I also wondered about my own privacy - people knowing where I am at the time I'm actually there. The signal to noise ratio of the content is also very low. Then there's the anonymity - I like to know about who I'm following or who's following me. A lot of people on Twitter reveal only scant details about themselves and many don't even reveal their real name. I find that a combination of Tumblr and Facebook work well for me. The beauty of the web is that there are services for everyone.