Twitter… again

Everyone’s talking about Twitter, even the Wall Street Journal.

As usual, opinions are pretty polarised. Sometimes those poles swap over. The process goes something like this:

Signing up for Twitter.

This is stupid. I don’t get it.

Adding friends. What a pain!

Eating a cheese sandwich.

Trying to get some work done: getting distracted by Twitter.

@somebody: Really? Me too! Cool.

I love Twitter!

I’m surprised that Kathy Sierra doesn’t like Twitter seeing as it’s the classic example of creating passionate users. But as she freely admits:

I am not in the target audience for Twitter—I am by nature a loner.

Plenty of other people are hating on Twitter because it doesn’t appear to offer any practical value: it’s not productive. As I said before, neither is blogging.

Leisa nails the real value of Twitter. She calls it ambient intimacy:

Ambient intimacy is about being able to keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible. Flickr lets me see what friends are eating for lunch, how they’ve redecorated their bedroom, their latest haircut. Twitter tells me when they’re hungry, what technology is currently frustrating them, who they’re having drinks with tonight.

While I was away at South by Southwest, Jessica found all the updates from Austin really helped her feel more connected to the people there. I need to get one of those giant plasma screens that were scattered around the convention centre and put one in my flat.

Just occasionally, Twitter is genuinely useful as Leisa can attest (Tantek has a similar story of narrowly-avoided airport confusion from his trip to Vancouver for Web Directions North). But it isn’t really about usefulness or long-term gain.

Lots of people are saying that Twitter is a fad and it won’t last. You know what? That’s fine. Not everything has to last. The whole raison d’être behind Twitter comes from answering a simple question in the present tense:

What are you doing?

If you don’t like Twitter, that’s fine. I understand completely. There’s loads wrong with it and it’s fundamentally not for everyone. But for the rest of us, let us have our fun. We’re not harming anyone and we’re getting some genuine emotional value from technology. That’s a rare thing these days. Yes, I’ll probably get bored with it and move on to something new but in the meantime, Twitter is fun. It really is as simple as that.

Oh, and if you think that Twitter is a waste of your time, here’s a real time-sink: Twittervision.

Have you published a response to this? :

Comments

I love your Twitter time line. I signed up for it in January and thought, "huh? What?" Another month came and went before I logged on, added friends, and then Addiction.

I won’t take Twitter on my phone as it drained my batteries so that I had no camera phone two of the nights at SXSW. Now there is a real tragedy…

;oD

# Posted by Ms. Jen on Monday, March 19th, 2007 at 6:02pm

That process is bang on! :)

Twitter has let me maintain contact with some incredible people I’d otherwise be hard pressed to keep up with. I have friends scattered across the globe, yet I can connect with their daily lives. So anyone who hates Twitter is free to get bent ;)

At the same time, I absolutely understand why some people hate it - as you said, it’s not for everyone. Many objections seem to stem from some weird thought that it’s supposed to be for everyone. Email, IM, web and mobile phones aren’t for everyone either. I can’t stand MMS (overpriced postage stamp sized pictures?!), but I wouldn’t say that technology isn’t fun for other people.

One obvious thing is that if you don’t have a fair number of friends on Twitter, you’re just not going to have much fun. It’s a social tool, so if nobody from your circle is using it… well, it’s not connecting anybody so no it won’t work. Just like a mobile phone won’t work if none of your friends have their phones on.

In the long run it’ll probably be like BBSes+message boards, IRC, IM, forums, chat rooms etc… People will come and go. Maybe the technology/service will disappear entirely. But right now it’s a lot of fun - and that’s enough for me :)

I love the microblogging. For me sitting down and writing an entire full-grown blog post takes quite a while and an awful lot of effort. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Twitter allows me to log what’s happening there and then with very little effort.

I think it does have some sort of usefulness, however. Lets say (for argument sake) I’ve organised a conference down here in Auckland with awesome speakers (like Jeremy Keith ;)). What I’d do is get 5 or so people to be the official twitter microbloggers. They’d all publish what’s going on to a central twitter bot. That bot would then broadcast those twitters out so people can keep track of one twitter user (the bot) rather than hundreds. I found the twitterverse pretty noisy during SXSW and quickly got frustrated with the 30 odd people all twittering the same shit over n over…

I think they did something similar to this for Macworld a few months ago. Worked a treat!

You missed some stages:

  • upset a few people

  • realise that the whole world can read your stream of consciousness

  • feel guilty and slightly stupid, and delete your account

Oh, I forgot:

  • feel angry and frustrated

  • shrug and decide it was probably for the best

  • go back to talking to friends in person, instead of the world in abstraction