Tags: ambientintimacy



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.