So what is Twitter? It’s a way of describing your current situation in 140 characters or less. That’s the basic premise really but it’s also a way of responding to the updates/descriptions from other people. It’s a tool for conversing with people, again in 140 character limits. Very recently I started cutting back on my usage of it and who I follow as it was getting too noisy for me and logging in to it every morning and reading through 20 pages of status updates was too much. This is solved easily by just turning down the noise via removing people you sub to. Yes, you might miss something but it’s great for the brain.
I like Twitter for a few reasons. It’s not a blog but it has a format like a blog. Fire in a few words and send it out to the world. Handy way of updating yout friends. People can subscribe to you and you can see who they are, mostly. You can see who replies to you, even if you are not subbed to them. Jaiku used to be the alternative and a competitor but now that Google pretty much killed that off, Twitter is doing very well. I actually think the lack of functions for it are a good thing. Scarcity breeds ingenuity and Jaiku was just turning into yet another mailing list/discussion forum. Some clever stuff being done on Twitter but I think the cleverist stuff is still what gets said in 140 characters.
Look at the news feed on Facebook. A very easy way of getting updates on friends. It started years back on MSN when people used their sign-in names to add more information, from fav lyrics to what song they were listening to to their moods. GMail chat/GTalk allows you to do the same too. Twitter fits into that niche as well as the niche where you IM your friends or email them with quick quotes or “haha, check this out, this is funny” or “Did you hear about this? … blah blah blah”. It allows you to get information out into a public space without having a blog or website of your own, sign up and shout it out. No comments, no upgrading, no feeling you have to respond to comments. No having to tackle spam. It’s just another way to communicate and to listen.
Twitter reached a tipping point for me of late and it happened when I started to add non-Irish people and people that I didn’t really know or interact with much. I started by adding people I know via their blog and this gave me more insight into their daily and minutely utterings and then it was good to see who they interacted with. As I immersed myself by going deeper out into the Twitter ocean, other names started becoming familiar to me and I started adding them too. It was a bit random but fun, finding new people and seeing what they were saying and linking to and over time I would unsubscribe from them or leave them on a list. It felt like the good old days when I found new exciting blogs with viewpoints that were left field for me. The mysterioulsy attraction to the unexpected and the random. Sometimes I unsub people on Twitter because they have the same viewpoint and read and share the same information as me. I’ve got me to hear me. That was to echoey for me, so bye they went. Others talked about too much of one boring topic that when they did send out gems there was too much noise to appreciate it. It’s very pot luck I suppose but you do have to reach a number and distribution of people before the service becomes valuable.
By the way, JP Rangaswami has some great blog posts about Twitter in the enterprise that are worth reading fully. So in the end Twitter for me is about the people. Lots of interesting voices there and I have in effect my personal volume switch which is great. There are so many other ways of interacting with people though, Twitter is just another room at another event but you can mute others in that room. The rules of the room might not suit everyone but for me, they do and it’s fun. I’m damienmulley on Twitter.