To Tweet or Not to Tweet

April 29, 2009 | 34 comments
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When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was one of those truly dumb ideas that couldn’t possibly catch on. Now it is an infotsunami, sweeping over the world in a growing horde of 140-character snippets [see “People Are Flocking to Twitter” at LDS Media Talk for a quick update]. So do you join the wave or run for high ground?

Reasons to join: everyone else is. You don’t want to fall behind the technology curve. Somehow, it can be combined with blogging. If, after falling into that bottomless pit called blogging, you still have friends in the real world, you can somehow keep in touch with them better via Twitter.

Reasons to run: like the real-estate bubble, it won’t last. You’ll spend most of your time trying to squeeze 500-word thoughts into 140-character tweets. You will spend all day thinking “should I tweet this?” You feel silly using the word “tweet” in half your sentences. You are getting sick of new technology and are starting to think a 10×10 cabin somewhere in Montana with no phone, cable, or Internet isn’t such a crazy idea.

And yes, I expect everyone to limit their comments to 140 characters.

34 Responses to To Tweet or Not to Tweet

  1. James on April 29, 2009 at 8:51 am

    I’m using twitter as a substitute for an RSS reader. I don’t want to post the stray wanderings of my mind during the day. It is nice however to have my favorite news feeds.

  2. Nathan on April 29, 2009 at 8:59 am

    I joined at the request of a friend back when Twitter was fresh. I still love it. It’s not a passing fad for sure, unless some similar but more advance competitor comes along. I do combine it with blogging. I use three accounts, one for personal viewpoints on life – I twittered my sons recent birth and it automatically updated my Facebook status and I had Facebook friends anxiously watching my status changes for birth news, one for religious things – such as twittering General Conference quotes, and a company account – for all things having to do with business (political realm).

    The fact that businesses (and not to mention Congress) are getting on Twitter as a mechanism for driving interest and traffic to companies will help it to survive.

    I’m sure that Twitter will eventually lose its savor, like Nintendo Game Boy, laserdisc, or the future of Blu-Ray.

  3. Steve Evans on April 29, 2009 at 9:21 am

    #lateadopter oh hai! U R super-late to twitter but we still like U, just a little less than before k thx bye @darthflannel @bycommonconsent

  4. Wm Morris on April 29, 2009 at 9:26 am

    dear #lateadopter don’t listen to that johnny-come-lately @darthflannel — we’ve already moved on to FriendFeed and no we really don’t want you to follow us there

  5. Wm Morris on April 29, 2009 at 9:32 am
  6. Kaimi Wenger on April 29, 2009 at 9:33 am

    @DaveBanack First you need to sign up for Facebook, bro. Baby steps . . .

  7. Dan on April 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

    I’m surprised, Dave, you didn’t write this post with only 140 characters!

  8. Peter LLC on April 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Why the media (and Dave) doesn’t get Twitter

    TLDR

  9. Kim Siever on April 29, 2009 at 10:24 am

    Your reasons to join and to run are completely off.

  10. Rory Swensen on April 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Hoo boy, forget the 140 characters in this comment, I have a few thoughts.

    Twitter is a great personal tool for keeping up with friends. True, the inane tweets about the daily grind or what someone is eating for lunch are mostly a waste. Most people using Twitter eventually learn what is worth tweeting and what isn’t. Once that happens, I find it easier for me to keep up with my friends, something I’m not particularly gifted at normally. But following friends’ twitter feeds I read about events or thoughts, and because they are 140 characters it doesn’t take me long to scan.

    An article last year pointed out that this type of connection creates an ambient awareness. Cumulatively and over time, through tweets you begin to be aware of others, you can start to read between the lines, and you learn information you might otherwise never know, or know too late. For example, I have a few friends in other states that I see maybe once each year, but through the twitter feed I know about events, about inspirations, about difficulties – one recent tweet helped me understand immediately that a friend’s father was dying, information that otherwise may have come only after the event, maybe even months. Such events keep a closer connection, even if it is only in 140 characters.

    On a business level, I work in this space and recently released a new application that takes advantage of Twitter to communicate breaking news and updates to the media regarding public safety issues. Functionally, being able to communicate immediately and broadcast information from a mobile device improves our relationship with the media (our customers) and makes the whole operation more efficient.

    For professional applications, I’m worried about the sustainability of the Twitter service – their growth is difficult to manage and the revenue model is — yeah, what? The fail whale is cute but troubling, so we are looking at alternatives while still using Twitter while we can.

  11. Wm Morris on April 29, 2009 at 11:06 am

    P-llc:

    O RLY? WTG! IIB.

  12. Steve Evans on April 29, 2009 at 11:17 am

    RT @kimseiver Your reasons to join and to run are completely off. #dinosaur

  13. Megan on April 29, 2009 at 11:20 am

    Yeah, I don’t get Twitter. It wasn’t even cool when it was new and novel. Its only been downhill from there. I signed up last summer and just never could get into it. I want to avoid obnoxious people, so a venue through which I can follow them is not something I’m looking for. Also, I’m in college, and almost no one I know uses Twitter. Its definitely not a means of communication for massive numbers of young people. I definitely don’t buy the “everyone is doing it” argument.

    Also, I really hate people who clog up the newsfeed on facebook with their inane Tweets. If you’re one of over 500 friends, you shouldn’t be 30 percent of the newsfeed. I just end up hiding these people so they don’t show up anymore.

  14. Ben on April 29, 2009 at 11:27 am

    I signed up for Twitter just for some MacHeist loot. Since then, several people have signed up to follow my non-existent Twitterings. It’s weird.

  15. beth on April 29, 2009 at 11:38 am

    “Also, I really hate people who clog up the newsfeed on facebook with their inane Tweets. If you’re one of over 500 friends, you shouldn’t be 30 percent of the newsfeed. I just end up hiding these people so they don’t show up anymore.”

    Seriously, I didn’t know so many of my friends were so insanely self-centered. Do you really think we want to know what you are doing every 10 minutes? Nobody cares! Yes, I’m a jerk.

  16. Seth R. on April 29, 2009 at 11:46 am

    This video pretty much says it all for me:

  17. Alison Moore Smith on April 29, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I’m on Twitter–as of just a couple of weeks ago–but I really don’t get it. I get slogs of little bits and pieces and, frankly, most of it is meaningless. Does it help me “keep in touch”? I suppose, but in the vast majority of cases, I can’t see why I’d need (or want) to know this much about people.

    For example, here are a few I got today:

    Please re-enable https support in #iGoogle gadget!
    How do you go about building a spec home?
    CALLBACK WINNER
    ooops – sorry that last tweet went to the wrong account
    Woo hoo! BBQ party!

    So next time I see Bob, am I supposed to say, “Hey, Bob, great that you got to attend that BBQ party back in April of ’09″?

    [BTW, your style sheet is kind of messed up. Using italics and bold forces no line breaks even with a soft return, and adds a line break before the last line. ???]

  18. Alison Moore Smith on April 29, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    Seth, that is beautiful.

    I just twittered that link. :0

  19. Bridget Jack Meyers on April 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    I signed up for a Twitter account a few weeks ago, but it has since sat there neglected like my MySpace page. I don’t even own a cell phone. (Ever read Stephen King’s Cell? I’m gonna be the only non-zombie out there when the zombie frequency gets punched through the phone waves.) I’ve never sent a text message for anything.

    Facebook is the only “trendy” social networking site I’ve enjoyed and stuck with for a while. The capacity for photo storage and sharing has made it a cinch to share pictures of my daughter with my family and friends, and I have enough “friends” there who pay attention to and comment on my updates to keep it interesting.

  20. Guy Murray on April 29, 2009 at 1:14 pm

    Dave,

    Not only are people flocking to Twitter–so is the Church

    @guy_murray

  21. Wm Morris on April 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    It’s very simple:

    1. If you don’t get value out of it — don’t use it.
    2. You aren’t going to get value out of it unless friends, colleagues, people in your industry, clever people whose thoughts you are intersted in, news outlets, etc. are also using it.
    3. You aren’t obligated to read every update. Dip in to the stream when you have the time.
    4. It pays to aggressively screen who you follow and to periodically purge those who aren’t using it in the ways you prefer to use it.
    5. Do not link Twitter updates with Facebook updates. It’s annoying in most cases. Very few people can get the balance of number of and tone of updates right so that they work on both platforms.

  22. Ryan on April 29, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    I use it for certain occasions. A buddy of mine twittered little updates from his iphone during the labor and birth of his child. The whole family was following his tweets.

    For general use, it blows. But for that occasion it was much more convenient than when I would call my sister with updates and have her call a whole phone tree during my daughters birth

  23. Rory Swensen on April 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    #21 (Wm Morris)

    Excellent. Particularly #4.

    One more point to add: Use Twitter tools.

    On a mobile device they are much better than receiving SMS, allowing you to select the time and place when you retrieve the updates rather than a phone that is constantly buzzing.

    On the desktop, a good Twitter application aggregating your friend feed and topical searches is very easy and unobtrusive. Much better than trying to visit the twitter site.

  24. Steve Evans on April 29, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    rt @ wm_morris.

  25. WillF on April 29, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    #21, on your point #5 I would agree, although there is a good solution: http://apps.facebook.com/selectivetwitter/

  26. Martin Willey on April 29, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    I can barely keep up with my facebook page, I do not have the energy for twitter.

  27. Amy on April 29, 2009 at 3:05 pm

    Well, I tried twitter, but it was pretty much an awfully big reality check that my life is not that exciting. If I twittered regularly, it would be something like this:

    i just cleaned the upstairs toilet.
    i need to watch the clock so i don’t forget to pick up my daughter from pre-school.
    finished unloading the dishwasher.
    another load of laundry.
    555th poopy diaper changed.

    see what I’m sayin’?

    Your only hope if you have no life is too be terribly witty instead.
    example:

    so if you totally want to obsess about the swine flu, you can track it on google maps. watch death and destruction come straight to your door via the internet! yay technology!
    or
    I hope my daughter grows up to be just like paris hilton.

    so, no, i’m not really twittering.

  28. Jonovitch on April 29, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    When the Red River flooded in Fargo this spring, some of the most valuable information was relayed with Twitter.

    Calls for help with sandbagging in specific neighborhoods were announced and responded to in real time. School closings, road closings, small leaks in sandbag levies, updated crest levels — it was all on Twitter first.

    Beat the pants off the rest of the “organized” communication and other news outlets.

    I have a friend who compared the tens of thousands of volunteers with ants. With so much work to be done, spread out over such a large area, and given the ability to communicate with virtually everyone at once, they (collectively) were able to complete the overall task about as efficiently as could be done. Add more Twitter to this equation (de-centralize the communication) and the work is allocated more efficiently. Take Twitter out (keeping all communication and organization strictly centralized) and you start to get logjams and inefficiencies very quickly. I experienced it personally — it was incredible.

    Twitter can be a fantastic emergency preparedness tool. (Gives a new meaning to the term e-prep.) Future massive emergency/catastrophic efforts/cleanups, etc., like this could learn a lot from how Twitter was used in Fargo.

    Jon

  29. MikeInWeHo on April 29, 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I tweet, therefore I am.

    http://twitter.com/mikeinweho

  30. Mark N. on April 29, 2009 at 7:37 pm

    I signed up last night just to see if I could understand what the big deal is. I failed to achieve that understanding.

    Furthermore, within a half-hour or so of my signing up, at least 5 or maybe 6 people became my followers. I can’t help but wonder if “stalkers” isn’t a little bit more like it.

  31. American Yak on April 29, 2009 at 11:42 pm

    Twitter _will be_ a fad if they do not evolve, and if they do not evolve quickly. Here’s why:

    The Internet is rapidly evolving to an external model of distributed social networks, with more and more APIs for various kinds of data feeds, and shared identity. Two days ago Facebook opened up their activity feed/stream with a new API which has been highly anticipated by the fledgling but growing OpenID/OpenStack community. We are at the tipping point of a radical evolution in the structure of the Internet. What’s familiar today will look radically different tomorrow.

    Did I say radical change? Yes. AOL and CompuServe once created something that ended up evolving into what now looks fairly standard as the Internet. A similar sea change is about to take place. Here are a few articles hinting at that change:

    http://bit.ly/za0iQ
    http://bit.ly/PcQHN
    http://bit.ly/3ByaJC

    Many are saying they don’t know exactly what the future Internet will look like, but also say it’s clear it will be revamped in many ways, where data becomes ubiquitous/liquid, identity is decentralized, and data/activity streams model not only the real world but a fantastical one as well. And Twitter will become a “has been” if it doesn’t modify it’s data stream model to fit a need greater than 140 characters.

  32. Ryan C on April 30, 2009 at 9:50 am

    I’ve been using Twitter for a couple of weeks now, and have found that it’s useful for a couple of reasons:
    1, It’s more interactive than blogging, so I can actually keep up with my friends in other states in a much quicker and easier way than email, and
    2, It helps me connect (call it “networking” if you want) with others in my industry, and participate in the conversations that are happening there (full disclosure: I’m a software developer, and we’re pretty geeky to begin with)
    3, It gives me a window into what’s going on in the world, without having to read a ton of news RSS feeds. It’s where I first heard about swine flu, for example — alerting me to the need to Google for “real” information about it.

    As far as the issue of “information overload” goes, it’s only 140 characters… easy enough to skim the stream and only delve into the tweets that really interest you, and avoid the “Yay BBQ” type posts.

  33. Mark N. on April 30, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    After having played around with Twitter for a second evening, I think there’s a high “eavesdropping” quotient involved there. Click on “everyone”, see a snippet of what might turn out to be an interesting conversation, and you can link from tweet to tweet and from user ID to user ID ad infinitum. You check out who’s following who, and pretty soon you’re absolutely lost.

    I can see how it makes a good advertising medium, though. You can put just enough into a tweet to pique someone’s curiousity, use the “tiny urls” to disguise the actual link addresses, and it becomes a real treasure hunt.

  34. Guy Murray on April 30, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Mark,

    Leave us your @Twitter user name and we’ll all “eavesdrop” on you.

    @guy_murray