What’s so great about Twitter

twitter fail whaleA pretty good argument for Twitter by Steven Johnson in Time (via). People keep asking me this question, but I figured someone would come along and make the case. Still, a few thoughts:

  • The following aspect and the composing aspect are both equally important to what Twitter is all about, yet they deserve completely separate discussions.
  • On the following side, you have three distinct groups: Your friends, celebrities you admire, and Twitter stars — people you pay attention to just because they happen to be really good at making awesome 140-character collections of words (e.g., SeoulBrother!). There’s also assorted weirdness (the Mars rover?), and a zillion tools. And it’s all mixed together in chaotic order on a page custom-made just for you. (In fact, feature request: show me what other users’ home pages look like.)
  • On the writing side, Johnson observes that it really can be interesting to describe what you’re eating. The real challenge tho is: what is the awesomest thing you can say in 140 characters right now, which turns out to be an interesting question to try to answer.
  • Twitter can now be set to update your Facebook status, so you have no excuse from that perspective.
  • I personally do not get the buzz that the search stuff has been getting. It turns out that I care what people have been saying over the last few seconds or minutes about any particular thing approximately never. Maybe there were a few minutes after the plane hit the Hudson that Twitter live search was really shining, but as soon as the first bulletin went up on CNN.com (what, 15 minutes later?), Twitter is back to being useless in this particular respect.

For the time being, the only way to see what Twitter is about is to try it out for a few days. It’s pretty easy to find people to follow — just see who other people are following. The harder part maybe figuring out what to say. I guess it’s like blogging — the fear of the proverbial blank piece of paper. On Facebook there are a million pictures to comment on, cheesy quizzes to play with, and an endless stream of other stuff to react to. Twitter is all about you and what’s in your brain at that particular moment.

6 thoughts on “What’s so great about Twitter

  1. The search stuff is quite useful during ongoing events. For example news about S. California wildfires is many hours behind twitter—this means that if you are trying to track the progress of fires (or whatever) twitter is the best option, and can stay that way for many hours.

  2. oh yeah… I guess I’ll leave it as is; as an illustrative example it works pretty well, and anybody interested enough will see your comment. oops.

    BTW, you know what’d be prefect for somebody who doesn’t have time for a proper blog but still has a talent for the occasional wisecrack? That’s right, TWITTER.

  3. What bugs me the most about twitter naysayers is the focus on the 140-character limit. People who use twitter don’t spend their days toiling over how best to fit their massive pool of clever thoughts into a 140-characters, we just write them down and go on with our lives.

    Since when is a medium defined by its limitations? Have you ever heard anyone say “CNN.com is great but i’m so sick of reading articles with less than 500 words.” Or have you heard someone say “I would watch the local news but 45 seconds per news story is way too short a time to provide me all the information I need.”

  4. I definitely don’t watch local news because of the 45 second format doesn’t fit my desire for exploring a subject in deep. Come on, what’s more defining about mediums than their inherent limitations? Newspapers can’t show you motion, internet is not yet fully portable, TV is lousy at long format and rewards the quick sound bite; etc. I have no interest in Twitter because for every good bon mot I read there are millions of inane shallow observations.

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