Monday, March 19, 2007

What's All The Twitter About?

Over the past couple of months its seems that a day doesn't go by where I don't see a blog post about Twitter. Twitter is like a cross between an online community and instant messaging. Tom Haskins even thinks it could become a degenerate form of blogging. I am always interested in new tools, but this one doesn't really call out to me like it has to the fast growing user base that the tool is enjoying. I started to think about why that is, and to me it does not help me with productivity, learning or building relationships.

I tend to look for tools that can increase my productivity, my ability to filter and read content, to reach out to colleagues and people that share common interests. Twitter on the other hand seems to be a de-productivity tool. Not only is it filled primarily with useless babble about what people are doing or not doing, but if I did it myself, it would reduce the amount of time I could be spending actually doing the activity that I would be twittering about. The once interesting thing about it is that you realize that the majority of the people using it lead fairly mundane, if not boring lives. Take a look at twitter vision and you will see what I mean. People doing really fun and exciting stuff aren't bothering to twitter about it. The WSJ has an interesting article (free) about how twitter is overwhelming some users.

I also thought about twitter as a communication substitute for conversation and the types of people that would find this tool great to have. It is called a connectivity tool, but I think it gives people a false sense of connectedness. On one side, I think it comes down to how extroverted or introverted you are in determining if you would find the tool useful. If you are a social butterfly, like to hear yourself talk, and like to know that there is someone/anyone out there for you to converse with, then this tool is for you. The father you go down the spectrum towards introvert, you are likely to find that this tool serves absolutely no purpose.

On the other side, a second plane that Twitter operates on is the meaningful relationship plane. It you are fine with having extremely shallow relationships than twitter is the tool for you. Twitter scares Kathy Sierra. She likens it to slot machine addictions, where it is a near-perfect example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward. I tend to agree. How much of an online addict are you when you start twittering that you are eating French fries for lunch, and tell anyone out there listening that you are off to bed. Go out and have coffee with a person face to face. It will be much more rewarding. Yes, you can't multi-task as easily but that the point. Twitter puts the 'superficial' in relationships.

So maybe I don't see value in the tool as it currently stands, but that's fine. If the many who do use it find enjoyment out of it, then it serves a purpose. Hopefully once the initial buzz dies down that people will begin to find some real business applications for the technology. CC Chapman has listed what he thinks are some possible uses. I am sure there will be others.


Tac Anderson said...

While I don't disagree with most of what you've said, the same arguments you propose have been used with email, cell phones, instant message and social networking.

The danger with dismissing something you don't "get" right away, means that you never will "get" it at all.

Twitter like any communication vehicle can be overwhelming if you let it. Look at most people's TV viewing habits. Or it can further connect and enrich the relationship between a certain group of people.

Kevin Donaldson said...

Agree - same argument for email, cell phones etc in the past, however the different is that these tools offer some form of utility has developed. Twitter is still new so I am sure something will come out of it but there is little in its current usage. Its less about the tool not having potential for utility - more the the users and how they are using it. Interesting that you suggest that I don't get it:) I 'get' it completely - the post is about why someone may or may not find it valuable.
I think the term 'enrich' is an interesting term to use. I guess its all relative. Enrichment to some is not to others... breadth vs depth. Thanks for the comments Tac - Always good to hear from you.

Tac Anderson said...

I did not mean t imply that you didn't get it. I know you well enough to know that you do get this field; I was speaking more generally to the argument for the Twitter nay sayers. I agree that right now it is in its infancy and as I pointed out on my blog I think that the important piece is the cross platform communication. I think we'll see a lot more of that as the future of social networks.

And as always, great post ;)