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On the Value of Twitter

In the past, I've never quite grokked the whole deal about Twitter. Now that I'm using it, I still don't quite grok what other folks use it for, nor why it's as popular as it is. It strikes me as a fun toy (that's losing six figure quantities of money every month), but not really a useful tool most of the time.

However, I will say this: I'm a wordy bastard, and I appreciate that Twitter enforces a very strict limit on brevity. Learning to say what I want to say in 140 characters or less has been...interesting. I find that if I have an idea I want to Twitter about, I usually have to edit it multiple times to bring it down to 140 characters. It's good writing discipline.

A recent example: "Between having a brain optimized for finding patterns (even if they don't exist) and confirmation bias, it's amazing we understand anything." Number of characters: exactly 140. Number of edits to fit it in that space: 3. Brevity is hard, but sometimes squeezing out the extraeneous stuff makes the idea more accessible.



( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 7th, 2009 06:18 pm (UTC)
I for one will never understand why people choose Twitter over Plurk - similar character restriction, but easier to follow if a conversation is generated from it.
Mar. 7th, 2009 06:48 pm (UTC)
I still don't get it either. Same thing, it's kinda fun, but I'm failing to see the usefulness as a tool.

But I second the writing discipline thing. I'm using MPM and texting for the same reason - both help me condense my usual verbosity and is teaching me a lot that I can apply to my media interactions and teaching experiences.
Mar. 7th, 2009 07:05 pm (UTC)
Brevity is useful, but there are occasions when it's counter-indicated: think of how few people would read Dickens if he'd submitted A Tale of Two Cities via telegraph: "Good and bad times..." or The Gettysburg Address ("87 years ago the United States was created. We are now fighting over its continuation. God bless."...

Twitter's a tool. So is brevity. Use them when appropriate, and only then. Ogden Nash was marvelously, wittily brief, but he was no Shakespeare.
Mar. 7th, 2009 10:19 pm (UTC)
Twitter's fun, and as you point out, it's good discipline. I'm a Haijin myself, so it's been fun to use it to record the occasional haiku which burbles to the top of my mind.

It's a bit silly that businesses are using it for intercomms (Jabber would be much wiser) but people are silly. Whatcha gonna do.
Mar. 7th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
eeevil! ;)
now you need to grok facebook *hehehe*
Mar. 8th, 2009 02:18 am (UTC)
You've probably already seen this, but it does show the usefulness of twitter as a communication tool. http://www.cnn.com/2008/TECH/04/25/twitter.buck/
As for the cult of twits, yeah, I really don't get it either.
Mar. 8th, 2009 06:04 am (UTC)
Used as a tool
I just finished up a project for my Financial Accounting class. I was able to complete it using Twitter to follow headlines in business publications (i.e. NY Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, etc.). Using Twitter this way has given me a single place to scan for important articles that added to the depth of my project. I was skeptical at first, but it was so nice to get condensed versions of the stories all held in one spot, not to mention the ability to add them to a favorites list for weekly perusal. It was a tremendous help. One that I hope will contribute to an "A". hehe
Mar. 9th, 2009 07:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Used as a tool
My google homepage gives me tons of headlines to scan. I get to pick the topics I'm interested in or the news source specifically, and on one convenient page I get all the news and comics and weather reports and movie times I can handle, so I don't see the point in adding them to twitter, which just makes yet another webpage I have to remember to visit.
Mar. 8th, 2009 03:03 pm (UTC)
I have a love hate relationship w/ Twitter. I hate the self described "social media experts." Why not just say your addicted to Twitter/Facebook and be done with it? I hate the constant shameless self promotion and the "how to get 10,000 random followers" blogs these folks churn out.

I love being able to read up on articles I wouldn't find on my own. I like being able to tell Lance Armstrong my kids liked his book and ask him questions about it. I like being able to read the tweets of my favorite porn star too.

Mar. 8th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
Do you use it via SMS/phone? That to me is what differentiates it for most of my friends
Mar. 9th, 2009 05:01 pm (UTC)
I don't use Twitter, but I've become a little annoyed with LJ friends who have gone from posting meaningful stuff to just posting detached internal comments like "@suckabug: Nah, it's really not worth it", "@hugeass2008: What do you mean, lemons?" and so on.

Twitter is Twitter, so don't just assume non-twits like to have LJ feeds of twittering!

Also, I stumbled upon this little apropos sweetie: http://www.dieselsweeties.com/archive/2208
Mar. 9th, 2009 07:06 pm (UTC)
I'm not a big fan of the daily LJ feeds of twittering either. I started reading LJ so I can keep up with my friends, but a long list of random short messages, some of which are in response to other people's messages that I can't read, don't really tell me much.

When I want to read someone's twitter, I go to twitter.
Mar. 10th, 2009 05:43 pm (UTC)
I love that you used the word "grok."
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )