Last night during my weekly drinks with friends the topic of Twitter came up. Whilst I can’t profess to being one of those ahead of the trend hipsters who were into Twitter before it was cool I did manage to find a good use for it to be part of the glue logic between this blog and my Facebook page. For a while I was content that I was using Twitter in a way that kept me at arms length from the twidiots but still gave me some value. However more recently I’ve come to use it quite a lot more as a place to get information that I don’t typically find elsewhere and my conversations last night showed how little value this information has outside of personal consumption.
The first thing that pops into people’s heads when you mention Twitter is a universe filled with crazy people shouting random meaningless messages at each other in the hopes that someone will listen to them or that what they’re saying has some importance. It’s the same idea that first came about when blogging was first introduced so it’s no surprise that the new way of blogging (“micro-blogging“) suffers from the same initial teething problems that its forefather did. What of course happened afterwards was also identical to what happened to blogging, famous people started using it. Once it became cool to be on Twitter everyone and his dog (and even his taser rifle) hopped on as well. Today Twitter is one of the top 20 most visited sites on the Internet and because of this volume it has started to show some value.
I follow about 20 odd people on Twitter. Most of them are friends or people who I find interesting. Usually the things I find on there are the kind of thing your work colleague would call you over to have a look at when they find something interesting or cool and as such their value outside that area is limited. A great example of this was Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame posted up a pic of Kari Byron and her daughter Ruby. For someone like me who follows the show religiously this was a pretty cool thing to see, however outside of actually seeing it directly on Twitter that information has limited value. This became ever so clear last night when I was trying to describe what I use Twitter for to someone else and used that as an example. They had watched the show but really didn’t know who I was on about. It would then seem that such information is really limited in usefulness to those who are directly involved in consuming it.
Additionally due to Twitter’s encouragement of short but frequent information bursts the usefulness of any information conveyed through this medium is time limited. Rarely would anyone hop on Twitter and read through a week’s backlog of tweets and in fact unless you use a third party Twitter app you’re going to be loading a set number of tweets at a time. I know with following just 20ish people I can find myself sifting through 3 or 4 pages of tweets just for one day. As such information published through this medium will not live long, as soon it will be buried under the torrent of the next big Twitter twitch.
What I believe Twitter and its related micro-blogging services can become is a bridge between the intial event of breaking news or release of information and the reporting done by traditional sources. Whilst there are some outlets experimenting with the Twitter platform currently the array of different approaches taken shows that this kind of service still lacks the maturity of traditional information sources. With the advent of something like Google Wave I can see this kind of pre-news idea gaining more ground, but right now it seems like the medium is limited to interesting but limited lifetime information.
And with any blog post about Twitter here’s my chance to pimp my profile and beg you all to follow me 😉