Tweet, Tweet! That’s a bird! That’s a bird!

Posted in Web by AST on Thursday, May 7th, 2009

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Which is exactly what my 2½ year old son said the first time he saw me log in to Twitter. I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical at first. I created my account about a year ago when I was doing some research on Enterprise 2.0 and collaboration tools, but I really didn’t know what to do with it. The old adage goes “watch and learn,” so, eventually, that’s what I ended up doing.

As my two regular readers will confirm, I don’t actually blog that much. While, I’m trying to change that, that’s just the reality. It isn’t that I don’t have ideas. At one stage, I was writing them down. After I got to over a page, I gave up, because I realized that I wasn’t likely to actually get to them with the schedule I was keeping, and many of them probably wouldn’t be all that relevant by the time I got around to actually writing them anyway.

So, this might raise the question: “So, why don’t you blog more?”

The actual answer for me is that it simply takes a lot of time. I like to publish either finished or mostly finished ideas. Of course, they represent a point in time and my thinking may move on, but I want them to (mostly):

  • Add value
  • Be relevant
  • Make people think a little differently

I also try to inject a little humour now and then too, but that’s not always a requirement. This means the short, stream-of-conscious or “interesting tidbits” type of blogging isn’t what I normally do. I don’t really see the point. Sure blogs (and their posts) exist in the Web ecosystem, but the main way you discover blogs these days is via Google when you’re looking for something specific. If you only get “teasers” or “pointers” to other information, it can get kinda tedious. Sometimes this is exactly what you’re looking for and simply someone publishing something pulls it from the noise enough for you to find it faster, but, at least from my experience, that’s not what I mostly see.

What’s this got to do with Twitter?

Since I’ve been more actively using Twitter over the past week, I’ve decided that it can actually be quite interesting. If, according to Laurel Papworth (a.k.a @SilkCharm on Twitter), “a blog is like a lecture with questions at the end” then I really think Twitter is like hosting a party. You can control the guest list (who you follow) and you can kick people out (block a particular user or simply stop following them), but the best part is you get to “walk around” and listen in to what people are talking about and, depending on how they use twitter, really get a sense of what that person might be like in real life.

In reality, the way I’ve decided to use Twitter for the moment has been heavily influenced by four individuals:

Laurel, Wil and Jason are great party guests. While they tend to tweet more often, you really get a feel for what they might be like as people. They also regularly tweet either interesting information or links to interesting information. Jeremiah provides some links to great information, but I think he tries a little too hard to be the Forrester Analyst. Still, I can appreciate where he’s coming from, and I’m still following him, so I can’t complain too much. He did point out the trailer to the G.I. Joe movie, after all… ;) (ok… stop… stop laughing! I used to read the comic book – from the first issue back in 1982 – and the original story was really good. The cartoon was a disaster, however. Aaaanyway…)

The point is that what’s really driving the new interest & adoption in “social media” like Twitter, Facebook and the rest is a combination of the following things:

  • Cheaper, more ubiquitous Internet access
  • People spending more and more time in front of their computers
  • More people traveling further from home & other established “real” social circles
  • More geographically dispersed work teams exposing more people to current collaboration technologies out of necessity
  • Realization by more, non-technical people (and today’s students!) that the Internet and Web make the world a much smaller place, and free/cheap instant communication with someone in Australia, China, India, etc… is just as easy as picking up the phone in the US to call your friend or sending them a text message—you really can connect to anyone, anywhere
  • People are inherently social animals
  • An increase in mind-numbing television aimed at sucking our brians dry and turning us into zombies

Ok, so maybe the zombies thing was a bit of a stretch. Still, people like meeting new people, and people like to feel like they can establish connections with other people. While I originally dismissed the “join the conversation” tagline for Twitter, it actually isn’t too far off the mark. I’m not really sure how people with thousands of people they follow keep up with what’s going on, but I guess it’s like walking around a really, really big party. You’re going to miss some stuff, but by having an interesting mix of people around, you’re bound to pick up some interesting (and relevant) information.

Some of the things I’ve learned/found in the last week from Twitter:

Most of this is stuff that I wouldn’t have found on my own, but some of it has turned out to be extremely relevant for some of the work that I’m doing working on honing Archistry’s focus and message (it isn’t finished yet, so don’t go look right now).

The Bottom Line?

The bottom line about Twitter is this: it’s about the people! If you want to know what someone can do or what they think, go read their blog. If you want to get to know someone, follow them on Twitter. While you might learn some neat stuff, the value is really in connecting with interesting people in real time—whether they’re across the street or halfway around the world.

You can follow me at @atownley if you like, but no guarantees about what I’m going to say or if you’re going to like it. ;)


  1. Laurel Papworth said,

    May 7, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    Yooo hooo, thanks for the shout out. Some people like to use Twitter for testimonials (I am, we are, they are having lunch), some for distribution (link after tinyurl link) and yet others for conversation (@silkcharm she said, he said). For me, a balance between all three - what I’m doing, what I found online and who I’m chatting to) is the go. YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Glad to see you found my stuff interesting :)

  2. Kevin said,

    May 8, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Anyone who doesn’t already like the new GI Joe movie is clearly a Cobra operative. Funny, I was

    I like twitter as the mix as well. Some people I follow @simsron (Asst. Sec of HUD) for example, are data feeds. Kinda like an RSS feed from people I consider influential. Occasionally these turn into conversations, I’ll respond to a post with a comment or another link, which gets retweeted and the conversation continues…

    Others, like my sister (@rboske) are completely a conversation and method for keeping a pulse on people.

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