How Twitter works for me

SimonGeneral5 Comments

So I’ve been on Twitter for several weeks now and it’s about time I thought a bit about why.

For the uninitiated I should explain that Twitter is a service that helps people keep in touch with each other using a website, RSS feeds, instant messaging and text messages. Its basic premise is to answer the question “what are you doing now?”.

My initial concern when I signed up was that I’d be inundated with mundane announcements about people’s domestic movements that I really didn’t need to know about.

Browsing around Twitter there seems to be a fair amount of this type of posts, but the key is that you have control over the people you get updates from – so if you’re not happy with the posts that one of your “friends” is making, then unsubscribe – simple as that.

Since I’ve been using Twitter I’ve noticed several ways that it has added value to my professional life:

  • Finding out about new stuff fast – this is the digital grapevine at its fastest – and I’ve certainly found about things faster than picking them up from blogs or searches
  • Short conversations – I’ve had interactions with people I know that don’t merit writing an email, but were valuable all the same. Without Twitter these interactions just wouldn’t have happened.
  • As a micro-blogging tool – posting stuff that doesn’t merit a full blog post, but that I’d like to share anyway. I will probably think about how to integrate the feed into my blog properly, although the replies to friends’ messages don’t make sense out of context, so I’ll have to strip them out from the RSS feed (surely I can do this in Pipes with a bit of perseverence).

The two main concerns I have with Twitter are stability and threaded conversations:

Twitter has experienced a phenomenal growth in subscribers over the past month, and sometimes the site has become unusably slow. However over the past week or so I haven’t had this problem much, so maybe they’ve increased their capacity.

A more fundamental problem I have is that when a “friend” of yours has a conversation (where the posts are prefixed with @username) with another Twitter member, you only see half the conversation. Here’s an example, courtesy of Simon Collister:

simoncollister @paull Of course! 😉 @drew good point. But even the number of blogging contacts seems to have gone up recently. about 14 hours ago from web

Now as I don’t have Paull and Drew as “friends” in Twitter, I don’t see the other half of the conversation, so it makes no sense.

The only way I can find out what the conversation is about is click into Simon’s Twitter page and read the conversation there. That’s fine when you’re looking on the Twitter website, but when you’re following Twitter on instant messaging, text messaging or RSS feeds that’s just not an option.

So I’m sticking with Twitter for now to see how things develop.

There’s been a bit of buzz around a similar service called Jaiku recently, so I’m going to check that one out too and see how it fares against Twitter.

5 Comments on “How Twitter works for me”

  1. Andrew Denny

    Twitter could prove invaluable for a peripatetic community. For example, I’m a canal boater and blogger, and like to keep in touch with others in the same boat (so to speak). But finding web access points as we cruise is problematic. Being able to mix blog posts and txtmsgs is invaluable. We also like to rendezvous with the various coal and diesel boats that chug past. One of them started a blog, but it didn’t last. If they were to Twitter their position and direction – one text message distributed to dozens/hundreds of potential customers – we could twitter back asking them to fill up our own tanks as they went past. This is just one example. Twitter is likely to become redundant as other blog services roll out similar facilities (will it be bought out by Typepad/Google, say?) but it’s a good pointer to the future.

  2. Paull Young

    Lucky Simon wasn’t agreeing with anything too controversial, but I guess for all you knew I could have written ‘Coming down to the Young Fascist meeting at the pub at 5?’

  3. simon

    Andrew- interesting comment – the best social media tools seem to be those for which multiple useful (but niche) applications beyond the tool’s intended purpose, such as the one you describe

    Paull – glad to hear it wasn’t too controversial – some of the responses I see on Twitter really do make me wonder!

  4. Evolvingwheel

    Remeber how Google did it? They first developed a great search engine.. and then started selling the service to corp. for busines use – searching corporate knowledgebase. Twitter could go that way too. Create a unified platform for SMS+RSS+BLOG+IM and then sell it as a business app.

    http://innovech.wordpress.com

  5. Pingback: Eeshay Sansthan Jabalpur » Blog Archive » twitter IMP Links

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