May 212008
 

Tim recently posted about Twitter, and it got me thinking I should blog some of my own thoughts on the subject of Twitter (and related services such as Jaiku). Tim’s not the only person to move from tweeting a balanced mix that includes apparently superficial trivia to mainly, or even only, tweeting work or business-related stuff. From my point of view, that’s regrettable. I follow only a few people, mostly people I know in person, because I want to know what they’re up to and maintain some sort of contact with them as people, not because I see them as sources of business information. I’ve watched people’s blogs go from personal-with-some-work to mostly-work, now I’m watching people’s twitter feeds go through the same transformation, and for me there’s a feeling of loss, a feeling that I’m just watching more masks (thinking back to Julie Leung’s talk at Northern Voice) being put in place.

I guess it’s inevitable than any new mode of broadcast communication be coopted in this way. I’ve had the same feeling at NorthernVoice of being a King Canute in seeking to emphasize the personal communications aspect of blogging and social media; the additional problem there of course is that people happy to blog at a personal level apparently see no need to attend a blogging conference.

Many people whose recommendations I would value don’t blog much any more. They put the links to articles they’ve read, or books they liked, in their Twitter feeds. If I’m not reading Twitter at that time, I miss those links. No, I don’t like blogs that are solely link feeds, there does have to be a balance, but if something’s worth recommending, why not recommend it somewhere it might live longer than a couple of hours? And somewhere I have a hope of finding again if I have a mental bookmark that you wrote about something interesting while I was busy doing something else?

  11 Responses to “Twitter Musings”

  1. My tweet says “Working” and always will.

  2. Really good point about wanting to refer to links later. I’ve noticed my own propensity to “just tweet” links here and there rather than do the hard work of thinking up something, anything, interesting/value-add to say about those same links on my blog. Maybe it’s a good idea to distinguish between ephemeral or time-sensitive links vs. links-for-the-ages.

    As for tweeting only work stuff, I feel like I haven’t figured out my Twitter personality (or something like that) yet, but a number of folks have settled into one routine or another. The range of people I follow seems to match the range of blogs I follow: some personal musings, some technical, some link-whoring (“come to my blog and comment on my stuff!”/”I dare you to comment on my provocative post!” 🙂 ), some political, some a big mish-mash.

  3. Personally, I just try to answer the question that Twitter presents me… and that’s what I like about Twitter. It certainly can be personal communication – a way of feeling closer to others who you know and/or like without being physically co-located.

  4. Eve: it’s tempting to just tweet a link; I may even do it occasionally when I know I won’t get to blogging it until long after the moment has passed when it makes sense. The ephemeral links, as you say.
    JohnK: and that’s one reason I follow your tweets, since you (and some others I follow) do make it more personal. Maybe there’s a relation to the number of followers? The greater the number of followers, the greater the temptation to be all professional, all the time?

  5. It’s interesting that the majority of commenters on Tim’s post wanted him to tweet the supposedly irrelevant personal tweets. The beauty of Twitter-like services is that you can get to know someone in a way that isn’t possible with other digital media. People just need to relax, use Twitter how they want to use it and stop thinking about who’s following them. If people unfollow, they haven’t lost anything. The balance between ephemera and substance is why a lot of people started following Tim in the first place.

  6. In the meantime, you could take the RSS feed of your twitter subscriptions. That would give you a little more permanence I think?

  7. I’ve not found a use for Twitter. I need less communication but that with higher relevance to the task at hand when working, and more humor in the rest.

    The subterranean communications channel of highest value IMO is the comments section on articles. Linking among these without linking to the articles is a topography worth thinking about.

    @ Eve and Lauren: Here’s something fun to think about.

    http://www.fsu.edu/news/2008/04/20/geometry.music/
    http://music.princeton.edu/~dmitri/ChordGeometries.html

    BTW: Who fixes your Blackberry? A Blackberry Cobbler.

  8. As a guideline, I only follow people that I’ve met in person and have a technology angle. I try not to tell you mundane things like what I ate for lunch or my current mood and so I hope those I follow do the same.

    I average three or four general tweets (posts) and five or six direct tweets each day. I view twitter as a concise public IRC chat room that we can use to help each other. I try to send useful tweets with URLs or ask for help from others–and ever so often try to make a joke.

  9. Stephen, I strongly disagree with the “in person” part, but I live in Australia so don’t get to meet that many people in person.

  10. Maybe people tend not to publish personal stuff because it feels too public, esp. when having many followers?
    I imagine that a twitter-like service where you would have to “accept” someone in order for them to see your messages would feel more intimate and therefore allow people to be more relaxed abot what they write.

  11. Well, you’re certainly not alone in wanting to see more personal expression in social media! I’m optimistic on that front simply because I don’t see the economic conditions that lead to being co-opted being as pervasive (and inviting) as they can be in other media.

    But I think there is something to the idea that the scale of our connections puts a damper on the personal, informal, and individual voice. I don’t have that many friends (and what a problematic representation *that* is) or followers, but I feel that pressure to put the surmised majority audience first, to stay “on topic” at the expense of freedom and frivolity. It’s an even more frustrating than the related pressure I felt that ultimately caused me to split my “work” and “art” blogging apart, reinforcing a disconnect and separation I’ve never been happy with. I don’t like the feeling, but I often forget to fight it…

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