March 26, 2007 11:42 AM
The interwebs are all, well, atwitter about Twitter of late, and I thought it was time that I chimed in because I think that much of what I’ve read from both the lovers and the haters seems to miss the point. To be fair, I’ve only just signed up and I’m not exactly using it yet as I haven’t gotten any of my friends on it yet (incidentally if you are a friend of mine and use Twitter, give me an email, my Twitter name is mjboyle).
Still, I don’t get why everyone seems to be thinking of it as a “micro-blogging” or “IM” app. People have been sending IMs and text messages quite well for some time on their own now, thank you, and there are a million places where you can set up a small frequently updated blog.
One of my favorite technology writers, Andy Ihnatko seems to dislike Twitter because he sees it as a micro-blogging platform that is predicated on the idea that shorter posts are better. To be fair, he’s giving it a try, and I would agree with him if I thought that was Twitter’s purpose. But I’ve got a blog already. And if I want a more personal, managed, or community oriented one there’s always Vox. Twitter isn’t about blogging. It isn’t about sharing ideas. And it isn’t really about sending messages or having a conversation.
As I see it, Twitter is a way to let far flung friends who you don’t see in your day to day life have a window into the kinds of experiences, moods, and fancies that are happening to you at the moment. The kind of stuff that makes up the flavor of life, that you share with coworkers or friends you see at lunch, but wouldn’t really make it into a monthly letter or a blog post. I figure that if you are sending more than one or two “tweets” a day (and you aren’t using it to actively coordinate with a group of people), you are using it wrong.
I know others have said it, but I think Twitter is less IM and more IM away message. I actually got the idea that I might like Twitter from a friend who I haven’t seen or talked to in a long time. She went through a period of setting away messages that had a little detail about what she was up to. It made me feel much more connected to her than I have since we were going to school together, but none of the details were things that would be worth making a letter out of. She wasn’t sharing every detail of what she was having for dinner, just what was on her mind that night.
If used right, Twitter lets you aggregate what your friends are thinking about right now with very little effort. You don’t have to have it IM you or send messages to your cell phone, so you don’t have to receive updates except for when you are wondering what’s up in your friend’s lives. It’s just one more tool to help you feel more like you are living life with the people you choose as friends, rather than just those who are physically nearby. As someone far from most of my family and friends, I can see the appeal.