Twitter THIS!

by Karoli on March 11, 2007 · 43 comments

After a week in a very mellow groove where I only read friends’ feeds, I’m catching up. It really doesn’t take much to catch up on the geek feeds because the only topic I see over and over and over again is Twitter. Marshall Kirkpatrick has a “Twitter Top Ten“, the Blog Herald wants you to answer the question “What Do You Use Twitter For?“, Guardian Unlimited reports that the “Twitter Crowd Goes Bananas at SXSW“, and Robert Scoble has 1004 followers, but no cell phone for a private conversation with Maryam.

Ever the gallant fellow, Scoble invited Maryam to visit his Twitter page to stay in touch. Here are some examples of the incredibly scintillating conversation on that page:

cksthree someone is impersonating Jason:… pretty funny half a minute ago from web
Flickr leahjones Kudos to the Southside Chicago Board of Tourism for hysterical ads on the red line. less than a minute ago from txt
Photo_11 zzztimbo Still need chicken. 1 minute ago from im
Aldon0306 ahynes1 @scobleizer: Tell Eric not to worry about it. He can post just eating. I just finished eating. BTW, TwitterBox rocks

If you’re really into Twitter, you can have a TwitterClub, where you can follow the whole gang!

Every time I see someone tittering about Twitter I have to do a reality check. What is it about this thing that has so many otherwise intelligent folks all googly-eyed? If I didn’t know better, I’d think there was a geek-wide conspiracy to make us like this stupid, timewasting, useless black hole of an application whether we want to or not.

Am I just seeing this through the eyes of someone who was never particularly interested in popularity contests and small talk? Is there something to this that I just don’t understand? Or, does the buzz and apparent love of Twitter point to the need that most people have to belong to a group, to identify? These are serious questions. I have friends, on and off line, but I don’t feel the need to know what they’re saying, doing and thinking in real time, and I certainly don’t feel the need to share what I’m saying, doing and thinking, either. Does that make me someone on the social fringe?

If someone could leave a comment giving me one truly practical reason to use Twitter, I’ll sign up and add them as my first friend, because I seriously don’t understand the buzz around it.

Update: Lots of great comments to this post! Robert Scoble says Twitter Hate is the new black…but I’m not hating it, just trying to understand it. Cory Cooperman Matt D wins the “truly practical reason” challenge, though. Living in earthquake country, it could indeed be a way to connect with others out of the area in the event of a disaster or emergency in a broadcast fashion, rather than one-on-one text messaging. I have, therefore, joined Twitter (username: Karoli) and if I can figure out how to add friends, he’ll be first.

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  • Jeremy Toeman

    I couldn’t agree with you more! To me it’s just something that has got some SHORT-term popularity and will eventually fade back into a “neat tool” people don’t really use anymore.

    The reality check is this: life is, for the most part, is dull. I just don’t need to see updates like “sipping a coffee” or “waiting in line to buy a coffee” or “thinking about going to the Starbucks”…

  • karoli


    That’s it exactly! And when I read or message, I’d hope it’s for a reason, not simply to be in the crowd.

    I just found Ross Mayfield’s post on Twitter where he refers to it as “messaging of the mundane”. That about summarizes it. (Interestingly, he also likes Twitter — a lot. I can’t figure out exactly why, though.)

  • Robert Scoble

    We like it cause it pisses you off.

    Seriously, I remember people saying the same about email, then about IM, then about blogs.

    I Twittered this post, by the way. Twitter hate. It’s the new black.

  • Justine

    Don’t hate it until you try it :)

  • Israel Hyman

    For those of us who spend much of our spare time reading RSS feeds, Twitter represents a great way to get the good stuff faster. It helps feed my people addiction. I already know things about people by reading their blogs: when someone gets a new job, what challenges they’re facing, when their children are born, their thoughts on web design…or even what they think of web applications like Twitter.

    The benefit of Twitter is now I can find out similar information when I’m away from my computer, and the moment it’s posted. Twitter, much like email, is highly addictive. If there’s someone that you follow closely, and that person wants to be followed, then Twitter can help them keep you up-to-date.

    An example? Today Robert Scoble wanted to have Kathy Sierra’s speech from SXSW, and he asked via Twitter if anyone had a link to the audio. Within a couple minutes, someone gave him a link, which he posted via Twitter, and a few minutes later I was listening to the talk in Arizona. Twitter is microblogging at lightning speed. It’s an “always on” chat room.

    I think it’s going to become very popular, and only more useful.

    Remember that when blogging first became popular, people blogged about what they were eating. How far we’ve come since then! :-)

  • Chris Judson

    I use twitter because it amuses me and I find it interesting to follow some people like Scoble and others. What I find even more interesting is the amount of talk about a product (such as Twitter) and the compulsion for folk to pronounce its doom. I don’t think twitter will save the world; I do think it’s a slightly different way of applying the current technology. Now, to add more stuff to my tumblr page.

  • Thomas Hawk

    OMG, I just saw Jeremy Toeman in line at Starbucks….

  • MattD

    I posted some thoughts about twitter at

    One potential useful application I’ve quoted below:

    “There is also an interesting homeland defense/emergency response angle here as the 1 to many messaging model over SMS would be a very good communication channel for those times when the phone lines are jammed (which is sure to happen in Washington DC).”

  • Don MacAskill

    I was totally in your camp for months and months. Twitter seemed like a stupid waste of time.

    Then I tried it. Now I’m hooked.

    I have zero insight, though, as to why I’m hooked or why it’s no longer a stupid waste of time.

    But I sure am having fun :)

  • karoli

    LOL, Tom!

    Following the logic of the “first email, then blogs, now a quicker way to communicate…” articulated in many of these comments, a question: Is it really about boiling down information to the fastest way to get it? The reason I ask is because there’s a LOT of static in between anything worth reading.

    To Chris Judson: I appreciate your answer — doing something because it amuses you and you want to is really the only reason you need. However, I don’t see me selling my co-workers or family on using it because it amuses me…and that’s really where I’m going with this. Is it a geek app, just for your fun and enjoyment or is there a wider and more practical reason to use it?

  • Jeremy Toeman

    Hi Thomas! (blush)

  • Cory Cooperman

    Sometimes the mundane proves interesting. I’m using Twitter as a bit of a daily diary, a time use tracker, and a method of amusing my actual friends. I’m not actively adding friends, nor am I avoiding friend requests, but as far as Twitter use goes, the people who will read my posts are those who actually care about my generally boring, occasionally scintillating life. It’s harmless, simple, and in the future social scientists will have a field day with all the data they’ll have access to on how technophiles lived in 2007!

  • Mark

    Check out my twitter to read many reasons to join. :-p

    Seriously, on the whoole, I think twitter is kind of useless. It’s just a geek toy.

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  • karoli

    MattD, you just became my first friend on Twitter. :)

  • Florian

    It isn’t just “blogging meets SMS”, it is such a new channel that we all feel really free in exploring its possibilities: There are no do’s and don’ts yet, you can make the rules and experiment. For me this is why people participate whilst thinking it is utterly useless and non-productive.

  • Chris Weiss

    RE: Twitter as a post-earthquake tool…

    My understanding (and I could be wrong) is Twitter’s run out of S.F., so if there’s a big quake, we’re still up the creek without a website.

  • karoli

    Chris, point well-taken — but I’m in Southern California. After the Northridge quake, we couldn’t get anything — not even radio (Camarillo is in a radio dead zone), but our cell phones worked. :)

  • Robert Scoble

    Chris: I was 10 miles from the 1989 earthquake. Pretty much all IT infrastructure stayed up. I toured a datacenter right afterward and they said their computers all stayed up and that their building is designed to take a 8.0. They all have generators too designed for earthquakes.

    Our phones and power stayed up and I was using AOL and Prodigy back then.

    I could call out no problem, but outsiders couldn’t call in. Not cause lines were down, but because they were overloaded.

    I was SMS’ing with Ernie the Attorney during Katrina (he was stuck in New Orleans).

  • Jeremy Toeman

    New channel? Isn’t Twitter just WordPress-lite??? Not so new…

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  • MattD

    Glad to become your first friend in Twitter. Welcome aboard!

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  • John Tracy

    Podcasters still talk about podcasting, and I still listen. Sure there is a lot of buzz, maybe a little hype, but twitter is simple, easy, and it skips all the meta-hype.

  • elyse

    IMO, I use Twitter to keep track of myself. So I don’t really care if nobody reads my twitter or whether I have any friends at twitter at all. I do have some friends following my journals, and since I can’t really post my thoughts every 1 minute in LJ or wordpress or vox, I’m so happy they invented twitter for this purpose. Very useful. It is indeed a lite-journal.

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  • Thomas Hawk

    Thinking about whether or not to get salmon on my bagel or not this morning… tough decision.

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  • Rumble

    I don’t get Twitter either, although I’ve tried to because I want, so much, to be down with the cool kids.

    It’s a paradox; when I’m online with time to spare Twittering I’ve got little else to put except for ‘just mucking about on the net’, yet when I’m doing something interesting, be it work or play, I’d rather focus my time and energy on what I’m doing than tell the rest of the world about it in under 140 characters.

    Of course even if I was so inclined, more often the not the site is down or the bot-offline.

  • Eric Rice

    Outside of a conference and social space, it’s kinda silly. However, I’ve found it to be extremely helpful during the conference, much like ever-changing iChat status messages have been in previous years. It’s passive presence. I was lost, found people, and didn’t have to worry about not having phone numbers or whatnot.

    But going back home, I’ll see little use. Time will tell.

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  • Lee

    Isn’t the real question going to be: will enough people use this over a long enough time period for this to become the next email, IM, blogging? And didn’t those things make real world applications easier? Email instead of snailmail, IM to talk to people, blogging instead of a diary or magazine… where in the real world do we keep track of our every little move? Another thing, and perhaps more importantly: how is Twitter much different than, say, AOL IM away messages? Seems to me to be pretty much the same thing, minus the chat. It’s like looking at your Buddy’s List away message all the time…

    Will you really care that much in the long run, after the initial excitement of a new technology has faded away and you’re chained to yet another communication device? I, for one, cannot think of a single non-tech person who would use this consistently, over the longterm, integrated into their daily lives.

    I may be wrong, but don’t I look great in black?

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