I have recently decided to give Twitter a try. Out of curiosity, as I read a lot about it. The most compelling argument to give it a try was provided by Robert Scoble (couldn’t find the original post, sorry) who said it was the best way to interact directly with his readers. And I like interaction, as you might have gathered from earlier postings.
People either love Twitter, or don’t seem to understand why the people that love it find it meaningful. To be honest, after a month of usage (which might be a bit short for a review), I’m having a love/hate relationship with it. The usage of the service is dead simple, so that is of no concern.
Twitter is a non-stop stream of 140 character messages flowing across the world. You simply tap into this flow by starting to follow people. You need to follow the concept of information handling if you want to deal with the flow of information.
In my mind it was a mobile service first, but letting the flow of messages reach your phone is not advisable. There have been times where I easily got 20-30 SMSes in 5 minutes. Going through them (and deleting them again) is a mobile RSI enforcer. Sending twitters from my mobile work like a breeze, but there comes another issue. In what language do I twitter? I follow (and am being followed) by Dutch people but also English speaking people. So what to do. Twittering in Dutch seems rude to the foreigners, twittering English seems a bit overkill for the Dutch. Anyone got a solution for that?
I found the best way to leverage the power and fun of Twitter is to use it from the desktop. I use TwitBin, a small Firefox add on that installs a pane on the left of my browser allowing me to follow the flow of information without the hassle of removing messages form my mobile.
So why is Twitter fun? I like it for 2 reasons:
- Twitter is emotions. Forget the 140 character messages, forget the scoops that arise faster on Twitter than on Techmeme. I don’t care about them. But the emotions and conversations that arise after the scoop are so much fun. As an example, I got the “Jaiku is taken over by Google” scoop from a number of twitter messages. The initial WOW effect wears off very quickly this way. But the comments, analysis, congratulations, jokes, rants that followed that scoop (actually same thing happened on Jaiku). That was fun!
- Twitter gives me a very nice picture of what people I haven’t actually met are about. It is amazing how much you can read about someone’s character, believes, hobbies, opinions etc. by simply following a flow of small messages.
So why do I have a love/hate relation with it? Well, besides the flooding of my mobile phone part if not used carefully, the one thing I hate about Twitter is the asymmetric following concept.
I can follow other people that don’t (or don’t want to) follow me. As a result of this I am reduced to a Groupie instead of a friend. I can listen to all their messages, but I can’t reply, add to them, or choose not to answer them. I follow a few people I don’t really know, but judging from the messages they twitter, i would like to interact with them on Twitter.
So here is my request to Biz, and the folks I am following on Twitter. Make follow each other the default in Twitter, the user can always block someone later if he becomes annoying. I have written about the “having to ask permission to become a friend” issue in social networks. I hate it. And if someone takes the effort of following you, why not follow him back. Who knows what great things will happen in this interaction!