The two weeks are up. The Twitter experiment is complete. Did I find the dolphin, or am I still waiting for the magic?
If nothing else, I’ve achieved a greater understanding of the dynamics of Twitter, but I don’t think that it has yet had a significant impact on the way that I communicate or the way that I consume information. I have to admit that the experience was less awful than I thought it might be.
If you use Twitter, get a client
The first thing that I discovered is that the web interface to Twitter is just not usable. It’s a decidedly less confusing and more dynamic experience using one of the many desktop clients. I’m currently on TweetDeck having previously tried Twhirl, though neither is the one Twitter client to rule them all. The static nature of the website and the way that it displays conversation fragments out of context was one significant reason why I didn’t see much value in the service.
Content is king?
I don’t feel that my initial complaints about the general unimportance of most tweets, and the plain pointlessness of many, were unfounded. And when somebody starts tweeting every minute about the film that they are currently watching (a film that I am not watching), it becomes incredibly irritating. They say that on the web Content is king. Well, since the advent of Twitter, Content has abdicated and crown prince Banality is now running the show.
However, I did find that I had a higher than expected tolerance for tedium, mostly because I could easily consume/ignore most of the tweets that I received without suffering much distraction. And even if the tweets were mostly superfluous, they did occasionally raise a chuckle, such as Wez’s new software development methodology.
They have real people on Twitter now?
I was not expecting to be able to interact with people I knew in the real world on Twitter, because two weeks ago none of them were on Twitter, but Wez and David have signed up since I started. David is already well ahead of me in terms of followers, and all without the help of a series of self-promoting blog posts. He is the next microblogging celebrity. Meanwhile, Wez is using Twitter to stimulate the global economy.
But what do you actually use it for?
From the start of this experiment I’ve struggled with what to tweet. I wanted to stay on-topic. I thought maybe I could use Twitter to complement this blog. I don’t think that this approach is particularly easy or even that useful. It’s easier just to go down the stream-of-conciousness route and write anything that comes to mind.
In this regard, I wouldn’t be surprised if, for many, Twitter is effectively a write-only medium where everybody’s contributions are welcomed and few are valued – a kind of voluntary collective delusion.
Moreso than with blogging, you are subscribing to people rather than topics. If you want to use Twitter, you have to accept that even if you pick compatible people to follow, a lot of what they write will not be of interest to you, particularly when it concerns the trivialities of daily life.
One use case for Twitter that does makes sense to me is within a development team for posting status updates that can easily be consumed and responded to by other team members. Yammer offers a Twitter-like service well suited to this niche (access can be restricted to selected people only).
If I could change one thing about Twitter it would be the 140 character limit. Countless times I’ve sat there trying to figure out how to remove 13 characters from a message without altering its meaning. This involves creatively removing punctuation and finding abbreviations or shorter synonyms. A limit is good for keeping messages concise and to the point, but a few more characters would go a long way to improving the quality of the content.
I found the global eavesdropping aspect kind of interesting, although it’s a bit hit-and-miss as there is no way to filter by quality.
Twitter is mostly harmless but, as far as I can see, does not deliver on much of the hype that surrounds it. I’m still indifferent to Stephen Fry getting stuck in a lift and wary of news organisations such as the BBC treating it as a reliable journalistic source. Twitter is not the harbinger of a communications revolution, it’s an occasionally relevant diversion.
I suppose that the big question is will I continue to use it now that the two weeks are up? I don’t know. Probably to some extent. It’s there, I have an account, it won’t take much effort to continue. On the other hand, if Twitter disappeared tomorrow I wouldn’t miss it. I might not even notice for a while.