Sunday, February 15, 2009

Why Do I Find Twitter So Useful?

Maybe its my background in Tracking & Tracing systems that leads me to see event-centric patterns in almost everything - and Twitter is no exception. But what's intriguing to me, is how Twitter seems to be the result of the coming together of a number of design patterns. I find this makes Twitter a usefully addictive, relationship-building and idea-stimulation tool.

But the thing that I find really intriguing, is how it seems to illustrate the value of separation of 'content' from 'event'. That is, a tangible value from broadcasting and receiving short/short-lived messages (signals) that describe what you're doing or perhaps, more importantly, what your thinking independently of, but with reference to, the full text, dialogue, or any other expression of an idea or perspective (the content). This combined with the ability to choose who you follow and who follows you, creates trust-building relationships across a network of like-minded brains. These snippets of information shared, referenced and re-referenced (Re-Tweeted), by those I follow and those who follow me, have become a great reference source and provide regular source of thought-provoking ideas.

Twitter illustrates how much can be achieved with some very simple patterns, without top-down control or grand-design. IMO its success is due to its ease-of-adoption and the simplicity of its policies and protocol. In some ways its similar to internal email groups I subscribe to, but the big difference is the ability to explore the endless chain of Follower/Followee synapses, find like-minds and then follow urls to content that I wouldn't normally discover.

What does strike me as I write this, is that I suspect people have very different experiences with Twitter depending on what interests you and therefore who you connect to and what you talk about.

I know a number of my colleagues are not convinced of the value and will probably remain unconvinced after reading this post. I wonder how much our, life circumstances, personalities and philosophies affect the value we get from Twitter?


Chris Bird said...

Interesting post. This morning Madame and I were discussing this issue. Madame has spent all her life in broadcast media - specifically TV news. She now teaches classes in production amd also runs the school TV station.

Twitter, in some ways, looks like a TV broadcast - but with just the headlines. An individual tweet is an attention grabbing device which prompts one to dig deeper if interested. Just like the tweet that got me here. It's better grained than RSS/ATOM (at least for me).

I haven't done the analysis of my wn consumption, but I would guesstimate that about 70% of the tweets I get have attachments. Of those I probably only go to about 10%. But I would never find them otherwise.

The "always on" listening mode that twitter enables gives me immediate access to information - potentially disruptive if I am in the middle of something but of huge value.

Interestingly in a Pew research study that madame pulled today for one of her classes, we see the following stats. The study was published Feb 15, 2009.

Data in a nutshell says that 20% or so of 18-34 year olds use "Twitter or its ilk" 10% 35-44 year olds. 5% of 45-54, 4% of 55-64 and 2% 65 and older.

My guess is that many of my (and Nigel's) colleagues are in the demographics that exhibit lower adoption anyway.

Certainly the idea of "recipient oriented filtering" is something that is anathema to many of my generation. As a conversation with my brother in law went at Christmas time, "Who wants to know that it is freezing and foggy at Gatwick?" My answer, "I don't know who wants to know, but if that information is valuable, then it will get rebroadcast, otherwise not." It isn't my (as the publisher) responsibility to filter - it is the recipient's responsibility to decide relevance.

Argey said...

Nigel, Just started using TweetDeck which helps, but the problem I have is lack of context. Using search, I find answers to questions without the questions and single-sided conversations that are not monologues.

Still feeling may way, as I spend very little time trying. And time is another problem!

I'm not having Chris' problem with CPU usage (TweetDeck running at present and is using 1% of CPU).


Arjan Tupan said...

Interesting, indeed. The value I get from Twitter is also about tapping into interesting ideas. Through Twitter, a lot of interesting links are shared, and it gives me the opportunity to stay tuned to some old friends. Anyway, I think it is a valuable tool. And for Argey, check this link.