More Twitter talk

by on March 18, 2008 · 11 comments

I’m seeing more and more people joining Twitter and I thought I’d share a few thoughts about it. My initial reaction to Twitter was skepticism, but I became a convert after I subscribed to Clay Shirky’s feed and received a tweet from him a couple hours later about his talk in D.C. that I would have never known about. That was useful, and since then I’ve found Twitter more and more useful.

First of, I’d like to explain what it is for the sake of those who don’t know. I’ll do so by way of video:

The first thing to note is that Twitter is a classic example of network effects because its usefulness increases relative to the number of users on it. Its usefulness also increases exponentially when people you know and care about make there way onto it. The network seems to be growing in concentric circles and while it’s been dominated by the elite digerati in Silicon Valley so far, it seems to be making its way to DC now.

The video presents Twitter as a way to let people know what you’re doing at the moment. In fact, Twitter itself suggests that you use the service to answer the question, “What are you doing?” But if we took that literally, like some do, Twitter would truly be dull: “Going to the bank,” “Eating ice cream,” “Going to sleep.” Alex King suggests that the “what are you doing” question be replaced with the imperative, “Say something interesting.” In practice that’s what most people have done.

My friend Julian Sanchez uses Twitter mostly to announce at which bar he is currently so that anyone nearby who gets his tweet on a mobile phone can drop in an join him for a drink. I’m sure people join him who otherwise wouldn’t have. Blogger Robert Scoble uses it to crowdsource. Recently he was scheduled to interview the CFO of Amazon on stage before a conference. He’s got about 13,000 people in his network and he asked them what he should ask the CFO. He got back many insightful questions he would never have thought up himself. (As an aside, I’m curious if you know of other innovative uses. Post in the comments.)

Ultimately the best thing about Twitter is that it’s a different experience for each user. You only see the tweets of the people you follow. If someone’s not your cup of tea, you can silently boot them. The result is a stream of interesting stuff that only gets more useful as more people you know get on it. In the short while I’ve been on it I’ve been pointed to more interesting article, sites, and videos than I could have imagined. Give it a whirl… and follow me!

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