Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What has Twitter ever done for us?

I've never seen anything take off as quickly as Twitter appears to have done in the last couple of weeks. It seems a classic case of the way that ideas now spread. They travel through circles of friends. You join because you know a few friends who have joined it already. If you didn't know anyone who had tried it nothing else would ever possess you to give it a go. Here's mine.

I've come round to the view that people are now drawn to many things - books, bands, magazines, particularly magazines - through friends. In that sense propagating a magazine today is less a question of introducing the magazine to new readers than was formerly the case. Instead it's like expanding your circle of friends. You do it through baby steps and close encounters rather than by giant strides and big gestures.

I also wonder if the current financial situation has provided Twitter with the perfect moment. Right now people want to hold hands, even if it's via a screen. It costs nothing. And for those who are coping with unemployment it's the perfect way to say "I'm still here."


  1. Twitter's brevity is what makes it so unique. While the internet generally looks/feels busy, Twitter forces everyone, from celebrities to worldwide organisations, into being terse and because of that colloquial and engaging - making each character count etc. Facebook, Myspace etc, suffer by comparison because of the noise on their sites. @danworth

  2. Plenty of noise on twitter. Some of my "friends" are posting 20 or so messages a day - all dull, useless twaddle.

  3. I signed up to Twitter when some of my Californian friends did what they always do, and got there first. This was about six months ago, maybe longer. It made no sense to me and it didn't take long for me to ignore it (going to the supermarket and burping babies, sometimes simultaneously, are key human exercises, but not exactly worth going to the trouble of posting about). And now Stephen Fry is a Twitter poster-boy in the English papers, and DH is into it. But I am forever left with cold feet, feeling now left out but also stubbornly refusing to get involved. That might say something about magazine marketing as well.

  4. I bet everyone gets bored with it within 12 months.....max!

    I should qualify this by saying I'm a non-twitter.

  5. I've been aware of Twitter for nearly a year now, and remain as suspicious of it as I ever was. I just can't shake the feeling that it's for those who aren't any good at interacting with real people, and can't be bothered forming full, coherent sentences.

    Though I may just resent the fact that it seems to have become inextricably linked to blogging.

  6. I work at a Tech magazine and we've done two features on them, but I still don't see the point of it.

  7. Twitter feels like the nuts and bolts of a social network. On its own it's a bit of a shallow experience. I find that it works best when used in conjunction with more fleshed-out networking media such as blogs or messageboards.

    I like the real time aspect of it. It's the same with, where you can scroll down your list of contacts, many living in far-flung parts of the world, and see what they are listening to at that precise moment.

    I struggle a bit to come up with things to write on Twitter. This may well be an indication that my life is rather dull and that I need to get out more. In 21 days I have only managed 67 updates, some of which are replies to other people's tweets.

    I want to post things that might be of interest, but the character limit requires that details be kept to a minimum.

  8. But if it has disappeared in twelve months - and in internet time that's an eternity - what difference does it make?

  9. I've got to admit that I find it utterly pointless.

    They've got a FREE 2-page promo in today's Times, though! (under the guise of "journalism")

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  11. I'd say Twitter will go the way of many things related to the internet as a whole, and social networking in particular. That is, it'll get overtaken by something else. (If anyone thinks they know what that something else is, they'd better keep it between themselves and the venture capitalist new friend they will have to make in the next few weeks or months).

    Another point is that lifespans for such things tend to be based on how long it takes adulteenagers to grow out of them. In this regard Facebook seems to have a slight edge, apparently having older users who are more likely to hang on to the puppy past January.

    What difference would the demise of Twitter make? It doesn't matter, because no one will remember anyway.
    p.s. How many people here paid 5 quid to be a member of Friends Reunited? I'm so ashamed...

  12. There was quite a good article about Twitter in last week's New York magazine that makes a decent case for their relevance but they still don't know how to make any actual money from it.

  13. Anonymous9:31 am

    I have recently been wondering about wasting time on Twitter. I even signed up but couldn't decide whether to actively spend time following people and updating it myself. So I thought I would open up a wise book at random and see what words of wisdom sprang out at me,

    I choose "Renegade - The Lives And Tales Of Mark E Smith", flicked it open and read:

    "That's what I can't abide about mobiles - they're a disease. People ringing each other all the time, talking about tomato sauce or what's happening in their car. You sit next to somebody on the train and they're staring at a screen the size of a stone, lost amid the contents of their phone, totally oblivious to what's outside the window. Its as much an addiction as drink, but less sociable. I've sat in meetings with people who are clearly not listening to a word that's being said, because their brains are consumed with new e-mails or they're waiting anxiously for their phone to start singing so they can look at the screen."

    Well I didn't need to meditate too long on that one. Frighteningly to the point. Bye bye twitter.