Thursday, April 05, 2007

More on twitting.

It's not happening quickly by any stretch of the imagination, but I'm slowly wrapping my head around the usefulness of something like Twitter, because it really does work in ways that extend beyond what is obvious.

At first glance, it looks like a mini-blog. "What are you doing?" is the question you're meant to answer with a Twitter post. Most of the time, most of us aren't doing anything of any particular interest, myself included. So the first time I looked at Twitter, my first reaction was, "Okay, that's dumb."

But thankfully I actually decided to give it a try. And I'm beginning to see that it's actually quite a bit bigger than just a repository for the boring details of your boring life. It's also a collective of the boring details of the lives of a bunch of boring people.

Which, okay, maybe doesn't sound that much better. But stick with me for a second here.

I got my first friend on Twitter yesterday, and discovered that while I'm using Google Chat to update my own Twitter status, Google Chat also reports back to me on any of the status updates made by my friends. Which allows me to keep track of what they're up to and what they're doing.

It's sort of like a social RSS feed for the people you want to keep track of.

For example, if someone on my friend's list decides at 5:30 to post, "Fuck this, I'm ditching work and going for a beer," I'll get the notification. Maybe I wouldn't have known that any other way. So maybe I call him up and say, "Hey, I saw you were going for a beer -- want some company?" Or maybe I just hit the bar and crash his table. Or maybe I let him have a beer and I just go home, whatever, it doesn't matter. It's a way of keeping abreast of the ins and outs of the lives of the people around you, without having to phone them constantly. It's like a short-form of the holiday letter you send to your friends and family, telling them how your life has been for the last twelve months, except you can update it every hour instead of every year. And everyone who's following your updates online gets to see it.

And the more I use it, the more I have this strange, instinctive gut feeling that there's still more that can be done with it. I think Twitter in its current incarnation could very well be just the tip of a massive and exciting iceberg. The potential is potentially fantastic.

As a quick example, just a few minutes ago I found that CNN had a breaking news Twitter page. Now, if I added CNN's breaking new coverage to my friends list, I'd have an automatic news update in my google chat anytime an important story broke. Sure, that seems nothing more than a non-traditional way of distributing traditional media, but there's a convenience factor too.

In fact, I *would* have signed up as a friend to breaking news, but it doesn't look like it's getting much use from CNN. They may still be trying the product out. Or maybe it's just a bored intern.

Either way, there is some fantastic potential in this thing. I'll be sticking with it, I suspect, to see how that potential works out over the months and the years. And it's not like I'm the only person on Twitter sharing the boring details of their boring life. That's pretty much everyone.

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