January 3, 2009

Twittering.

Do you Twitter, or have you, like me, been avoiding it? I have, but now, if you want, you can follow me -- as they say. Frankly, I think it's weird to ask people to follow you. To me, it sounds like Jesus:
"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."
Or Gary Hart:
"Follow me around. I don't care. I'm serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They'll be very bored."
Messianic or inanely desirous of stalkers.

But the world has changed since 32 or 1987, and the real issue for me is whether Twittering is pointlessly duplicative of blogging. The easiest way to delve into that issue is to do it. So, I guess: Follow me.

ADDED: Jac points me to something he wrote on a Metafilter post:
Could someone please explain why anyone would use Twitter? It seems like basically a blog service but with a word limit that's so restrictive that it's awkward to do links. Or like IM without the spontaneity. Or like Facebook's status updates without Facebook. So, it's like a severely limited version of a bunch of other social media, with nothing extra to compensate? What's the point?
I'm just starting, but at this point, I think:

1. There's something fun about being limited to 140 characters. As you type, you see the number counting down. That makes it breezy and game-like, which pleases me.

2. Theoretically, you are answering the question "What are you doing?" I don't know if they kick you out if you use your 140 characters in some other way, but whether you stick to the question or not, there is the idea that you are not purporting to do anything more than saying what you are doing. Presumably, you Twitter because that seems nice.

3. A Facebook page has more information, and it is more of a stable location that represents you, even if you're good about posting "status updates," which I'm not. Twitter isolates your status updates, which looks kind of snazzy. Less is more.

4. On Facebook, people have to ask you to accept them as friends, and I've never accepted people I don't more or less know. (And I only IM a few people.) On Twitter, people can just start following you. There's something simple and friendly about that.

5. That anyone can follow you affects what you're willing to write. I'm interested to see what I will write under those conditions.

6. Twitter could be used interactively with blogging, in ways that I think I'll explore.

56 comments:

Dogwood said...

I use Twitter but it is for a specific purpose: stock trading.

Thousands of stock traders are using Twitter during market hours to share stock trading ideas and quick thoughts on market conditions and the economy.

So, no stock trading, no Twitter.

Lem said...

I dont like that they asked me for my e-mail password.

I can see people freese when asked for that.

blake said...

I'm on there but have not used it except occasaionlly to peek ib on the one person I know of who actually keeps up with it.

Ann Althouse said...

Lem, I skipped that part. Just skip it! They are trying to help you find your friends to follow, but you don't have to do it.

Ron said...

Why do I feel all these things confuse changing the form of communication is at least the equal, if not better, than changing the content of communication? Too many ways to jibber-jabber; not enough things to say.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Why don't you just install webcams all over your house, and then affix another one to your head (like they do in reality shows when the contestants are bungee jumping or whatever) so we can follow you 24/7 in actual streaming video.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'd been thinking of trying this. I just made an account and when it searched my email contacts, it came up with a lot of people I hadn't even heard of. Of course, I must have heard of them to have exchanged email with them. Weird. Oh well, who knows who they are... unknown/known phantoms Twittering in cyberspace...

Donald Douglas said...

Well, I'll see how you like it. If it's got the longevity as your podcasts, a careful cost/benefit calc might be in order.

Ann Althouse said...

"Why don't you just install webcams all over your house, and then affix another one to your head (like they do in reality shows when the contestants are bungee jumping or whatever) so we can follow you 24/7 in actual streaming video."

In the words of Gary Hart, you'd be very bored.

Freeman Hunt said...

I have found a use for this. I often find articles I want to share but don't want to blog. This is perfect.

Theo Boehm said...

I signed up for Twitter yesterday.

I did give them my e-mail password, but it's just the one of the accounts I use blogging. No biggie.

I just added Althouse as the 1st person I follow.

No one else I know twitters. I asked several of my friends, not to mention my wife. They all thought I was crazy. Except my kids. They thought dad was pretty cool, and my 14-year-old can hardly wait to sign up and twitter with his brother and dad—especially his brother, not to mention 16 of his closest friends.

Mom and grandma look on with purse-lipped disapproval.

Theo Boehm said...

BTW, I Twitter as theobaldboehm.

Theo Boehm said...

And unlike Freeman, none of my e-mail contacts Twitter, either.

Seems to be kind of an age thing. We Boomers are now getting old and crotchety. All this digital social networking sails right over our heads.

You can't imagine what 81-year-old grandma makes of it.

amba said...

"So follow me follow
Down to the hollow,
And there let us wallow
in glo-o-o-orious Mud!"

Lem said...

In the words of Gary Hart, you'd be very bored.

As Rumpole of the Bailey would say that is for the jury to decide. ;)

Theo Boehm said...

Amba, do you Twitter?? I suppose I could just do a search, but seeing as you're here....

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the people I don't recognize might be other bloggers. Or random people I emailed to ask questions about topics of specialized knowlege. I don't keep in touch with many friends via email. For them it's phone and Facebook.

Theo Boehm said...

...But I'm not following anyone to the glo-o-o-rious mud!

Lem said...

I don't keep in touch with many friends via email. For them it's phone and Facebook.

Snail mail still.. some of the older family members of mine in the Dominican Republic receiving a letter, an actual letter is a cause celebre.

Lem said...

BTW, I Twitter as theobaldboehm.

Thats the problem with all these social networks - how many identities other than my own could I sanely have?

Linda Seebach said...

Put cats and Twitter together, and you have the beauteous Ghlaghghee, John Scalzi's cat, who tweets at
http://twitter.com/ghlaghghee

She recently wrote, "Who needs opposable thumbs when you have retractable claws? Admit it humans, you'd trade. 6:33 PM Dec 30th, 2008 from web"

Scalzi's take on his cat's activities are at linseewhatever.scalzi.com/2008/12/02/twitter-cat-is-twittering/

Lem said...

I mean isn't it enough to keep up with how many identities Jack Nicholson has had?

Let alone all of our other "favorites".

Shawn Levasseur said...

Twitter, in the manner I and many of my friends use it, is less like blogging, and more like a hybrid of a chat room and broadcast version of text messaging.

If you do twitter, Ann, don't give out your account name to the world, it's best if you keep mostly to your personal acquaintances. Otherwise it'll become no more than just a mini-blog.

Simon said...

An edict came down from Mount Management when twitter started to become popular, asking everyone to sign up and use the service to detail what we're doing in 15 minute blocks. It struck me as a death sentence where one is asked to bring one's own noose!

Plus, it's a monumentally self-indulgent thing. It's a declaration that your life is interesting enough to document in such minute detail. I'm with Gary Hart: My life sure as hell isn't interesting enough to support a twitter feed. I read. Sometimes I write. Occasionally I watch some TV. From time to time I go to conferences.

Ann Althouse said...

"If you do twitter, Ann, don't give out your account name to the world, it's best if you keep mostly to your personal acquaintances. Otherwise it'll become no more than just a mini-blog."

Oh, but that's what I want.

Simon said...

I do like that it says that you have X number of "followers." Think how much effort all these weirdo cultists put into getting followers, and all along they just had to get a twitter account!

Rick Lee said...

Twitter is addictive. It's called microblogging and yes IT WILL take your attention away from your regular blog and you'll probably blog less. That's a common reaction. (btw, I'm RickLeePhoto on Twitter) You need to have an iPhone or something similar to use it effectively unless you're at your computer most of the time. I use the Twitterific iPhone app. It's very much like Facebook status update... and in fact I (and MANY people) have Twitter set up to automatically post to Facebook status at the same time. Works great. Speaking of links, If the link you want to post is more than x number of characters, Twitter automatically changes it to a TinyURL. Some people use it to just broadcast to a large number of followers, but I get the most out of it from being part of a Twittering group of friends.

Donna B. said...

No Twitter for me. I'm not into "following" anyone, not even my family who don't have the time to Twitter anyway.

I use Facebook to keep up with my children's activities, but I enjoy it most as a way to share photos that wouldn't necessarily be appropriate for a public blog.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Theo Boehm said...

The following is not about any specific person who may or may not be on Twitter, but only reflects my native misanthropy:

I never did know about internet sanity
And how when you're online you have an identity,
Except what you made a half hour ago:
A wallowing hippo who swims on his tiptoe
In mud so delicious it's quite digiticious
And keeps you so cool, you'll not be malicious;
Except there's that side of the old Mr. Hyde:
You know when you signed up as him how you lied
To spread gossip and rumors and news of Bill's tumors,
And all that you think about Senator Schumer's
Hideous face on TV.
So if you must bore us, please make like a loris
And do it so slowly there's time to read Horace
Before we ignore your next tweet.

Michael_H said...

What is Twitter's purpose, other than adding more epoxy to the bond between humans and electronic devices?

Freeman Hunt said...

Twitter = Terse

I like terse.

Christy said...

I looked into it when Chris Muir started to twitter, didn't see the point.

Shawn Levasseur said...

"Oh, but that's what I want."

Then go for it.

You'll be good at it. You may want to make use of twitpic to post up your photos via twitter.

Craig Landon said...

Some things just don't need doing.

Donna B. said...

twit⋅ter [twit-er]
–verb (used without object)
1. to utter a succession of small, tremulous sounds, as a bird.
2. to talk lightly and rapidly, esp. of trivial matters; chatter.
3. to titter; giggle.
4. to tremble with excitement or the like; be in a flutter.

These definitions remind me of how the hosts of QVC and ShopNBC talk. So, yeah... go for it.

Windbag said...

I still don't know what Twitter is, so I'm certain that it's another technology fad that I won't have to master unless it stays around, like e-mail did.

I wonder how many blogs in the past month included Gary Hart in their tags? I'll wager not many.

m00se said...

There's a not so fine line between blogging and verbal diarrhea.

John Stodder said...

I think Twitter is mostly for links.

I follow the NY Times' tweets, for example. A brief description then a tiny url link.

What's really fun is Twitter Search (link at the bottom of the Twitter page.) Type in any search term. Like Dogwood implied, type in a NYSE symbol. Type in any word you can think of, and you get everything anyone on Twitter is saying about it.

Another good extension, Twitterly, tells you what are the most-tweeted links.

The thing that has really slowed my own blogging down is Facebook. It turns out I'd rather socialize online with friends (including some very old or distant friends who I'm now in regular touch with), family and coworkers than with the Google Search-stumbling masses. Some of what's on Facebook is corny and lame, but it has good bones.

Gordon Gates said...

Welcome to twitter! I am betting that you enjoy it. Looking at your post, I think item #6 is what will give you the most pleasure...it is the intereaction with blogging that is intriguing. In no time at all you will want to add your twitter stream to the sidebar of your blog, so that visitors can have updates between regular blog posts. Good luck to you! @gordongates

Jennifer said...

I've been avoiding Twitter much like I avoided blogging and then MySpace, then Facebook. So, if history tells me anything, I will be twittering at some point in the near future.

Meade said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Why don't you just install webcams all over your house, and then affix another one to your head (like they do in reality shows when the contestants are bungee jumping or whatever) so we can follow you 24/7 in actual streaming video."

In the words of Gary Hart, you'd be very bored.


Oooo... now you really have piqued my interest! Monkey business?

Michael_H said...

I have signed up for Twitter. My wife's first (verbal) question was:

Are you now officially a twit?

I may unsign up.

rhhardin said...

Lileks is the only twitter I look at. He defines the genre as an amusing thought, written probably as he has them.

I just go and look at the page, however; it doesn't come to me.

Ann Althouse said...

"In no time at all you will want to add your twitter stream to the sidebar of your blog, so that visitors can have updates between regular blog posts."

Tried it and rejected it. It takes up way too much room in the sidebar. Plus, the tone of my Twittering will be a counterpoint to the blog, not a substitute for the blog posts. If it belongs on the blog, I will blog it. (I can blog from my iPhone as easily as I can Twitter.)

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you have to follow me on Twitter.

Sheldon said...

Yo no digo esta canciĆ³n, sino a quien conmigo va.
http://fuerzadelaudio.blogspot.com/2008/07/romance-del-conde-arnaldos.html

Ann Althouse said...

Lileks has over 3,000 followers.

m00se said...

Lileks also has a profound case of OCD about a number of things. Fortunately that works for him - most of the time.

I sincerely hope Titus does not start Twittering...

m00se said...

In addition - PSA:

http://mashable.com/2009/01/03/warning-twitter-phishing-attack-underway/

Ann Althouse said...

m00se, is there really any need for warnings like that? Those phishing attacks all look alike. What idiot clicks on stuff like that?

Freeman Hunt said...

I sincerely hope Titus does not start Twittering...

If there is anyone who could utilize Twitter, it is Titus.

m00se said...

*chuckle*

Ann - no not really if you find train wrecks entertaining.

People will routinely click on anything that looks remotely entertaining, official or from a remotely familiar email address.

Why do you think they still sell antivirus programs? Or issue alerts for insecure software? The latest alert of Safari involves an ability to use Flash controls to phish a machine for personal info - so don't be too smug.

m00se said...

Freeman - that's precisely what I'm worried about.

1jpb said...

I recommend following TheWhiteHouse.

I liked seeing messages from Bush last year (when the media was busy w/ other stuff.)

Not sure how this will change w/ the new administration.

P.S.

AJGaza is a sort-of interesting way to use Twitter.

1jpb said...

And,

Twitter is an interesting way to keep your opposition in front of you.

Look at the folks Oliver Willis follows to see this in practice.

Trevor Jackson said...

If you Tweet from your iPhone, you should download and use the TwitterFon app. It's much handier than doing it through Safari. The app is free.