Twitter-pated — this one is strictly geek to me

One of the advantages of the choices I’ve made this year – to stay at home with my daughter rather than to continue working full-time doing source code analysis and review – is that I have a lot of ‘in between’ moments where I can spend time on the internet getting caught up on what is ‘new’ and ‘different.’

A few months back, a dear friend of mine pointed me over to Twitter.com – telling me that while she didn’t mind reading my blogs elsewhere, it just seemed like so much work to post a blog regularly, whereas twittering consisted of 140-characters-or-less messages which seemed much more reasonable to her.

Given that I have multiple web-presences, and have pretty much for the past 8 years running kept tabs on the new social media developments, I signed right up.

My friend seems to have abandoned Twitter to return to the land of intermittent blogging – but she checks in on me there still. But one of the things I found out quickly and suspect she did – as does anyone who ‘tweets’ – is that it’s darned hard to communicate effectively in 140 characters or less. It’s actually an art form.

Over the past several months, Twitter has taught me how to ‘hone’ my conversations down to pertinent points, despite my unwillingness to abandon things like articles and punctuation. It’s also been a strangely interesting conduit to a whole new arena of thought for me.

I have dozens of friends and family in the Bay Area – most whom work in some capacity or other in the technical industry. So I’m strangely often part of Beta launches that tend not to get extended to your average Joan from the middle of the country… When I joined Orkut, it had less than 3k people… now they’ve got millions and finally gave up listing the numbers. Of course, 55% of Orkut is now Brazilian, as opposed to the 14% American – so it seems to have moved to a whole different demographic. I’ve been fortunate enough over the past several years to have Beta invites to pretty much everything ‘new’ and different… But it’s always been from the perspective of ‘oh hey, yeah, FriendX sent me an invite code to NewBetaLaunchY site, I guess I’ll check it out‘ not so much from the perspective of ‘oh, wow, I’ve got to get in on that – because it’s where the future is going!

Joining Twitter has changed things for me. At least, perspective-wise. I’m still a stay-at-home Mom 1,300 miles from Silicon Valley – who tends to get caught up on various sites vary late every night because my daytime routines don’t allow a lot of “e-Interactive opportunities” where I can spend more than a few minutes without getting called away by the child. I’m not suddenly a better (or more consistent) blogger. I’m not going to become some new me. I’ve just sort of been exposed to something that was unexpected and it’s changed my awareness.

Over the past few months, I’ve started following and interacting with people who really *are* in the Social Media industry. People who know what the foundations are, what’s going on now, and what is on the horizon. Blame Jeremiah Owyang – who I started following because he said interesting things… and then he kept saying more interesting things and linking to his blog (see link above) – and it turned out he really knew what he was talking about. After awhile, I started following the people that Jeremiah seemed to think ‘knew’ things too and it turned out they did. A few weeks of drifting about Twitter, adding the knowledgeable to my feeds, and suddenly I find myself surrounded by those most likely to know what is going on in the Web 2.0 sphere.

I realized recently that I had gone from using Twitter.com as a sort of an amusing diversion to feeling totally lost if I don’t check it several times daily. Because the really amazing thing that happens at a certain point is that you suddenly start hearing conversations.

When you first start Twittering, it’s pretty hard not to fall into the trap of what someone called “Cereal Tweeting” (I wish I could recall whom it was, unfortunately, just the term stuck in my brain.) That is to say, with only 140 characters, you take the “What Are You Doing?” prompt at the top of the page a little too literally…

I’m eating a bowl of cereal.
I’m going to take a shower now.
I’m watching television while twittering.
I’m going to bed now.

About as much fun to read as it is to write. Twitter has a huge percentage of “Cereal Tweeters.” Fortunately, a lot of them get just as bored of typing it as you would reading it, so they give up on it relatively quickly… and besides, you don’t have to read them if you don’t want to.

But then there’s those conversations I mentioned above. The folks who have been on the forefront of popular blogging are also knee-deep in the trenches when it comes to this sort of thing. They’ve been in since Day 1 – and rapidly figured out how to avoid the pitfalls and how to turn it into more of a hybrid between a listserve, a chat-room, and text messaging. And if you follow one of them you will notice a number of @userX twitters* that look interesting. Add userX to your feed, and suddenly you are the proverbial fly on the wall.

The thing is, since my daughter came into my life, I haven’t really had the time or inclination to Blog-hop. Yes, I know that Scobleizer and TechCrunch and WilWheaton and [insert your favorite big-time blog here] are as addictive to some people as the morning weather report. I just really couldn’t figure out how to get it all in and still have a life in the non-virtual world. No one pays stay-at-home moms to know what’s big on the DailyKos. So when push came to shove, the blogosphere rather lost appeal to me. I pretty much devoted my online time daily to LiveJournal.com because it allowed me to aggregate my friend’s blog postings into one feed, as well as RSS feeds I really wanted to read. Other sites become once or twice a week drop-ins.

The best way I can explain this is that reading a blog to me is the internet equivalent of going to the speaking engagement of someone that interests you. You really have no input in the direction the conversation (monologue?) takes – and at best are a part of the audience that participates in the ‘after-chat’ portion – better known as blog comments.

But Twitter** is something different. It’s like being at a cocktail party – and in the same room as you, there are thousands of other people milling about. Some of them are ‘notable’ folks and some of them are standing in the corner talking to themselves. You can walk up and talk to them too… and just like at a cocktail party, you might get ignored politely, or you might end up having an extended chat with them. Or you can just stand near them and listen sometimes and learn much.

For me, what I like best about Twitter is that it’s already got that sense of community forming. People meet people because they see those @userX posts and click thru – and realize that it’s someone they want to interact with (Say, who’s that over by the bar talking to Bob? I think I might just wander over and introduce myself.) Suddenly, you find yourself caring what happens to these people.

Part of what spurred this post today is that yesterday, Friday 12/21/07 wasn’t just Winter Solstice, it was also Frozen Pea Friday #1. A few weeks ago, a Twitterer by the name of Susan Reynolds (also a popular blogger, second-lifer, and tech gal) was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Rather than face it silently, she mentioned it on Twitter… and within a very short period of time, a movement was born. Click thru on the link above for real details – there’s more information there, and better written than I could do it.

Needless to say, being a very small part of that – peripheral at best – I still felt like I was part of the community. And that started me thinking about the place in general and the dynamics I perceive there. If you had told me 6 months ago that I’d be hooked on this format and this community? I would’ve laughed at you. After all, I’m the gal who still resists IM programs because I just plain don’t want to be reachable all the time.

I’m still learning… and still evaluating. But I suspect I’ll have more to say on it down the road a bit. For now, I’m just listening to the experts (eavesdropping? lurking about? crowding them?) and hoping to continue mingling about.

Now has anyone seen my glass of champagne? I thought I saw Julia Roy over by the ficus in the corner. Just going to mosey on over there. She’s the one who got me hooked on Seesmic… I should talk about that soon too.

*@userX is the way that Twitter determines that you are talking to a specific user, and links their Twitter profile to the name
**or pownce or jaiku if you’d prefer – both of which I also have profiles at, I just prefer Twitter, I don’t really use the others much

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~ by Lucretia on December 22, 2007.

8 Responses to “Twitter-pated — this one is strictly geek to me”

  1. Thanks for this, it’s clear to me that you “KNOW” Things too, so I’m sure we’ll be chatting reaaaal soon.

  2. I knew there was a reason I like following you… :)

    This is the best assessment and explanation of the Twitterverse that I’ve seen yet. Trying to explain Twitter to someone who’s never seen it or doesn’t understand the value in it, is like trying to explain electricity to a bushman. When asked why I Twitter, most often, my response is “…I have met fascinating people from all over the world and had interaction with them, that I would/could never have had without this particular medium…” I too share a dislike for IM proggys, it’s not the instant availability that I dislike so much as the one on one need to be instantly present in the conversation… with Twitter, I can read, digest, then respond… and my response is generally as timely as it needs to be in order to continue the conversation (much like Vbulletin type forum conversations) but at the same time, it has that “cocktail party” atmosphere that you so eloquently described…

    Kudos on a great (perhaps the best) definitive blog posting I’ve seen on Twitter.

  3. Wow thanks guys.
    I was just trying to get it straight in my own head. I apologize for the rambling nature – that’s what I get for late-night posts. But I really appreciate the feedback!

  4. Okay so now i get why you like twitter, I just ran into to many cereal posts, and you know i am NOT a geek. so all the tech buzz was way way way beyond me. I of course come in and read you and your links every other day or so, because i love you!
    Thanks for the ray of understanding!

  5. Too sweet of you Sorrow – and yeah, I imagine if you are getting too many cereal twitters and the conversations aren’t to your taste, it’s the Web 2.0 equivalent of a *boring* cocktail party :)

  6. Wow oh wow – you said what my heart feels. It’s essentially the ideas, the feedback and the people are so genuine, And as surprised to find this wonder to find this miracle suddenly part of our lives as well as I am.

    I can touch a life or tap into knowledge happening a half a world away from me here in the suburban DC with a little care and a few keystrokes.

    A terrifying diagnosis has brought friends out from the woodwork and allowed me a place to heal among people who have put their arms around me and allowed me permission to tell them the worst, and they still come back.

    Twitter was made possible by the technology, But the people are what makes twitter into what it has become. It’s my home-base, My safe spot. And just the beginning of something wonderful.

  7. […] Laura Fitton, also known as Pistachi, posted a blog last week talking about Twitter as a Village that struck a chord with many of us.  But the more I’ve thought about it, the more resistant I am to the “village” analogy, and the more stuck I am on the cocktail party analogy I presented awhile back here. […]

  8. Hello,
    This is David Neff over at the American Cancer Society. Thanks for helping us the spread the word about something that effects thousands of women every year. Breast Cancer is treatable when caught early.

    Thanks,
    David

    P.S. If your coming to SXSW hear us talk Frozen Peas at our Interactive Panel.

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