Actually, before that… If you don’t use Twitter, or if you’ve taken a look but don’t “get it”, watch this 2.5-minute video Twitter in Plain English from those wacky Canadians Common Craft. Love their style.
Like the character in the video, I was sceptical about Twitter. Why do people need to know every little detail of my life? Who cares? I said as much to Perth’s Twitterati late last year. But then I actually tried using it — and I “got it” immediately.
It’s not about what people need to know, but what they want to know. And, as the video, says, the people who care about you are interested in what you’re doing.
Calling this service “Twitter” was genius. Listen to real birds twittering, especially during their dawn chorus, and you’ll hear a constant stream of status messages. “I’m alive and healthy.” “This is still my territory, stay clear.” “I’m hungry, feed me.” “I’ve found some food over here.” “Storm coming! Quick! Quick!”
None of these messages necessarily requires an answer — just like typical tweets on Twitter. But you can act upon them or reply if you want.
- I’m hungry, going to lunch” can elicit “Hey I’m around the corner, I’ll join you.”
- “Firefox has just crashed again” can elicit “Have you tried clearing your cache? That worked for me.”
- “Stuck in traffic on the M4” lets you know that another person, also coming via the freeway, could be late for a meeting — even if they don’t use Twitter themselves.
- “Finishing an article before 4pm deadline” tells you not to interrupt that person.
- “Finished!’ means you can now ask that person if they’d like a beer.
- “Great blog post about Julia Gillard [with a link here]” could lead you in a whole new direction. Beer or no beer.
Twitter is, almost literally, the background clucking of so many chickens.
If you need to concentrate on work or a TV program, just tune out. It’s a permanent window onto my world — but that doesn’t mean I need to sit and watch what’s out the window all the time.
Why Twitter works for me
The key factor is that Twitter adheres to the philosophy of small pieces, loosely joined. It’s a clear, simple tool that’s easy to connect to other tools.
- I can send or view tweets from the Twitter website, the mobile version at m.twitter.com, the Twitterific application for Mac OS X (that’s what I use most of the time), via SMS or via other instant messaging services. Whatever’s handy at the time.
- Ditto for the people following my tweets. They choose whatever’s handy for them. I don’t have to think about where they are at the time.
- Everything’s interconnected by RSS, which means I can do things like plug my tweets into this website.
Permanent versus Ephemeral
[Credit: Cartoon Twitter-bird courtesy of Hugh MacLeod. Like all of Hugh’s cartoons published online, it’s free to use.]