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07:37 pm: Twitter

I think that I get twitter – and there’s not much to get.

Back in the day, I was a luddite who thought that “the web” was just a massive ego trip. Seriously – I put up a web page on one of the umich servers in, like, 1994 – and wondered what the fuss was about. That lasted until a professor insisted that we get homework from his web page and turn in assignments by creating a (primitive by today’s standards) password protected page and giving him the password. That was when I realized that “the web” means “anyone can publish any document, instantly, for free.” The power of intellectual production was truly in the hands of the masses. That’s f-ing revolutionary, and we’re still dealing with what it means when “everyone” really seriously has the power of the press. Web 3.0? This is still web 1.0 people … we’re just finally hitting the knee of the exponential adoption curve on internet access in 2009.

Seriously. Did you hear the whinging last week about the digital conversion of TV? There’s a revolution going on – but it’s not twitter – it’s people finally realizing that you don’t have to own a million bucks of metal to broadcast yourself to everyone on the planet. The revolution is the stuff that technolope is dreaming. Twitter is John the Baptist to his Jesus.

Okay seriously “tweeple,” shut up a second and let me talk. Put down the crackberry when I’m talking to you. Some thoughts take more than a sentence or two. If your philosophy fits on a bumper sticker, your philosophy sucks.

So then I started a livejournal, against my own better judgement, because this is just another ego trip. Why would I want the whole world reading my diary? Except that it turns out that the whole world doesn’t read my diary. There are maybe 30 of you, and I know the majority of you in real life. So while it’s theoretically possible for the whole world to read my blog … they don’t. Google skims me, and I occasionally get a hit from some real human who is constantly searching for (for example) co-working or something. This one time, I posted about giving a talk at a conference and a reporter covering the conference put 2 and 2 together and linked me in his article. So it’s there, but it’s not really the way the thing works. LJ at least makes a nod at concepts like privacy.

Facebook – same story. Except that the posts are shorter. Instead of having to read paragraph after angst laden paragraph, I can offer up a sentence or two in a status. “Got married.” “Had a kid.” “Cat dying.” That sort of thing. Once again, there’s a theoretical possibility that people could scope my statuses all the time – but they don’t. It’s a vehicle for me to communicate with (here’s the key) people who I already know. I’m not talking to the world … I’m talking to a few friends.

Implicit in both my blog and my facebook status is the fact that I know I’m talking to a small-ish audience. While both facebook and LJ give me delusions of my own globe-spanning importance, the reality is that we’re a single monkeysphere talking to itself. Maybe 200 of us. Tops.

Twitter is different: It runs under the assumption and the reality that I truly intend every “tweet” to go out to the whole fucking world … which just ain’t true. I have aspirations that the whole world will hear some of the things that I have to say … but it’s sure as hell not my stupid little posts that amount to me saying “hi, I still exist, and my butt kinda hurts today.” When I speak to the masses, it will use the same miraculous publishing power that was available to me in 1994 – and it will @not #include $txt @abbrviations.

When I preach, I intend to spellcheck.

Almost every time I post to twitter, some random ass web robot will say “hi” to me. Sometimes it’s a spammer who wants me to look at their product (hello “Boston Bread Company”). Other times it’s some aggregator who undoubtedly has a product under the hood. The most recent of these was “conference call tips.” I tweeted that I was on a conference call and was suddenly on an aggregator for everyone in the world who wanted to know about … what … people who used the words “conference call” in a tweet? Because there’s some sort of emergent global conversation going on about … conference calls? Give me a break.

Seriously. I get the difference … and I want none of it.

I had been abusing twitter by deliberately blocking all those jackasses … and then I realized: I’m fighting against the whole point of twitter. If I want to just “tweet” to my friends and family … I’ll use facebook. Given that the stated purpose of twitter annoys the crap out of me – the only winning strategy may be to not play.

Summary: I have no interest in being part of a chirping chorus of (to use the past tense): twats.

Originally published at chris.dwan.org. You can comment here or there.



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