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Twitter Part 11

(March 28, 2007)
  Today's article is the second in a series from Jules Gude, CEO of exceler8. According to Jules, "
exceler8 develops social media marketing strategies for companies that connect people, ideas, and commerce.  We also participate in our communities by collaborating on projects, participating in online conversations, and publishing blogs like exceler8ion.com.  Our collaborative open source business practices lead to innovation."

How/why I started using twitter
When I heard about twitter and it's stated use some time ago (they turned a year old yesterday) I thought to myself:

"wow, that's stupid. I don't have the time for this."

Ever heard that refrain about technology before?

Then the same good friend of mine that introduced me to blogging five years ago, who had already been blogging since '99 invited me to Twitter. While this friend may be a geek like me, she doesn't tend to recommend things unless she thinks they're important. Because of her, I tried it. Then I asked Shannon to try it. Word of mouth is powerful stuff.

How I got hooked on twitter crack - twack
Right, it's about people.
After some simple and boring tweets like

"walking the dawgies along the intracoastal"

I got more creative and twittered my way through my first marathon. My family in the U.S. and Australia along with friends from all over the place could watch me in real time.

It was right around this time that I began to really see how twitter could be adapted to very different uses. It's like inventing writing and that spawning something as diverse as poetry, and then branching off again to something as niche as haiku.

Not just Geek speak
More globally it's a social network and a parallel publishing system. You'll hear terms referenced like social presence software and continuous partial attention. Steve Rubel does a nice job of exemplifying how we deal with information overload by shifting time from one place to another - just as we're taking time spent in front of the T.V. and moving it to the Internet.

"That brings me back to Twitter. Despite it's lack of management/search features, Twitter is downright addicting. I love it. It's brevity lets me blog more actively and at the same time engage in real-time conversations with my "followers" (as they call it). If things have seemed a little quieter over here, it's because I have been busier over there. (Here's my Twitter feed)" — Steve Rubel, from Twitter, Human Attention and Moore's Law

Here's another reference to continuous partial attention in the context of Twitter from a wiki maven (Ross Mayfield) who I know from my former job, Ross truly 'gets' social media — good article .

This is all pretty geeky, but stick with the people theme here people!

Speaking of geeky. Many people harp on the negatives of this constant state of connection. Kathy Sierra, much respected co-writer of Creating Passionate Users, recently derided Twitter at sxsw and has a well read post on the topic of information overload and twitter that has certainly made some waves in the Twitter community. We wrote about the related topic of interruption science last year where researchers used the catchy

"multitasking is worse for your ability to concentrate than getting stoned"

quote to draw attention to their study findings. Today I say, to each his own. One man's interruption is another man's mental health break. For a contrasting view from Sierra's, Shannon turned me on to a really thought provoking post by Stowe Boyd of /Message about what he defines as flow applications. In short, we work in flow now, rather than more concentrated, uninterrupted bouts as we did in the past and he challenges the common wisdom that says this is somehow bad for us.

"And as we learn to accommodate a flow style of social interaction and network-based viral information movement, our thoughts about time, attention, and connectedness will change. We will train the neurons, like jugglers do, and we will shift toward a sort of attention field rather than focusing on one thing at a time. That's how jugglers do it. We will see our consciousness change, and then our ethos."
– Stowe Boyd.

Again, perhaps because I'm a marketer the subject of context comes up - if it's relevant than it's worth reading, if not, you kick the tweet back to where it came from (same as T.V. we like/don't like or phone calls from unknown numbers).

It's practical
Even though it's not billed this way – twitter is practical. For me this is the highest compliment I can apply to a technology or Internet application. I appreciate function as much as I love form. You keep in touch with people. That's practical. If the people you are twittering with are part of your business network - that's money. You see what they're reading, watching, writing, speaking on, and who and where they're hanging out. You start to see, just as most of us have done on LinkedIn, that the six degrees of separation are in play here (hey, I didn't know they knew them).

It's alive!
It's a living breathing social network that has a very strong pulse. And it's beating stronger every day. After yesterdays news about Second Life closing down to new members (reportedly just an error on SL's part - oops, SL just created scarcity and their sign ups with probably skyrocket), and the myriad overloads that twitter has already experienced I'm wondering how much longer it will be before they receive a massive new round of funding to scale to their swarming growth or get acquired making evhead an even richer twit. Oh shit, let me just say it. Google already bought Blogger from Evan Williams, aka ev (on twitter), why won't he just hit redial on his cell phone and go for round two?

What will his tweet say?

"Just sold obvious for $150m to Sergey."

Why you might like twitter
Since twitter revolves around people, it takes many forms and people see value in Twitter in terms that make sense to them. For me, as someone who likes blogging and connecting with people those are keys to me. You have to use twitter to find your own hot buttons. One thing is for sure, as Shannon pointed out, we need to convince WAY more of our friends to try it and use it. This is key to enjoying Twitter! You have to get connected with people who are ALSO watching you or it's just like a tree falling in an empty forest. Did it make any sound?

Watching people you don't know…YET
Like with blogging, you also connect, or watch (stalk if you prefer) people that you are interested in. I'm a tech geek so I heard about Leo Laporte using it while listening to his top rated TWIT podcast (This week in tech) shortly after my friend Glenda had gotten me to join Twitter. After I signed up and started watching Leo on Twitter I heard him joking with another far prettier tech geek I follow named AmberMac, while listening to Leo and Amber's live audio show called Net@Nite. And Merlin Mann, productivity guru of acclaimed 43Folders fame, somehow doesn't find Twitter a waste of time. Some time after beginning to watch AmberMac she actually added me to her list of friends. Moi? Although I don't know Amber, I've listened to her on podcasts and viewed her videocasts long enough to feel like she's a freind, just as I connect with Leo and Merlin and others that aren't true friends. Twitter is a connector, a leveler, a live version of social networking for dummies (that would be me).

An Animal Style Recommendation for Twitter
Now Animal, as a recruiter and someone who I've always found to enjoy interacting with people, yes, perhaps even toying with them, isn't it good business for you to know what's happening with your associates, friends, clients and well…prospects? As a recruiter, doesn't it make sense to use networking tools that help people connect with you and vice versa? I was a little surprised when you closed your post about Twitter with:

"Is it of interest to recruiters? If I was running the ERE or Kennedy conferences, I would promote it there as a useful and fun tool. That's it. You could also use it if you go shopping with your spouse or kids."

Animal, don't you think you should try Twitter for a week or two first before deciding not to use it (except for conferences)? Perhaps some of these Twitter uses would be helpful. You are a master of the one-liner, you're known the whole world over (well, at least the recruiting world) for your famous one liners so why would you shy away from a tool that lets you zap your friends, family and associates with new inspirational Torontoisms? I'm almost done with my pitch. I can't imagine that you're not already a fan of AmberMac. A fellow Canadian, (Toronto even) she's a star on the Internet, and a star of City News T.V. right in your home town, and I heard you have a poster of her on your bedroom ceiling. Or that's what Jason Davis told me. You know, you can follow Amber on Twitter, she may even (shudder) watch you.

I need closure here
I'll close on this.

Yes, Twitter is still niche.

Perhaps the naysayers are right, that this is just a fad, and only the provence of the 'blogging elite,''digerati,' or how Shannon and I like to think of ourselves, a couple of geeks. Twitter may never get beyond the tipping point in anything beyond these aforementioned communities, but then again, Shannon found a grandma just up the street from us today using a new mashup called a Twitter Map.

Sorta makes you wonder - does she rock php code or is she just keeping track of friends and family? I prefer to think that Twitter, or what it evolves into, may just join IM and text messaging as useful tools to stay connected - keeping us in touch as much, or as little, as we choose. I also believe that it will steal time from other apps, most notably blogging, not add to your growing list of time wasters. And I again come back to my theme of people. Investing time in people rarely goes unrewarded. Your family, your friends, people you can learn from - these are the people you invest time with using social tools like Twitter. Sure, face-to-face and ring-rings still count.

Remember: you can close Twitter, close IM, close your email and turn off your cell phone. Hell, you can go old school and unplug your phone from the wall if you still have one like I do.

Of course, the real reason I like Twitter so much is that I'm forced to limit all posts to 141 characters. Forced brevity for Julian = good. Julian on a blog as you can see = bad!

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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