I am feeling overwhelmed. My in-box is full. I can’t keep up with Facebook. I have real work to do. But I love Twitter and I am finding time for it and I want to explain why.
Like many people at first I didn’t get it. Why would I care what people are doing — when most of the time people are doing mundane things. Who has time to learn that so and so is getting on a plane. Who cares?
What Twitter is, actually, is an adult conversation. It’s about business and entertainment, about food and wine, about snow shovels and digital TV. There are no “pokes” or virtual plants or stupid games. I have met amazing people on Twitter and it has become my go-to resource for questions big and small.
I even found the Wovel on Twitter!
David Pogue, one of my more favorite tech writers, has also discovered Twitter after being a skeptic. (If you don’t know David Pogue’s work, you should sign up for his email list here.)
Here are excerpts from David’s recent pieces on Twitter. He does a nice job of showing its power:
Twittering Tips for Beginners
As a tech columnist, I’m supposed to be on top of what’s new in tech, but there’s just too much, too fast; it’s like drinking from a fire hose. I can only imagine how hopeless a task it must be for everyone else.
Which brings us to Twitter.
Twitter.com is all the rage among geeks, although it has more hype than users at this point. (When I speak at tech and education conferences, I routinely ask my audience how many are on Twitter. Usually, it’s 1 in 500.)
Basically, you sign up for a free account at Twitter.com. Then you’re supposed to return to that site periodically and type short messages that announce what you’re doing. (Very short — 140 characters max.)
Then, you’re supposed to persuade your friends and admirers to become your audience by subscribing to your utterances (called tweets). Big-name tech pundits amass tens of thousands of followers. Normal people may have five or six.
I’ll admit that, for the longest time, I was exasperated by the Twitter hype. Like the world needs ANOTHER ego-massaging, social-networking time drain? Between e-mail and blogs and Web sites and Facebook and chat and text messages, who on earth has the bandwidth to keep interrupting the day to visit a Web site and type in, “I’m now having lunch”? And to read the same stuff being broadcast by a hundred other people?
Then my eyes were opened. A few months ago, I was one of 12 judges for a MacArthur grant program in Chicago. As we looked over one particular application, someone asked, “Hasn’t this project been tried before?”
Everyone looked blankly at each other.
Then the guy sitting next to me typed into the Twitter box. He posed the question to his followers. Within 30 seconds, two people replied, via Twitter, that it had been done before. And they provided links.
The fellow judge had just harnessed the wisdom of his followers in real time. No e-mail, chat, Web page, phone call or FedEx package could have achieved the same thing.
I was impressed.
He goes on…
But one thing’s for sure: The whole thing would be a lot more palatable if somebody would explain the basics. Something like this:
* You don’t have to open your Web browser and go to Twitter.com to send and receive tweets. In fact, that’s just silly. Instead, people download little programs like Twitterific, Feedalizr or Twinkle, they get the updates on their cellphones as text messages, or they use something like PocketTweets, Tweetie or iTweet for the iPhone. I’ve been using Twitterific for the Mac, which is a tall, narrow window at the side of the screen. Incoming tweets scroll up without distracting you. Much.
* Your followers can respond to your tweets, either publicly or privately.
* It seems clear that you, as a tweet-sender, are not actually expected to respond to every reply. At least I sure HOPE that’s the expectation. I mean, some popular Twitterers have 15,000 followers; you’d spend all day doing nothing but answering them all.
I’ve always wondered who the heck would be interested in the mundane details of your life. As it turns out, though, most people broadcast other stuff in their tweets. They pose questions. They send links to interesting stuff they’ve found online. They pass along breaking news (Barack Obama announced his running mate on Twitter).
* People can be just as snotty on Twitter as they are everywhere else on the Internet.
In the end, my impression of Twitter was right and wrong. Twitter IS a massive time drain. It IS yet another way to procrastinate, to make the hours fly by without getting work done, to battle for online status and massage your own ego.
But it’s also a brilliant channel for breaking news, asking questions, and attaining one step of separation from public figures you admire. No other communications channel can match its capacity for real-time, person-to-person broadcasting.
David’s second piece shows how he’s getting more acclimated to the Twitter community – and it’s pretty funny.
January 29, 2009
FROM THE DESK OF DAVID POGUE
The Twitter Experiment
By DAVID POGUE
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about my bumpy initiation into the world of Twitter. It’s sort of a complicated cross between a chat room and private e-mail. And it’s both an interrupty time drain and an incredible source of real-time connection and information.
Some of you blasted me for impugning Twitter’s greatness. Some of you hailed me as a seer of its imminent demise. (A few of you thought my assessment was right on.)
Today, I thought I’d follow up by sharing the sweet, funny, interesting results of a Twitter experiment. It’s too entertaining for me to keep to myself.
Yesterday, I spoke at a conference in Las Vegas. The topic was Web 2.0, with all of its free-speech, global-collaboration ramifications. At one point, I figured that the best way to explain Twitter was to demonstrate it, live, on the big screen at the front of the ballroom.
So I flipped out of PowerPoint and typed this to my Twitter followers: “I need a cure for hiccups… RIGHT NOW! Help?”
I hit Enter. I told the audience that we would start getting replies in 15 seconds, but it didn’t even take that long. Here are some of the replies that began scrolling up the screen:
* florian: Put a cold spoon on your back – that’s what my grandfather would do for hiccups.
* megs_pvd: Put your head between your knees and swallow hard.
* bethbellor: Packets of sugar.
* jfraga: BOOOOOOOOOOO! (How many of those did you get?)
[Answer: about 20.]
* michaeljoel: drop a lit match in a glass of water to extinguish it. take out match. drink water.
* jbelmont: Simple. Just hold your breath until Windows 7 is released.
* rgalloway: Have someone slowly & softly count backwards from 10-1 in Russian for you. Works every time!
* warcand: check your 401K. That should scare the hiccups right out of ya!
* drct: The cure for hiccups is simply to get the air out of your stomach. How is up to you.
* kashaziz: Take a glass of water, hold your breath and gulp it down. Distraction helps against hiccups.
* hornsolo: Stand on your head, drink water backwards, and gurgle, “Microsoft sucks!”
* aaaaiiiieeee: There’s gotta be something in the App Store for it by now.
* garmstrong65: Sounds crazy, but it works. Take 9 sips of water then say, “January.” Laugh now, but you’ll thank me when the hiccups are gone.
* ransomtech: On Twitter, they are Twiccups.
* erlingmork: Peanut butter on a spoon.
* squealingrat: With a popsicle stick or something clean, touch the little thing at the back of your throat. This causes the muscles to change.
* bschlenker: hello from the back of the room
* amysprite: plug your ears and nose and drink seven gulps of water. Difficult, but do-able. Works like a charm EVERY time.
* SullivanHome: With right hand, reach around to behind left shoulder tightly and grab some back flesh, hold for up to a minute and no hiccups.
* jillgee: Promise yourself something you really, really want (and mean it) if you do hiccup again. It works!
* assignmentdesk1: Hold your breath and go slowly thru ABC’s. Then at Z, take another deep breath without exhaling. Then slowly exhale.
* DavidWms: Drink out of far side of water glass (best done over sink). Works every time.
* enrevanche: Dry-swallow a spoon of granulated sugar. The trick is to overwhelm the overstimulated vagus nerve (causing hiccups) with new input.
* JuanluR: eat a full spoon of crushed ice.
* Chiron1: I take large sips of bourbon. It doesn’t stop the hiccups, but I stop caring!
* chadrem: hold your breath until you pass out. Whenever you wake up, no more hiccups!
* tiffanyanderson: Rub both of your ear lobes at the same time. Hiccups will go away. :^D
* tommertron: The best way I’ve found is to just relax and try to forget about them. I find stressing out about them makes it worse.
* SocialMediaSabs: try drinking a cup of water with a paper napkin over it – I swear it works!
Has there ever been a wittier, smarter bunch (or a better collection of hiccup cures)? The audience and I were marveling and laughing at the same time. This was it: harnessing the power of the Web, the collective wisdom of strangers, in real time! The Twitterers of the world did not let us down. (And yes, I realize that this demo might not be as effective if you have, say, 20 followers instead of hundreds.)
David goes on to say that many people thought he should have mentioned that this was a demo when he Tweeted. So what are you waiting for?