Remember this? Probably many don't, but I've been a member of Twitter, since last July. Previous to Jabber integration. Previous to the funky tricked out personal landing page. Previous to the vowels. (oh and that was the first recorded "twitterquake" btw) I'm not trying to say that I'm uber cool 'cause I was part of Twitter before others are, but I would like to stand up for the service in the face of the multitude of naysayers and hype machines that appear hell-bent on taking it down before understanding why it has become so popular in the first place. Those of you who are arriving here now are experiencing a very different Twitter than the Twttr I fell in love with ages ago.
Let me tell you what Twitter means to me:
Twitter is a representation of my stream of consciousness.
In the past year, we've become busier and busier and I've slowly been taken away from one of my first loves, blogging. I used to post several times per day. I could start and end a complete, fairly coherent thought and have a good dialogue here. As I became busier, it became more and more difficult to do this and I've found myself posting about 1-2x per week at most. I always loved the quote by David Weinberger from a talk he gave at the Library of Congress, "We are recording our histories, one blog post at a time." By not having enough time to post my blog, I was "losing" much of my thinking along the way. As my blog became more and more 'professionally focused', I was losing the personal things that matter to me.
Twitter came along and gave me a tool to keep recording these things that matter to me. Things about my son. Things about my health. Things about my current state of mind.
Twitter is incredibly useful for tracking my attention data.
Don't tell the advertisers, but looking back through my twitters, it gives a pretty good picture of where I'm headed and what my needs are. In fact, many babies and weddings have been 'announced' on Twitter, which could signal a change in someone's buying behaviour. How is this helpful for me? Well, Scoble expressed his disgust at the lack of responsiveness by advertisers for baby gear. There are some things for some people that give us great pleasure to buy. I think most people would agree that if they send a twitter that they are looking for a perfect ___________, being pointed to the perfect __________ is a good thing.
Oh and...call me lame, but I DO care about what you had for dinner. I may want to eat there someday. It's helpful for me.
Twitter is incredibly useful for tracking my activity.
For me, twitter was also very useful when assembling my receipts for tax purposes. A couple of receipts I had forgotten to write the name of the person I dined with and what we discussed. My calendar didn't reflect the meals, either, as both were spontaneous...as referenced through Twitter posts. Twitter, basically, helped me with my taxes.
This type of thing has happened more than once. Check out the Twitter Quakes. I matched my recent Ikea twitters to unknown Zipcar rentals (another business purpose tax fill-in). Twitter helped me remember when I first coloured Tad's hair.
Twitter helps me keep track of my friends.
I may not get enough time to spend with my amazing friends these days, but I certainly know what they've been up to, thanks to Twitter. I know that Alicia's flight home was frustrating. I knew when people got sick. When I got back from Vegas, everyone asked me if my new dress that I twittered was the one I was wearing. I knew what I missed in Austin whilst away. The next time I see someone, I'll know what they've been up to, so we can go from there instead of playing catch up.
Twitter has led me to making more friends.
Maybe not new friends as much as it's helped me create a deeper bond with 'acquaintances' of mine. Thomas Vander Wal and I knew one another in passing until we became twitter friends. Now I feel like I know Thomas well and when he comes to SF, it feels like we've known one another for a long time. I know when his kids are sick and when he's frustrated with clients and he knows the same about me. I've gotten to know many people better this way and, even though they are non-personal sms messages that are under 140 characters long, they seem to say more about people than many blog posts or emails or even in-person conversations (as some of us are nervous or apprehensive when we first meet people, where twitter creates a level of inhibition in many).
There are many more reasons why I love Twitter and Twittering. I love the common language emerging from this less than 140 character medium. That people come up with clever words to describe Twitter phenomenon, which become a shared language between us.
I feel so strongly about it that it upsets me to see people reduce it to another friend collecting service or hype. It is compelling, interesting and captures the imagination of alot of people. Tell me other web apps these days that can say the same. It goes to show you, once again, that simple tools that disrupt are what we need to be concentrating on...not more 'me too' and 'this will make me $$'. Sure, it's human nature to dismiss something (or someone) gaining in popularity. Is it jealousy? Fear? I don't know, but it certainly isn't self-reflective.
Do I think Twitter scales? Nope. I don't think community 'scales', either. I look at my long list of friends and feel I need to start switching some off (although it's an insanely difficult decision because I'm actually interested in learning more about the people who update rarely as well). I have found it insanely helpful as well as entertaining. It IS crack. It IS distracting. It has also created an awesome 'efficiency' in my life...an emotional efficiency so to speak, where I have 140 characters to vent and get to connect with others that do the same.
I passionately and fervently in heart with Twitter and there will probably be a day that I feel the same way about something else that captures my attention, but until then, I will continue to wave my twitter flag, post kitty photos to the twitter fan wiki and snobily roll my eyes at twits twittering for the sake of tweets.