My first post on Twitter was back in October 2006, and since then Twitter has come a long way; evolved from the architecture of participation, and the emergence of the platform. Back in 2006 I called it SMS blogging, but now that’s all changed as the major use is the web and desktop applications (incl. mobile web).
In true web 2.0 style the people’s usage habits are an input to the design eg. replies were so heavily used it became a feature, and we just know re-tweets and hashtags will be coming next. Plus there are so many 3rd party add-ons, and extensions and variations of Twitter (see end of this post), my favourite at the moment is peoplebrowsr.
You really know a website is taking off when there are hundreds of new piggy back apps being released every week, and when you start seeing people trying to organise it such as Twibs, CelebrityTweet, Twellow. It’s amazing how many businesses and brands are using it as a tool to monitor, promote and support, and all the enterprise versions that it has influenced. There are even books, how-to’s, songs, video, plus breaking news, natural disasters, election buzz, collective action, festivals, backchannels (eg. of #e2ef, and trend), and so on. At time of writing Twitter is collectively being used to coordinate information and action in locating a skiier lost in the Swiss Alps.
But most of all is the buzz, and for the last 2-3 years it just keeps getting buzzier…this thing is here to stay.
The tipping point for me was in the last month; I’ve heard about Twitter on national radio and national newspapers, and now I’m hearing it on national TV news and talk shows, the most notably Rove Live on 1/03/09. I did a search the next day and it seems thousands of people registered a Twitter account because it was mentioned by an influential person on an influential TV show. And you know the network effect, those thousand people will each tell lots more, and so on.
Now we see aussie celebrities on it like guysebastian, hamishandandy, and hughesy. And the final confirmation is when your mum asks “what is Twitter?”
But will it take 5 years for mum to use it
So why is Twitter so attractive?
Most of all it is the perfect example of defining a new generation, away from the economic model of self-gain, and more to a social connection, collective, and engaged model. We are social creatures and Twitter enables us to play this part by having a very low barrier and effective tool, that allows us to do multiple things in a very intuitive and flexible way.
I’m not going to list them, but what we get to do is express, share, ask, receive, connect, converse, communicate, coordinate…the problogger video says it all.
Different to IM and email
- Both of these are point-to-point channels (IM being real-time)
- Both of these are used when you are pushing to someone on the other end (the audience is decided by the sender at the time of sending)
- Twitter is a platform (you don’t really decide the audience who will receive your content, as the audience is who follows you)
- Twitter is more open, and email and IM are more closed
- I can post a tweet as a publishing in the open (similar to a blog or newspaper), whereas in IM I only interact if there is someone on the other end, otherwise who am I interacting with
- Twitter direct messages are more point to point like email or IM
- Twitter replies are point-to-point but yet in an open way (I’ll come back to this uniqueness)
- I can discover people and content on Twitter (my contact list is public), whereas the Outlook email GAL is not much of a discovery tool…I can’t get to know people or have an ambient awareness using an email system
IM, email and Twitter are all unique and have their purpose, but we all know we have reached peak email.
Different to forums
- As Stowe Boyd says, networks alleviate the shift context issue.
- No-one owns the space
- There are no prescribed topics, there is just one stream, and your network
- Reach a larger audience
- Forums are more focused collaborative conversations and have their purpose as a format
Different to blogging
So in a way Twitter is like blogging, most often called micro-blogging, but it’s also about presence.
- The main difference here is that we are in a network, but there are also blogging networks eg. vox, livejournal, even MySpace and Facebook I suppose.
- but I’m refering to the distributed blogosphere that we all know (typepad, blogger, wordpress…all searchable via Google Blog Search)
- OK, so the main difference is that your posts are only 140 characters long, whereas blog posts don’t have a limit.
- And as I mentioned some of your tweets are unlike blog posts as they are focused on someone eg. @replies
- these reply type tweets are in fact tweets in their own right, unlike a comment being a child of the parent blog post.
This is the perfect example of not only the same tool, but using the same stream to both publish (broadcast) and converse (communicate).
This makes twitter very different. In one space we can express ourself with poetry, and the next second in the same stream we can reply to someone about drinks tonight.
This is what makes it so sticky, and usable as I can do two things.
- The other factor is that Twitter is more spontaneous, whereas a blog post is more an edited piece. Blogs are more timely and fragmented than documents, and just the same Twitter is more timely and fragmented than blogs.
Now I tweet my thoughts, and sometimes collect all those thoughts into a blog posts, and sometimes collect all those blog posts into a document
They both have their unique purpose…participation has become very granular, and a bit like Russian Dolls.
So why are people more likely to tweet than to blog?
- Setting up a blog is your own place (you need some motivation to want to setup your own soapbox)
- Registering with Twitter is very non-committal, it takes less drive or motivation to register
- Your blog posts are most often more thought pieces, you need some time to blog
- Twitter is very spontaneous (not much of a cognitive effort to participate)
- You have more confidence participating on Twitter as your tweets fall of the radar much quicker, you are just one of many tweeps, whereas in a blog you stand out, it’s more a purposeful space
- You need lots of motivation to blog and you may not have many subscribers or commenters
- This could become discouraging, “does anyone read this?”
- Twitter is easy to amass a network, and replies in abundance
- the social connectedness we are looking for, and which motivates us and sustains the system is much quicker in manifesting
- this is important to hook you in from the word go
- You have to be a publishing type of person to blog, it’s not for everyone
- And like the offline world, in Twitter we can talk about stuff we want to share, whine, ask a question, read poetry out loud, news, opinion, etc… Blogs do this, but Twitter is that step closer to how we do this in the offline world.
This is not as true for Twitter, as it’s more about conversations (as well as tiny publishings), only in an open/network platform rather than private channels (and you only need one stream). Twitter pretty much mimics the offline world, we are used to conversing with a network of people…I suppose we are not used to blabbing “what are you doing” one liners in public (who is that crack pot).
Different to Facebook status updates
- Facebook status updates have inline comments, whereas in Twitter these comments are actual tweets themselves. NOTE: I recall Jaiku and Plaxo doing both.
- Facebook status updates are not viral, they are limited to your network. You cannot hear about conversations people in your network are having with others that are not in your network.
- not as much discovery, serendipity, and opportunities to tap into people and content
- there is a valid reason Facebook is like this
Different to bookmarking
Well of course.
But I’m referring to the sharing aspect.
In Delicious I don’t use the-sharing links with your network feature-as my network is on Twitter not delicious.
Most people tweet about links they are reading.
Different to RSS Reader
Well of course.
But what I mean is that my Twitter network will surface stuff that’s important.
Rather than slogging through each item in my RSS Reader (even if I do filter using PostRank), I instead find that the best of this stuff will surface on Twitter. Especially when the same link is tweeted again and again…then you say OK, I’ll take a look.
Basically Twitter is the pulse.
Another issue with RSS Readers is that they are just for reading. 99% of them don’t allow you to comment back to a blog, or tweet back.
Don’t get me wrong, I still use Google Reader (especially as my favourite search engine), but I’m finding it’s not the first place I go. Sometimes when I get to some RSS Reading, I find I have read many of the posts already, as they popped up in Twitter.
For someone else’s take see, How Twitter replaced my RSS reader.
So why is it killer
It has the potential to displace your RSS Reader, link blogging/bookmarking, blogging, and IM/email/forum conversations.
Noticed I said displace and not replace.
I don’t really have many IM conversations or take part in forums, although my blogging will continue…but for some maybe Twitter is enough (Stan Garfield has moved from blogging to Twitter as his expression tool)
I’m reading, publishing, sharing and conversing in the same place…as well as build your network and discover
- people don’t feel intimidated to publish like in blogs, it’s just quick bits and pieces
- it’s not polished so you just post, without having to edit and reread
- it takes no time at all, and low cognitive load to post
- you don’t have to set up your own house like a blog, it’s all done for you in a twitter network, plus instant discovery of neighbours (this is social creature connectedness)
Twitter is a watercooler, it’s a chatty block of apartments, whereas the blogosphere is more distributed, and perhaps more like houses.
Twitter is a big part of my ecosystem that it is nearly becoming my ecosystem.
It wouldn’t be the same if these were missing…
- @replies as tweets in their own right, rather than just inline comments under a tweet (this is viral conversation)
- visiting profiles of people not in your network (this is discovery)
- hearing conversations people in your network are having with others (this is discovery, and its viral nature)
And also the use of Retweets, hashtags, advanced search, and brilliant tools like peoplebrowsr (where I can group contacts into streams, search in my twitter network and make that a new stream, and even limit the stream to tweets with links in them, and lots, lots, lots, lots more)
A past post of mine called, 140 characters to knowledge share is on the same vibe.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Some of the other examples could be an email or IM, but micro-blogging allows more of an open conversation, anyone listening could jump in.
Essentially micro-blogs are very effortless and more chatty and I feel the format and social experience we have will lend it to being used more, I elaborated on this in another post:
‘…I think Twitter is more prone, easier, less committed than blogs to express tacit know-how, and to offer help which also shares tacit know-how. Actually conversation is where it’s at, and an internal Twitter marketed the right way will be the optimal example of what we want out of KM 2.0 (conversation exchange)’
I expressed this in my Tumblr a little while ago:
‘Twitters value contribution to the knowledge flow-spontaneous, unpolished, work in progress, thinking out loud-lends itself to this type or quality of participation due to its brief, immediate, and intimate publishing format…let’s hope internal blogs generate the same calibre of tacit value without being hindered by their format.’”
“There are many times when colleagues at work discover something in our office, but are too busy to blog about it, this is when micro-blogs comes into the picture.
People may find blog posting takes up too much time because they treat it as formal publishing, and fair enough (I covered this in my KM 2.0 Culture post). We have tried to overcome this with posting to a blog by email, making it feel very informal, now you can “flick a blog post”, just like you “flick an email”.”
Let’s finish will this great slidedeck