Monday, May 04, 2009

Talking Twitter

My cell phone is a phone - no photos, video, or text. At Facebook I only email my daughter and see her "wall" or whatever it’s called. If I get an instant message in real time from someone, I don’t know how to respond and close the box.

Well, I felt compelled to look into Twitter and created an account. Geez, Louise. Begging the patience of the experts, let me bring the uninformed quickly up to speed by saying that essentially upon joining one obtains a web page that lists the "tweets" of all those one selects to follow. One can also write a tweet that will then be posted on the pages of those who are following. You pick who to follow and others can choose to follow you. Unlike the blogosphere where one must visit different Web sites to read different blogs, with Twitter everyone you follow shows up on your page. Whatever you write gets posted on the pages of everyone who follows you (along with everyone else they are following). This is quite the bomb for individuals who have no life.

Unlike a respectable blog post, which has content akin to an article in a paper or magazine, Twitter posts are extremely brief, and based on my sampling, almost devoid of content. I selected various people to follow, and for most of them, I had to deselect them because they posted a ridiculous abundance of vacuous one line remarks that drowned out my "page." More on that soon.

I checked out Congresswoman Giffords tweets, and she seems to have a sense of what makes sense, posting infrequent short notes that actually say something.

Co-sponsored new legislation on earmark reform yesterday - I think it is critical that we break the link between lobbyists and legislators. April 23.

Sent a letter to Geithner - to reward AIG executives for greed and mismanagement is an affront to us all. No one at AIG deserves a bonus. March 17.

Note that a month elapsed between tweets. Perhaps initially thinking it might be a good idea, she has likely (and wisely) concluded her time is better spent elsewhere. Astute politicians will quickly discover that the granularity of this application is problematic if not properly understood, and its minutia is ore from which the opposing campaign might get lucky and find precious metals.

Twitter tells you how many followers a person has, and you can click on followers and literally read the list of who is following whom. I have zero followers and have posted zero tweets, a condition likely to persist. If I had more real estate, I’d remark on who is following whom amongst all of our elected officials, reporters, party officials, and so on. Maybe later at another post. An illustrated web where followed and follower links are expressed as lines between nodes could be interesting.

AZ Star reporter Daniel Scarpinato does Twitter, and while short of where I’m headed, extends deeper into the application, launching on average about a tweet a day that includes links to his articles or other Web content (the real power of the application). Daniel’s 46 followers include many elected officials and other well known names (as well as blogs). Rachel Maddow is rather prolific yet also intelligent, usually each snippet offering a link to something interesting. That she has 464,000 followers is one thing. That she follows 554 people says another thing. Can you imagine reading the daily tweets of 554 people?

Search on Barack Obama and there are over a hundred Twitterers, including Obamaantichrist and worse. The White House just launched a legitimate Twitter site in the last few days, and even though it's only posted a couple tweets, it has over a million followers.

Now I venture into the ludicrous. Some consider the blogosphere a plethora of infinite inanity: Never have so many with so little to say said so much to so few.

Well, Twitter takes the concept to a level that makes the blogosphere look like Scientific American. I’ve posted some favorable sentiment towards Meghan McCain’s maverick clashes with the Limbaugh crowd, but when it comes to Twitter, someone needs to get this gal some help. As for the 33,000 people that take the time to read what follows, I’m at a loss for words. This is unedited word for word and literally represents only the last day and a half in the life of Meghan McCain.

--What should I get my mom for mothers day? Any ideas? I was thinking maybe an "evil eye" necklace.
--Gotta love bbq and bud light
--My friends and I discussing dinner: "we should get a good salad", were on our way to bbq, ribs are calling my name.
--So excited to hang out with old friends tonight!
--Song of the Day: "These Days" by Nico
--I wish I could do more interviews with my Dad!
--I would go all out and move into a casino.
--I'm fascinated by anything Las Vegas related, I would move there if it was conducive to my lifestyle.
--I just got the book "Winner Takes All" by Christina Binkley and it looks so good!!
--About Las Vegas and the men who helped build it.
--Great meeting with the publisher, getting so pumped for my book!!!
--Totally raining in nyc right now!
--Amy Winehouse and a taxi!
--Standing in the rain, waiting for a taxi. Who says I can't keep it real?
--The gentleman next to me is having an anxiety attack about this baggage claim, so at least it’s not just me.
--Fuck this baggage claim
--I'm sure there are people in lab coats and those circle-mirror-head things taking data right now...my response is through twitter
--I'm pretty sure this baggage claim is some kind of scientific stress test and I'm being analyzed about how I respond.
--This is by far the longest baggage claim I've ever seen, it’s like a baggage claim on steroids.
--Landed, finally! Super tired.
--To the man sitting in front of me with the trucker hat and plaid shirt, please stop leaning back and knocking my diet coke on my computer.
--but I like Patron 2
--I will say, I learned the hard way that when lime peels get on your skin, and you go out in the sun, it makes your skin burn easier.
--Song of the day cause it’s almost summer: "Right Round" by Flo Rida
--It's a secret recipe my godfather taught me, but seriously men have fallen in love with me over my margaritas, they are the best.


The above keeps going, and going, and going, the Energizer bunny. If we ultimately plug futuristic receptacles into our cerebral cortices that allow every mind to access the non-stop chatter of every other mind, I’m checking out. It’s hard enough to get my own head to STFU.

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12 Comments:

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5/05/2009 3:24 AM  
Anonymous Dustin said...

You just aren't one of the omnivores X, I don't know what to tell you. Technology has really opened the door for us to be less personal, and generally more rude.

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5/05/2009 5:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can live without Twitter, thanks!

5/05/2009 6:03 AM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

The only useful thing I have seen from twitter is, as you noted, brief comments that direct the reader to more informative content elsewhere.

Maddow doesn't read twitters from 554 people, of course, her research staff does.

5/05/2009 7:04 AM  
Anonymous Observer said...

I strongly encourage people to read x4mr’s stratification of technophilia blog post from well over a year ago. Dustin is absolutely right that x4mr is not an omnivore. What separates the omnivores, the top of the hierarchy, from the connectors, the second highest group, is exactly what we see here. X4mr is a connector, totally plugged in to the blogosphere and Web content, but refusing the next step into cell phone cameras, text messaging, iPhone, and Twitter.

Just like the blogosphere, 99.99% of Twitter is noise, but also like the blogosphere, the intelligent learn the craft of the medium and how to produce worthwhile content. The principles are the same, where the writer asks, "What I am saying and why? Why is it worth reading? Who would be interested?" and so on. As Sirocco and x4mr noted, a good Twitterer has the art of succinctly providing a nugget worth reading, and usually this involves a link to other worthwhile content. I think a politician that twitters with the slightest casualness flirts with becoming a casualty.

What I would add to what x4mr says here about Twitter is that unlike the blogosphere, Twitter is unidirectional, which significantly alters its functionality. It is broadcasting on steroids to broadcasters on steroids. There is no dialog. Meghan McCain knows what she is doing, and it borders on voyeurism like The Truman Show except the subject is not only aware of, but relishes her fame. With even less substance than friends on Facebook, these cyber follower "friends" give the illusion of friendship, but true friendship it is not. Karl Rove is following Meghan McCain, and "creepy" is accurate.

5/05/2009 8:54 AM  
Blogger Liza said...

This is a great post and really funny.

I have read about Twitter but haven't actually tried it, and it is so unlikely that I will. I'm kind of like X4mr in that my cell phone is a cell phone.

Twitter sounds as though it is mostly entertainment and mostly harmless, but it is always kind of sad when people become preoccupied with things that just burn time. It is especially sad when people substitute these kinds of things for real friendships.

I'm not an omnivore either, I guess.

5/05/2009 11:38 AM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Liza,
Very cute doggie. Observer's right. I am a connector for sure, not an omnivore.

Omnivores are also into all those fancy video games, which I cannot relate to AT ALL.

5/05/2009 1:03 PM  
Blogger The Navigator said...

Yes, Liza, very cute puppy.

I too am a "connector" fully versed in the blogosphere and getting news from CNN.com and the many other news sites online, but I have never sent nor received a text message, taken a picture with my phone, or played a video game.

For nostalgia's sake, I clicked on the link back to the "Technophilia" post, and that image of the blue haired woman with the phone/camera/videocam device bearing the x4mr logo is just killer blogging.

What a trip you've provided. I've most enjoyed the ride.

5/05/2009 9:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barack Obama's Twitter is following 784,000 people.

How the #@#%##$ can even a staff follow the online chatter of that many people?!

5/06/2009 12:44 PM  
Blogger x4mr said...

Even if you figure that each person only posts once a day, that's over 3/4 M per day on a web page.

Even with a staff of ten people dedicated just to Twitter, each person would have to follow 78,000. With a staff of 100, each would need to follow 780.

IT MAKES NO SENSE.

Maybe they use the sophisticated processing algorithms used by the NSA to monitor its surveillance.

5/06/2009 2:23 PM  
Blogger Casey DeLorme, APR said...

Wait, wait, wait, wait... wait!

You hit a bit on it in your throwaway on that last comment, X4MR... except the tools are't being made by the NSA, they're by kids, entrepreneurs, and hobbyists who know how to hack Twitter (which keeps an open programming interface specifically for this).

Twitter's really one of those you have to use for a while to get any sense of its rhyme or reason.

I'm currently ranked among the top 100 most-followed Twitterers in San Diego. That's after about a year of use with an intense focus on seeing what I could accomplish with it since Nov. I even landed mention in a front-page article in our major paper earlier this year by suggesting--via Twitter--that San Diego’s mayor do more to harness social media to reach constituents: http://tinyurl.com/mayor-twitters

(Note: It helps that I'm an experienced public relations professional who focuses his work on Internet-based communications.)

I ghost-write a second Twitter for Volunteer San Diego (http://twitter.com/volunteersd). We just passed 2,000 followers. They talk to us... asking questions, making suggestions, and spreading our message with the whole of the San Diego Twitter community. It's like having a conversation with the biggest, most receptive focus group you could imagine.

As you go, you begin to get a real feel for the platform:

1) It's different for everyone. On the surface, it appears to be 6 million people all text messaging at each other with nobody listening, that's akin to saying that blogging is 50 million bloggers writing nothing to each other and nobody reading. There's a lot more happening there.

2) Most begin by posting drivel. Like, when they're eating. For the first several months I tweeted lines like "Doing nothing." and "Thought I was doing something, but... nope." Then I caught on to the systems plethora of smart information.

Sound familiar? We all learned our way into the blogging world by jumping in and sorting things out until we knew where to look. But now we're participating on blogs like this one.

YouTube is similar... seems like a world of sophomoric humor or a place for posting stolen movies (i.e. http://tinyurl.com/hey-lucas) until you realize the likes of Berkley, MIT, and Yale are posting full courses. X4MR likes statistics, how about a full Yale course on game theory (http://tinyurl.com/yale-game)?

Think back further and email was the same way. Everyone first sent a few messages to figure it out. Then we spend some time forwarding stupid jokes that we think nobody else has received... hopefully we grow out of that. Now it's a tool for work. For keeping in touch with loved ones. You even subpoena emails when you've got a court case.

Someone once sent me a picture of "rules for the telephone" that were posted when phones were first installed in companies. There was a time limit, a suggestion that only business be discussed, and a reminder that you didn't have to yell. Each new technology goes through this kind of growth period before proving its real value. Great thing is, we catch on...

It appears, from your “baby-doll” Meghan McCain quotes here that she doesn’t really get it yet. Could she be a still-vacuous 24 year old that the Republican Party is using to project themselves as “not just fat old white guys”? (I hope not...)

Really want to get it? There's a fantastic article from the new York Time magazine on this learning your way onto Twitter, with the reporter stating up front that he thought it was stupid, then sharing his experience as he caught on to the Twitter ambiance in http://tinyurl.com/digitally-close

3) Nobody who follows that many people is actually paying attention to them all (I follow 2,171 at the moment). With some practice, you learn to use twitter-based tools that allow you to pay attention to just certain people... or even specific keywords and topics. I'm also able to catch trending topics, many of which I can apply directly to my life or work.

4) It's a bit like having a service that watches the news for you and points the direction the stories are going. The swine flu was a good one, with a major twitter trend being to point out the real facts about the story (internationally, mind you) both outpacing traditional media AND calling traditional media on the carpet for fear-mongering. There are some genuinely intelligent individuals on twitter... posting unfiltered AND from everywhere in the world.

It's also breaking news faster... with reports from the scene. One of my favorites was when a plane ran off the runway at Denver International. The first news was from a passenger who tweeted "Holy Fucking Shit! I was just in a plane crash!" (I posted to my blog about that one: http://tinyurl.com/hfs-crash) The first pictures and news about the plane that landed in the Hudson earlier this year... also sent via twitter (from someone on a ferry that diverted to help rescue the passengers).

5) People hold extensive and widely participated-in conversations. I've had blog posts go as far as 22,000 (yes, that's thousand) readers because twitterers shared what they viewed as worthwhile with overlapping circles of followers. (Serious network effect there.)

There are two three basic ways to converse on twitter.

a) Talk to everybody (just send a tweet). You can also forward a tweet (it's called Re-Tweeting, or RT) that someone else sent.

b) Talk to everybody, but direct your tweet at a particular user. (done by using their twitter address with and @ symbol. i.e., to talk to me would be @getspine.)

c) Talk privately via direct message, the equivalent of an email.

5) Totally creative uses (as in, it's a new medium... and thinking about it in terms of an old medium--like text messaging or blogging--can be limiting).

During the Oct. 2007 wildfires in San Diego, whole communities were panicked about if/when they had to evacuate their homes. The American Red Cross set up twitter accounts by Zip Codes and sent regular updates. If you were being ordered to evacuate, you actually received a text message (a Twitter option) on your cell phone letting you know. Wow!

There are numerous instances of twitterers using their large followings to raise funds (called micro-fundraising) for good causes: http://tinyurl.com/help-daniella

Or to make their voices heard with governments and corporations (again, the New York Times): http://tinyurl.com/tweet-activism

Last month I gave a presentation on the future of public relations at a Public Relations Society of America conference. Audience members LIVE tweeted my presentation via iPhone and Blackberry. I came back to find more than 100 comments, quips, and quotes from my presentation. Even had people following on Twitter ask questions through those in the live audience. Talk about interactive. I was everywhere at once. I also found out what they agreed with, argued with, and what they thought was particularly funny or pithy.

And, yes, sometimes I miss Tucson. However, between blogs (thanks, X4MR), my Facebook account (you're welcome to "friend" me), and Twitter (http://twitter.com/getspine or @getspine), it's a little like I never left. I even talk to city council members and local reporters this way.

Cool tools.

Oh, and though I'm definitely an omnivore in all other respects, I find video games really boring. But that is NOT to say someone couldn’t write a whole comment (or even a book) on how they’re useful tools, too. Where do you think they get the pilots for those drones?

5/06/2009 3:01 PM  
Blogger Sirocco said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5/07/2009 7:04 AM  

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