What do I need Twitter for, anyway?

This evening I observed that Twitter has become very chatty, by which I mean it has a lot more replies from person to person… denoted by the @user syntax. In some ways when it is like this, it’s like a group chat or IRC channel, only without the topic filter. A couple of people apologised for being more chatty than usual today, but it isn’t a criticism, just an observation – I know I’ve been responding to others a lot more recently than twittering my own status, location or whatever.

John Rees responded that he’s still trying to figure out what he needs Twitter for.

I’m not wondering that. Apart from the very excellent sense of Ambient Intimacy (see Stephen Collins for a good recent example), I’ve got a few thoughts of my own as to how Twitter is useful. In fact, I commented recently on a post by Jasmin Tragas about this:

I usually describe it as status broadcast, im-lite, microblogging, and location-awareness-lite.

The thing is that IM-lite or groupchat has become the more prominent of these aspects lately. No big deal really.

Let’s look at the benefit I’ve gained from Twitter today:

Now, much of that has been done through conversational use of the tool as much as via fire-and-forget messaging. But there has also been a lot of link sharing, news watching, and life streaming going on. It’s just amazing how such a simple concept has become so useful.

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14 responses to “What do I need Twitter for, anyway?

  1. I don’t think anyone really NEEDS Twitter. And I agree that there’s an awful lot of @name responding lately. But I do learn things from tweets and occasionally get a good laugh over something someone has linked to in a tweet. And I think that if I didn’t live on the edge of nowhere, I might actually get to meet and socialize (in the flesh!) with some of my Twitter friends.

  2. Fair point. I think the “need” thing is true. I come back to the conclusion though – it’s just SO useful :-) and I linked you and some other people up today, Maria, just through Twitter observations, so I know it’s a powerful tool for building and extending networks.

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  5. maybe i am mad, and i wouldnt blog it, but i kept asking myself while watching the news yesterday if the met police had a private twitter channel would jean charles de menezes have been shot?

  6. Interesting thought, James. The mayor of London appeared to be saying on Radio 4 this morning that buying the el cheapo radios that don’t work properly doesn’t help the police, so could something Twitter-like help?

    I’ll leave these musings at that as I don’t want the comments on this post to become all related to that case.

  7. Deepthy Shekhar

    I work at 8 jobs a month, and nearly 4-5 a day.. some twits.,.. make me smile, or laugh… and i do learn some small things from going through these messages… also what an nice way of knowing people and their lives through their own private moments…

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  9. i like both aspect of twittering.. the @ person to person method is good, it is a bit like you say a fire and forget IM client, but I’ve also learned alot from the @ messages (normally hooking up with, or reading the twitteree – if thats a word!) The traditional non person specific tweet is also helpful and interesting, I’ve certainly learnt alot from both.. as to if i _need_ twitter… no I dont need it… do i like it.. yes.. does it help me.. yes.. would i miss it… definately!!

  10. If you would have asked what the killer app for 2007 would be, I can’t believe that many peple would have predicted a 140 character app.

    The beauty is that twitter can be anthing you want it to be. Twitter keeps me sane when I’m busy working, keeps me in touch, means I’m never alone and is also my main IM now.

  11. Twitter is the most uselss thing ever.
    It’s for people who have low self esteem and spend their life on the internet; to enable them to constantly transmit their own insecurities without having to listen to what others are saying. It’s collective exhibicionism stemming out from false belief that everybody out there is dying to know what time you farted today and what geo-location you did it in. It’s for people with no sense of privacy/intimacy.

  12. I always thought computers were the most useless thing ever- it’s been downhill ever since!

    Attempting to defend twitter by admitting I quite like Big Brother is probably not the wisest move ever but I’m going to try anyway. I like the fact that Big Brother has so many strange people on it who spend the majority of their time doing seemingly very dull things. I am probably proving my strangeness with every letter I type and, if I was ever insane enough to be on Big Brother (fortunately I’m not!), I would be at least as boring, if not more so, than their dullest of contestants. Most people (no offence intended) would be just as boring. But that, as far as I can tell, is life. Life is not as exciting or glamorous as the media portrays. I, personally, find it much more interesting to find out the exact location of the most recent guff from someone I know, than to know the latest celebrity to check in to rehab. Ironically, I probably find that interesting for exactly the same reason that other people want to see which actor got snapped doing his shopping last week.

    I must admit that I also think twitter can be very useful, and in my head I think I know why, but whenever I try and explain it to someone… I end up thinking the same thing as you do!

    If anyone is interested, I last farted at…

    Latitude: 51.022181414792
    Longitude: -1.3969914808891

  13. Well different ways to communicate suit different people. I use twitter as a social pulse with people that I cant just hang with all the time aswell as a business tool to keep hooked up to things.
    It may be insecurity that drives it, but its way better than many other ways we bind ourselves together as a quick messaage of conversation with the world means i stay near my family and with the normal life.
    Talking is not wrong, and the fact that this is a short burst rather than 2 hours on a phone is not wrong IMHO

  14. Pingback: Does Twitter fill a communication void? at Sims Learning Connections

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