|I Love/Hate Twitter|
Monday, 01 June 2009 02:00
Once a follower, so to speak, Christo van Gemert chronicles where Twitter has gone all wrong, for him.
It wasn`t always like this, you know. Back in the day when South African internet was still governed by 3GB caps, Facebook was all the rage and I was still excited by playing games online, through Xbox Live, I read about this Twitter thing. Something about it being a social media platform, of sorts.
I ignored it. Then, a year later, it popped up again and I checked it out. Hmmm, not really for me.
Again, a year passed. A fellow journalist, whose judgement I trust, regaled me with an interesting Twitter anecdote. This was just before it became THE thing to be seen on. Before everybody had a Twitter account. Before it was "cool" and talked-about.
I registered, played around a bit and soon settled into my groove. I "followed" (the act of subscribing to somebody`s Twitter feed) a few interesting people, and tweeted a few of my thoughts.
Then came the influx of - and excuse me for sounding elitist - the great unwashed. People who heard about it, and grew tired of updating their Facebook status every 20 minutes. The same folks who started blogs and forwarded LOLcat e-mails. Three months in, my Twitter experience was ruined.
People would update their every status, and bitch about all kinds of non-events. "Oh no, not another spammer". "I went for a nice jog today", "WTF I got cut off in traffic to day - SO MAD!!!"
Twitter, to me, has become an internet-based stream of consciousness, with people`s thoughts being pointlessly shared, 140 characters at a time. Despite most of the people I follow - innovators, friends and really funny internet personalities - I am still subject to tripe. "At" replies - where you direct your response to a certain person - are fine when you just do it once or twice. But after seven replies, it`s a conversation and I`m on the verge of recommending a good instant messenger service.
I guess my gripe is mostly directed at how the service has evolved into something like Facebook, but in text-speak. The service itself is great, if you can avoid the random brainfarts and clutter. Useful links can be shared, original quotes can be laughed at, and there`s also its effectiveness as an advertising tool. But because it`s evolving into the next Facebook, and it`s all about adding friends and microblogging your every doing, it`s fallen out of my favour. I liked it when it was unique and still had a purpose. Now it`s just leaving me with the question: How is this different to every other "network" where I add "friends"?
It`s short, sweet, simple and to the point. It`s called Twitter and Samantha Perry is in love.
Twitter is what`s known as a micro-blogging service. You sign up, sign in, and start sending messages out. Your messages are restricted to 140 characters per tweet (or message), and you can say pretty much anything you like.
What`s the point? Well, if I follow you and you follow me then we can see each other`s tweets. So if I am in Johannesburg and need to know the name of a good restaurant in Fourways, I can crowd-source it, i.e. I can tweet "restaurant suggestions for Fourways needed, thanks in advance" and whoever has suggestions can reply to me with them.
Why is this better than Googling it, for example? Well, recommendations are always more credible than website ratings. And if the people I`m following are real-life friends, their opinion has even higher credibility. Of course, it`s also short, sweet, simple and to the point, whereas e-mailing all of my friends with the same question is not.
Even better, I can follow people like Richard Quest, Chris Cornell, Barack Obama, Paulo Coehlo, you get the idea, and be able to see what they are thinking, or tweeting, at any rate. And yes, some of them do follow me too! I could change the course of American history here. All with one silly, little tool.
Naturally a lot of the online following takes place between real-life friends and colleagues, much like Facebook. Twitter is immediate though, so if I happen to be bored in Sandton, I can tweet "in Sandton, who`s up for a coffee?" and have any nearby Twitterers reply and let me know if coffee is indeed a good idea.
I can keep track of what my friends all over the world are thinking and doing, and I can let everyone else take a carefully-crafted peak into my world. Clients are available for your web browser and cellphone, so you can tweet wherever you are. You can also post images to Twitpic, if you feel you have to visually share what you`re up to.
All told I`ve found Twitter to be socially and professionally useful. It`s also a great place to let your mouse hang out if you`re bored - the things some people say and do... Try it - you might just meet some interesting folks, or learn some cool stuff. There`s a whole wide web out there...
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