The Twitter test
There’s a buzz about Twitter and I’ve decided to try it out (@davidc7) to see what’s behind this excitement.
Twitter styles itself as a social networking tool that circulates to your followers answers to the question “What are you doing?” I’m not much interested in either sending or receiving that sort of stuff, but if you edit that question to ask “What are you thinking?” or reading, or bothered about, or excited by…then you have a potentially interesting resource.
This, of course, is what Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu), a journalism professor at New York University, has done, calling the approach “mindcasting.” For Rosen, the Twitter feeds that he follows hooks him up with a network of web tipsters, such that his own Twitter feed becomes an editorial product about the topics that concern him most. In a week of following Rosen and others on Twitter I can see his point. Indeed, the links in this post have come through the tweets I’ve been getting.
Interestingly, because “Twitter-ers” are also extensive blog users and social media consumers, the short, snappy format of Twitter potentially changes the nature of the blog a feed is associated with. For the likes of Rosen and Chris Geidner, using Twitter as an information resource leads to “slow blogging” – more occasional but deeper and more analytical posts.
This strikes me as crucial, because as we get more and more embedded in the velocity of Web 2.0’s hypermedia, we still need – and perhaps need more than ever – the time and space to think about the big issues and major trends. And beyond the considered post, there is a need for even slower forms of communication like the research report, the documentary story and even (god forbid!) the academic monograph. These “old media” (a problematic concept, but more on that later) are essential because “new media” (an equally problematic concept) depend upon them for the material they re-mediate and circulate.
We’ll see how this goes. Along with trying to keep up with RSS feeds, a stream of tweets may produce information overload. Many people try Twitter and its growth has been impressive, but apparently 60% of people who sign up for Twitter don’t last a month. Maybe that’s because simply knowing what others are doing is in the end not very illuminating. Knowing what others are reading and thinking might be where it is at.