A few weeks ago I gave in to peer pressure and joined Twitter. You can find me there under mrawdon. Okay, I wasn’t really being pressured, but I’d several of my cow-orkers were hanging out there making pithy remarks, so I decided to sign up.
I’ve joked that Twitter is “like blogging only without the pesky content”. I’ve also seen it called “microblogging”, which I take to mean, “There is content, but there isn’t very much of it.” Which seems about right: I see little tidbits of real content here and there, but most of Twitter consists of tiny, generic snippets of thought which are either devoid of depth, or devoid of meaning due to a lack of context.
It’s the lack of context that really makes Twitter a suboptimal experience compared to blogging: If I didn’t know the people I’m following personally, there’d be essentially nothing there for me. So it’s no surprise that the few times I’ve tried to go out and find new Twitterers to follow, I’ve come up empty because it’s all just random nattering without any context to give it meaning, or any depth to give it value in the absence of that context. (By contrast, I’ve found many fine journals and blogs over the years simply by poking around in one place or another on the Web, even if I didn’t know the author beforehand.)
If I were to use a single word to sum up Twitter, I think it would be “disposable”. It’s hard enough to build anything of lasting value in a blog format, and it looks to be nearly impossible on Twitter. I don’t expect to become educated or informed through Twitter, and I strongly doubt there’s anything of interest in “the archives”. Will I ever go back to look at my old tweets to recall what was, like I do with my journal? Probably not. I wonder whether anyone else does so with their tweets?
Clearly a lot of people are having fun on Twitter, though. A tool like Twitteriffic turns Twitter into something like a push-notification system, which means less effort on your part to keep up with what your friends are doing. (This isn’t very different from following a blog via an RSS feed, though.) But it seems like most of the fun is in following the snarky remarks and exchanges and the occasional raw outbursts that pepper the site.
So there’s some value in that; people have fun and get a few laughs. But there’s a lot of fun and plenty of laughs elsewhere in the world, and a lot of it is more rewarding when it’s not restricted to 140 characters.