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What’s The Point Of Twitter?

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[ Social Media]

Determining the reality of Twitter might be a question best reserved for later, or never. Reality’s difficult enough in the so-called "real" physical world. The trouble with Twitter, like the trouble with many things people will argue about, is a trouble originating with humans, not the thing itself: the need to define a thing.

What is it? What is it used for? What is its potential? What are the limits? Who else is using it and why? What can we learn from it? Should I be using it too? Is it okay if I walk away from it? Do I have to use the word "tweet?"

Live the Questions
I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer. — Rainer Maria Rilke, "Letters to a Young Poet"

 

 While you’re at it, ask yourself what is the meaning of a fallen leaf, if there really is one main sound from which all sounds spring, what is the likelihood of becoming one with a stone and understanding its stone-ness, and whether you should wear acid-washed jeans should they ever come back in style.

The frontrunner for answering the Twitter reality question is that all signs seem to point toward "yes."

Is it useful? Yes. Is it a waste of time? Yes. Is it not a waste of time? Yes. Is there not a point to these questions? Yes.

;-)

Some are simply walking away from the questions. Andrew Baron put his Twitter account, and his 1,400 followers up for auction on eBay. Why? He wasn’t really using it. As you might imagine, this sparked all kinds of other questions, including whether or not an individual Twitter account, like someone’s stream-of-consciousness, has real monetary value. Current bid is $1,125.

Hugh Macleod didn’t waste much time explaining or pondering the monetary value of his account. To him it was worth the amount of time it took to hit the delete button.

For those not sniffing and walking away, new applications are popping up with more frequency to help make the most of your Twitterized reality. Most recently, there’s Twitlinks.com, a sort of real-time version of Techmeme, selectively pulling from tweets emanating from the Important Bloggers Club.

If, while your BlackBerry is inaccessible, your thumbs are involuntarily tweeting onto the pages of Sky Mall, you can plan ahead to ease your OCD by using TweetLater, which allows you to schedule tweets in advance of your absence.

Which makes it sound really important. Or pathetic, one.

For me, it’s not about collecting followers. You can never be too sure, as with anything on the Internet, what’s real and what’s not. This morning I was tested by Andre Nantel, whose new Twitter account asked "RU4Real?" The experiment yields just how many either blindly follow, or have scripts that make them blindly follow.

Dr. Phil, and behaviorists like him, would say nobody does anything without some kind of payoff. You could use the TweetCloud application to pool a person’s tweets together to get a better idea of what that payoff might be. For Jason Calacanis, his pet topic, understandably so, is Mahalo. So there’s that.

There’s also a closer reason for why I use Twitter: I view it as a kind of impressionist painting. Not that those impressions are always true. You could look at my TwitterCloud and make all kinds of incorrect conclusions, even though some insights into my psyche might be accurate. For me, it’s the real-time, fuzzy glimpse at reality that is important, not necessarily the moral of the tale.

The best stories, by the way, have no point.

But maybe more than one will join in fascination by watching Baron’s artistic Twitter Madness YouTube submission, which broadcasts without any external commentary the randomness of Twitterers. (Externally, I will comment that it is a good reflection of the randomness of creation and thought in general.)

What I like about Twitter is knowing that handlebar moustaches are coming back, that Craig Newmark is hanging out at Carmel winery, that Bluegrass still matters in the Bluegrass, and that Robert Scoble is confused about the time change in Israel—and that Scoble is hanging out there with a bunch of other key influencers.

I guess, but do not know, that at the end of the day Twitter for me is about a weird Twitter nirvana, where I can observe but not be a part of, where truth and untruth sweep across my horizon in a way that I am separate from them, where reality is what it is: something indefinable.  
 

What’s The Point Of Twitter?
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  • Chris

    or should it be "Are We Not Sheep!". De-evolution at it’s finest.

  • http://www.madsdam.net Mads Dam

    Editor’s note: "Jason can get a little existential sometimes…"

    Mads: Not a problem to me, au contraire…

    "Are we not men? Or should it be ‘Are We Not Sheep!’…"

    Mads: As everybody knows, sheep happens…

    Jason: "Reality’s difficult enough in the so-called "real" physical world."

    Philip K. Dick: "Reality is whatever refuses to go away when I stop believing in it… "

    Mads: Okay, jokes aside. I liked the article, and the impressionist angle does make some sense. If I should add a point: There are just too many possibilities out there now. It no longer makes sense only to ask if this is a good offer. Ask also if you have the time to do it well – if not, why waste your time (and ours too)..?

     

  • http://www.intevix.com Webconomist

    This is the Attention Economy or the 90-second economy as I call it; small snippets of information that quickly inform us and then enable fast decisions. Twitter fills a gap in the Attention Economy, both for those who seek attention (we all do to some degree or other) and those giving their attention. We operate today in "snippets of time" and this just propels that further. Twitter is both inane and insanely useful, depending on the use.

    We’ve actually recommended it in some workplaces as being more viable than IM’ing and email for certain things…yup, Twitter as a productivity tool…http://www.intevix.com

    …now how will video play into this?

  • http://www.simondrake.com/ Simon Drake

    How many seconds in a day do we have to fill with twitting/twatting to feel connected? If a new user on Twitter has 10 billion friends, do I really care? Are people so afraid of being alone that they have to share their mundane brain waves? Hang on, isn’t that why I’m writing a comment….

  • http://www.PeterBuick.com Peter Buick

    Like any social network, Twitter is as good and as useful as the people in your circle (contacts). If you don’t like twitter you don’t like people. Or at least you don’t have the right people in your twitter circle.

    Twitter is still one of the most infectious and useful because it is so simple and short (140 characters).

    I log on to Twitter every day, unlike my Facebook, MySpace, or any of my other 30 social accounts.

    With Twitter I can make money, discover new things, get help, give help, spend money, avoid mistakes and make mistakes.

    Twitter is purely a reflection on life. But one that is manageable and productive.

    I think the people who don’t get twitter, think of it as a mass medium, which it isn’t. It’s a huge network with oodles of traffic, on the PUBLIC timeline. But only a few eccentrics watch the public timeline.

    Real tweeters have 10~200 in their Twitter circle.

    In that form, Twitter is incredibly useful and productive.

    (There’s a free course on my blog.)

    Bottom line is you use the channel where your contacts are. So when you have 10 people who tweet you will join and see the power of it.

    For me, and if you want to, I have found more interesting and useful people on Twitter than anywhere else. Even than my local pub ;-)

    Currently it is spam and troll and flame war free, unlike forums for instance. And it’s way more personal and interactive than blog commenting.

    You can bash Twitter if you want. But that’s simply because you have no contacts on it.

    When you do, or when you want to find some, Twitter is as easy and digestable as it gets.

    Why would you bash that?

    And Twitter Viral is coming in about 2 weeks.

    Peter

  • http://www.videopaste.com Andy

    I think a lot of times people overlook parasite products. Twitter, while in and of itself is an OK thing, has parasitic products – http://www.ping.fm, for example (use beta code: yanik  if you want an account) simplifies the way people interact with Twitter, and several other social networking sites.

    Most decent social sites have some form of a parasitic environment they indirectly support.

     

     

  • http://www.heaven4affiliates.com Affiliate Marketing Guide

    I’m a Twitter fan, but I have to agree that I have no idea what it really is:-)

    It gets me confused, haha…

    Hugh Macleod sure got his payout:-)

  • http://www.kyle-am.com KYLE-AM .. Kyle In The Morning

    Twitter is a lot like seasonal allergy symptoms. The wise old owl sang it best:

    "Everybody’s twitterpated in the spring, skunks smell sweet, rabbits sing. Daffodils go daffy when the bluebells ring, the whole wide world’s in love. When you can’t control a grin, when your head’s inflated. Love just socked you on the chin. Pal, you’re twitterpated!"

    But there’s also a problem with Twitter related to time management. The time is takes to tweet could be spent doing other things. Or as the White Rabbit sang:

    "I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date! No time to say hello, goodbye, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late, I’m late and when I wave, I lose the time I save. My fuzzy ears and whiskers took me too much time to shave. I run and then I hop, hop, hop; I wish that I could fly. There’s danger if I dare to stop and here’s the reason why you see I’m overdue; I’m in a rabbit stew; can’t even say goodbye, hello! I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!"

    And finally, the best reason not to be a Tweety is that bad old putty-tat will know where you are, or as the old saying goes:

    If you’re warm and happy in a pile of cow patty, shut up! :-)

    P.S. If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, what is the sound of one hand clapping? Or as Dilbert’s boss once said, "If a tree falls in a forest, and we’ve already sold the tree, does it still have quality?" Bob The Dinosaur said, "I’ll leave that question to the philosophers."

     

  • Guest

    hey spammer. get a life. wait! this is it. how pathetic

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  • Guest

    I’m sick of hearing about twitter. I’m also sick of people trying to come up with a reason or definition for twitter when there isn’t one. Nobody knows that it is or what it does so get rid of it and free up some of the web for meaningful things.

    • Target user

      I’m sorry you hear too much. Maybe you could stop listening?? Oh yeah, I agree, the internet is running out of space. Somebody should do something.

  • Guest

    No one cares what you had for lunch or how cool you think the new book you are reading is. Twitter is for self absorbed twits that think we all give a shIt about their boring lives. Here is a clue…we dont.

    • Target user

      Here’s a twitter tip: follow who you are interested in. Don’t follow who you don’t want to. Follow nobody if you are not a follower. What’s all the fuss about?

  • Guest

    You really beat around the bush on your writing. Stop talking about leaves and write what it is. Sheesh.

  • Guest

    My question is why all internet activities all seem to have such sophomoric names – infantile really. Twitter? Google? Face-Book? for that matter – why don’t we just “write” to people? Why is it called “chatting?” I’m sick of all these cutesy names for things people do on line. Are we all little kids who need funsy titles to keep us interested and involved?

    • Guest

      I can agree with most of what you are saying but just want to point out that a google is an actual term for largest number we have a name for…it’s a 1 with 100 0′s following it. Google used it to suggest the number of sites they gave in their search engine…

      • Guest

        …the actual number variant that the name ‘google’ is a play on is spelled ‘googol’.

  • lil sampson

    twitter sucks.

  • Caleb

    I wonder how many people were linked to this post via Twitter. It’s not just about being narcissistic or self absorbed. It’s a new and different way to share information.

    For example, you could share this link, or in my case a sweet coupon I found online for AMC Theaters for a free bag of popcorn, which many people found useful.

    I can see why people would or do hate twitter. I find it useful however.

  • Guest

    The best stories, by the way, have no point.

    NAME ONE.

  • Guest

    i think twitter is a way of getting heard by others.. like im useing it for music so if others read my “tweet” they know bout my music and be rewarded in the end you know?

  • Guest

    could you just rather TELL what the hell Twitter is before beginning your tiresome rant?
    I did a google search on “what’s the point of twitter” this being one of the first websites on the results.
    If I want to hear a preacher, I’ll go to church. If I want answers, I’ll ask them.
    Meaning, if I want answers, I do NOT want preaching. If I want to hear someone rant why people are like this and that, I’ll LOOK FOR THEM. I don’t want to BUMP INTO THEM.
    For christ’s sake…