Twitter is fantastic. Specifically, I believe it fills a gaping void in the market that I will call “public conversations”. Just saying it implies the utility.
If Socrates decided to teach today, he would undoubtedly have condensed all of his answers to 140 characters and be an avid twitter fan.
Previously, there were three similar but different modalities available to people:
- Blog posts – with people invited to comment. This metaphor never felt like a true dialogue of equals. Someone “owns” the conversation. Tools like FriendFeed, Disqus, and Intense Debate attempted to improve the nature of this dialogue and help people own their comments, but they lack market traction and are still a work in progress.
- Email and private message: Perfect for discussing things between two people, but not accessible to the public.
- Status Messages: Private for Facebook, more public for MySpace, once again comments are accessible, but not in the same kind of public shared sense. There was no tagging and searching. Really, status messages are micro blog posts.
Open discussions are something new. When Twitter is used to say, “Eating cereal” (a very common Twitter modality), it is exactly like the Facebook status message, accept that it can be read by anyone. When @tags are used, it becomes something newer and different. A public message directed at a specific individual. The individual sees it as do all of the individuals friends. It is a public calling out.
This is an extraordinarily powerful function.
And, when mis-used, an extraordinarily annoying one.
Case in point, a recent Tweet I saw: “@alexiskn what is #sxsw?” or “@LVRealEstate You know about the Beer And Blog meetups we have every Thursday, right?”
Why does this clog my twitter stream? This is something that people listening to things said to “alexiskn” or people listening to things said by the original tweeter could not possibly take an interest in. It is a specific question directed at a specific person. This could be done via email or direct messaging.