My friend and social network expert extraordinaire, danah boyd, is curious about how/why people use the messaging service, Twitter. After seeing (via Twitter) that my boy Jason Toney posted his responses publicly, I was inspired to do the same. danah's got questions. I've got answers.
note: you can follow my tweets right here.
1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?
I started using it at SXSW 2007 as a way of
- alerting fellow conference goers of my impressions of panels, concerts and whereabouts
- finding out the same from them
- replacing Dodgeball, which I never really liked
- pure communication. I had lost my speaking voice, so my tweets supplemented that
Now I use it as a micro-blogging tool providing updates on everything from my emotion at the moment to funny observations to short opinions on the news. I also:
- carry on conversation threads with twitter friends
- post links to some of my published blog and podcast entries
- use it as a light social bookmarking tool, visiting recommended links from friends
- use it as a light RSS reader, with some friends being blogs like Ars Technica or TechCrunch
If RSS readers and widgetized portals are an abstraction of the online experience, then Twitter is an abstraction of this abstraction. I like it because it gives me just enough access to a wide range of Internet functionality. Dodgeball was great for declaring and discovering one's location, but that was too limiting
Twitter is a micro-blogging, micro-email, micro-IM, micro-newsreader, micro-chatroom, tool which is very easy to use. I like it for its versatility and the many interface modes it supports. I find myself switching from IM to Web to Twitterific to SMS seemlessly depending on my circumstances
Dislikes. Not many. These are more "would like to haves" I I agree with Jason that a warning about SMS traffic should be prominent from Twitter. Even the mobile IM client gets overloaded and bogs down my phone from time to time.
2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.
I have many different networks of people in my life. The folks following my Tweets are part of the new media, SXSWi, wacky web kids network. I would actually love it if more of my networks were in my twitter world, most notably comedians, political activists and more of my personal friends.
This is the quandry I face with any network-based communications/publishing platform: my people are too dispersed across several platforms or not on any at all. Facebook grabs my college folken. IM is good for work people and friends with gmail. Flickr is very narrow.
What I'd really like is if Twitter had some gateways between it and my status message on these other platforms. I completely stopped updating my Facebook status once I found twitter because Twitter was superior. I just feel bad that my Facebook folks are missing out.
Right now, I leave my facebook status as: www.twitter.com/baratunde
3. How do you read others' Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?
I generally keep Twitter running on my BlackBerry via Google Chat. If I'm at my Mac, I leave Twitterific on. Twitter is the stock ticker of my social web world. I don't feel the need to see every single message, but am happy knowing that I can drop into the conversation at any moment and see what's up.
Aside from my wacky web friends, I use Twitter to follow commentary by influencers I respect, such as Robert Scoble. It absolutely made my day when he responded to one of my Tweets. I've heard of this man for years and never come close to engaging with him, but the day his tweet started with "@baratunde" I thougt I'd die. It was like Michael Jordan mentioning my name at a press conference or something -- what an acknowledgment
I miss the tweets of Leo Laporte, but I've pretty much gotten over it.
Generally, the tweets I read are a way of maintaining a link to people I've met but maybe didn't know that well. It's a way of keeping the conversation going well beyond the initial handshake
I've only "left" one Twitter friend so far, and that's because he Tweets in German, and I don't understand that language.
I've been tempted to leave @spin several times because he uses Twitter as a long form stream of consciousness which happens to be broken into 140 character chunks rather than writing for the 140 characters. He is by far my most prolific Twitter friend, but I've stayed on.
4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?
I avoid the super personal that may involve others not down with Twitter. I won't post Tweets about my love life or use friends' names. I use the same rules as blogging but have to be more careful because Twitter is such an easy, impulse-driven tool.
The fact that updates are so short removes a lot of the thought process which would go into a blog entry and perhaps slow down my urge to publish.
I try not to Tweet when I'm very angry. I also try to keep a lid on information which is professional in nature (client work I'm doing) or sort of unconfirmed (like my audition for a certain TV network. I don't want to put that out there until I get it!)
5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don't know coming across them? What about people you do know?
Absolutely yes, but if I were not pursuing a public career, I doubt they would be. As with most social media type tools, I view Twitter as part marketing. It's another "thought outlet" for me and the brand I'm building as a comedian and political satirist / analyst and all around guy to know. Twitter is primarily a publishing platform for me, and Iwant as many people to see them as possible.
I want folks to know that I'll tweet about CES and SXSW and George Tenet's punk ass book and the DC Comedy Festival. Twitter regularly rives a good portion of my web traffic (18 5 percent over the past week), and it's a piece of my overall media empire.
Twitter is a way for people to get to know me, and I'm cool with that.
6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?
Twitter does not work with friends who are essentially private in the old school way. Many friends don't see the point of it at all and think they would have nothing to share. Most of my friends have no idea what Twitter is or that I use it. It's a very niche tool which only exists for the plugged in or the super-curious willing to experiment with being one of the plugged in.
Many of my friends still don't use IM, so Twitter is just insane.