As many people know, I was a rampant “twitter is stupid” person for well over a year. In my eyes it just seemed like a silly waste of time for the few lucky people with enough time on their hands to use it frequently, something for an extreme minority. Then I noticed many of my friends and colleagues were getting into it, people who I didn’t associate with the lifecasting crowd, nor people with absurd amounts of free time. So finally, I succumbed, created a profile, and started following a bunch of people I knew (as in people I really knew, not just heard about from someone else).
Within days I had written numerous “tweets” and my list of followers and followees both grew to include the unknown. I read, joined, and started conversations (asynchronous and short-form, but conversations nonetheless). Since that time, I’ve apparently twittered almost 300 times, though I’ve attempted to avoid (as much as possible) the inevitable “I’m doing something kinda mundane, but felt the need to share“. They happen, but I try to keep the tweets to the conversation, be it about marketing, gadgets, technology, or other topics which are close to home (yup, that includes some hockey).
As I scan tweets and follow conversations on FriendFeed, it’s become quite clear to me that these formats are quite viable for many uses. Good way to get opinions on a topic, great way to get quick advice or problem-solving. Interesting way to engage with press and bloggers. Decent way to interact with people I don’t know well on topics we have in common. But every time I read about someone getting a coffee, catching a bus, waiting in a line, or getting an oh-so-annoying “I’m at 1st & Main” update, I get the same reaction as when offers for Viagra, University Diplomas, Mortgage Rates, or Nigerian Uncles’ Fortunes hit my inbox.
I believe the main reason for Twitter’s growth over the past 12-18 months is specifically due to the lack of lifecasting. I was pleasantly surprised to see “the conversations” happening, and the relatively low quantity of “debating between ham&cheese or grilled veggies on rye.” We are seeing an interesting phenomena right now surrounding social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, with people sharing what I would label “over the top” personal details. Personally I believe this is directly tied to a lack of understanding of consequences. We have yet to see the “Digital Natives” get burned by their actions.
Regardless of your feelings on GW Bush as president, the rumors are pretty rampant that he was a big partier back in college. I could be wrong, but I have a hunch that if he’d had a permanent digital record of all his youthful exuberances, the election process might’ve been a bit trickier. I’ve blogged about what I called “crime 2.0” in the past (which even elicited some fairly snarky comments), and I maintain the position of: mark my words, there will be bad times ahead. And frankly, that’ll end up being a good thing for our civilization’s digital future.