What makes twitter so great?
March 15, 2007 7:17 PM   Subscribe

What makes twitter so great?

Recently, twitter has been showing up everywhere, so I signed up for an account, but I guess I just don't get it. What's the big deal?
posted by deansfurniture5 to Computers & Internet (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Our Continuous Partial Attention disorder needed some fresh material for our ever-fracturing ability to focus on one thing.

I guess I could see it being useful if you had a gaggle of friends dispersed around a large metropolitan area and you wanted an easy way to know what everyone was doing at any given moment.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 7:33 PM on March 15, 2007

For me it started with the Facebook update notification and the "what I'm up to" bar in GChat.

I added Twitter as a "friend" in GChat and I can put my updates right in there.
posted by k8t at 7:47 PM on March 15, 2007

I'm as skeptical as you, having no need to track what all my friends are having for lunch. Then again, I dont have a myspace page either.

However, here's a post from Laughing Squid that shows how this might be useful. Its basically SMS Multicast. In most cases its fairly annoying but there are limited uses, I suppose.
posted by vacapinta at 8:07 PM on March 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

The edginess, the innovation. The leading edge of dissolution of "privacy" it symbolizes.

Personally I'm not too impressed, it seems more like a proof of concept than an application unto itself.

It's saving grace being it's sufficient API (which will ultimately make it possible to build larger, more useful and far more intriguing applications on top of it -- presumably). But I can't say I'm a big fan of developing a module as an application and praying it is seen as useful by future creators.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 8:11 PM on March 15, 2007

I too am in the 'scratches head, wonders why anyone would use this' camp. There are some interesting comments in a thread by Rich Ziade over at basement.org - the link goes to the aforementioned post. I like Rich's comments - "Unless we're coordinating fighting a brush fire or something...I just don't see it". It's interesting to see how this affects society from a ubicomp perspective and interesting uses and hacks for it, but unless people are that desperate for social affirmation - why would you use it?
posted by rmm at 8:15 PM on March 15, 2007

Another feature I liked - during the Oscars LOTS of strangers were all watching "with me" - I kept my eye on the Twitter public feed and everyone was saying things like "Man, that's an ugly dress" or "Yay! Al Gore!" and there were conversations of sorts - when the iPhone ad aired, everyone cheered. Then someone asked, via their Twitter, "Is it on Youtube yet?" to which someone else replied "putting it up now."

It was surreal and awesome.
posted by k8t at 8:20 PM on March 15, 2007 [6 favorites]

It's a blog with "an angle".
posted by boo_radley at 8:31 PM on March 15, 2007

It does one very small thing, does it well, and is free. I just use it to keep track of a couple of friends and as a kind of running diary. It also fits nicely on the side of your website if you choose.

Yes, a lot of it is hype, and I find it funny when someone has 500 people getting a text message that says "I'm bored". It's also been slow as hell lately and they really don't seem too concerned. I can go to evhead.com and wait 5 minutes for the site to load, and he helped create the damn thing. But, it is free.

The thing is, it's very flexible. So while this:

everyone was saying things like "Man, that's an ugly dress" or "Yay! Al Gore!" and there were conversations of sorts - when the iPhone ad aired, everyone cheered. Then someone asked, via their Twitter, "Is it on Youtube yet?" to which someone else replied "putting it up now."

is pretty much the opposite of awesome to me, you can choose to do with it what you want, which, for me, is something on a very small scale. A nice little tool if you will.
posted by justgary at 8:49 PM on March 15, 2007

A brief lay-person analysis about Twitter here that you might find interesting.
posted by davidmsc at 8:52 PM on March 15, 2007

I kinda get the sense that this is more popular with the people who blog 24/7 saying how great it is than it is with the people who read said blogs. Kinda like how people who blog about applications get all excited about new screen capture software, they're the main users.
posted by shanevsevil at 8:59 PM on March 15, 2007

posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:19 PM on March 15, 2007

I just signed up for an account and I put a badge on my website that updates what i'm doing. It is sort of my microblog. Not going to write a blog post about burning the popcorn, but I think that's twitter worthy. Also I have Robert Scoble, Steve Winer, Thomas Hawk, and even John Edwards as people who I follow their twitters. If your bored just add interesting friends. Also if you look at the public twitters page which has about ten new twitters every second there is some legitimately interesting/ humorous material (A person registered as Seinfeld twittered "Whats the deal with twitter?" and it made me chuckle). I saw it when it came out a couple months ago and saw no point in signing up, but now that its has a following I think it will be cool at least until it dies out (if it dies out). I have no expectations and I love to watch ideas like this come into fruition. Add me as a friend if you want: twitter.com/destroyer
posted by pwally at 11:42 PM on March 15, 2007

Our Continuous Partial Attention disorder needed some fresh material for our ever-fracturing ability to focus on one thing.

Complete agreement here. My desire to go to a park, leaving cell phone and computer at home, increases in direct proportion to the number of social networking apps.
posted by jbickers at 3:17 AM on March 16, 2007

Only slightly joking: Have you read Robert Putnam's Bowling Alone? One of its broad critiques - that meaningful social glue is getting harder to find as civic institutions are replaced by individually-tailored affinity groups etc. - is at least gestured at by things like Twitter. But I imagine for most users it hurts more than it helps; it gives a false feeling of shared experience. (cf. above about Oscars-night 'get-together': could the bar be lowered any further than the goddamn Oscars?)

It's a message board for hipsters, right? An AIM 'away' message without the accessibility of AIM. In other words: you can tell your friends how you're doing, but you don't have to listen to them at all, and this is expected. An ego-gratifying sense of copresence without any of the social obligations that actual, y'know, proximity induces. It's Facebook for web designers, and the common defense that it 'does one thing and does it well' doesn't justify its built-in social limitations anymore than it justifies pornography's or heroin's.

Is the technology helpful? Theoretically, yeah. I can imagine the SXSW crowd using it to coordinate karaoke get-togethers and such. But if people were interested in active exchange, with structural requirements a bit more like those of actual copresence, we'd have seen a fourfold increase in IRC traffic during SXSW, instead. The only cost in Twitter is to the listener (you pay for others' squawking with your attention).

(And yeah, personally I'd love to see the grand return of IRC and Usenet, aesthetically challenged and with a little more friction, instead of the rise of cuteness like Twitter. But that's a purely personal preference.)
posted by waxbanks at 6:59 AM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I have no interest in getting status messages about the people I know when I'm at work or hanging around the house. But at SXSW, where there was an intensely concentrated set of conflicting social activities in a small space, it wasn't only interesting -- it was invaluable. Knowing where the panels and parties my friends were at (or where they were en route) was insanely useful.
posted by waxpancake at 9:19 AM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]

I got into Twitter from the Facebook status thing too. I was looking for a way to put my Facebook status on my website, and lo and behold Twitter was just starting up. Now I have a tiny line of code and everybody viewing my site can see what's happening. That's why I like it, YMMV.
posted by etoile at 9:41 AM on March 16, 2007

Also another thing that I forgot to mention-> if you meet someone else at a conference like sxsw or barcampboston where it's likely that they will have a twitter account as well you can add them as a contact by text messaging "add *newfriendsname*" to 40404. Since I would not normally ever follow up with a new friend like this by calling them/emailing them then this seems like a much more removed way to stay in contact. Also imagine if twitter catches on to more non-web savvy people and you can add new love interests that you meet at the bar, much easier than calling? Although may be a cop-out. Either way its a new option.
posted by pwally at 12:59 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Twitter is how my wife and I keep tabs on each other during the day. She's a stay-at-home mom, and I'm on campus teaching, etc. I write for an audience of one, because it's quicker than a phone call, and allows me to tell her basically how my day is flowing, and vice versa. If I read that she's "frustrated that Peter won't take his nap" I know before I dial.

Could we live without it? We seemed to be fine without twitter for more than twelve years of marriage. On the other hand, I think it's a handy tool. So it's handy, not indispensable.
posted by terceiro at 6:44 PM on March 16, 2007

While I don't get it, I only almost don't get it. I was really enthused when I thought it was a quickie status update what-I'm-up-to idea that someone would toss a marginally more detailed message into. Something like "Lately I'm all into answering ask.metafilter questions. http:///ask.metafilter.com" or "Researching Akita rescue charities to get involved in - rescue.that.eskimo.dog.example.com is awesome!"

Instead it's "on my way to the grocery store" or "shoe shopping" which I completely don't see the point to. If it was exclusively about where people were going for a pint at happy hour then I might care....
posted by phearlez at 9:08 AM on March 17, 2007

Thank you for asking this question! Indeed, people were shitting themselves over Twitter during SXSW Interactive. It came up nine times just in panels I visited. It's like a giant Twitter blob has covered Austin.
posted by lunalaguna at 3:24 PM on March 17, 2007

I really like the take in this post on Twitter. It's not so much the service itself but what it means.
What's happening is that we're learning to negotiate always-on connectivity. Some people are going to need more distance than others. Some are going to opt-out completely. But I think people who grow up with this sort of thing just take it for granted.
The whole "broadcast IM" doesn't appeal to me so much as the "presence" aspect. Twitter captured the buzz of the moment but there are lots of other services coming at it from different angles that I'm excited about.
posted by pzarquon at 11:20 AM on March 20, 2007

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