Twitter and I. Our first Anniversary


Not Love at First Sight

I met Twitter for the first time a year ago today.  I was not particularly impressed after our first interaction. I don’t think Twitter was either. It did not talk back to me.

I could not have predicted then that a year later it would take such an important role in my work, the way I learn, how I interact with the world.

Like Direct Interaction

Twitter is the communication medium that most closely models direct human interaction in the real-world. Better than any other media we used in the past.

  • You can say anything you want. Want to express your political views? Tell the world what you had for dinner? There is a tweet for that. You have open access to the medium.
  • Want people to listen to what you say? That is a different story. You must be interesting. There is no guarantee that anything you say will be heard or even acknowledged. It is a recipient-discretion medium.
  • Like in the real world, you can communicate more effectively if you make the effort to build a relationship first. Communication is personal again.
  • If you are really smart, you can talk without listening. But that will only take you so far. Like in real conversation, others have an opportunity to respond and influence your thoughts in real-time, as you articulate your ideas.

Difficult but Rewarding

It is not an easy relationship. I have been trained to use the print medium to learn and express knowledge. I am not used to give people the opportunity to react to my arguments before I have polished and made them unassailable. I grew up thinking I should be introspective, read about what I don’t and write about what I do know, not that I should learn by interacting and co-creating new ideas with others.

But I am growing more comfortable not depending on the classic protocols (“You should know, I sent you an e-mail yesterday”). My views are more ephemeral, not based exclusively on my analysis, but sensitive to the ideas of people I interact with. I am happy with this different way of learning.

Loving it the way it is

I love Twitter the way it is, as a transport medium for interaction. The accidental 140-characters post size (which, the story goes, was set to make it SMS-friendly) imposes the limits that keeps it simple and general-purpose.

But I don’t think direct use of Twitter will ever become mainstream. Even the early adopters of Twitter today don’t do it. I happen to use Hootsuite, which is still a very primitive interaction tool above the Twitter transport layer.

The risk is that the makers of Twitter need to transform it from a communication platform into an interaction tool because of the pressures of survival as a company.

I’ve written about this before (“The Twitterfeed is Dead“). Let others develop new front end applications. Social CRM vendors are applying Twitter feeds to business processes. Paper.li and Flipboard are creating automated curation tools. Tweetdeck and equivalents are creating dashboards for Social Media professionals. We are just starting in that wave of innovation.

I suppose Twitter (the company) is thinking hard how to make Twitter (the platform) viable and sustainable in the long-term. But I think we, loving users of Twitter, have to think about that as well.

It is our first anniversary. Of many others to come.

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