Does Twitter Matter? Can It Possibly Last?

Yes, I think it does matter. And no, although it won’t last, not like it is now, it is the beginning of something that will last, but will be changing a lot. I could say the same about personal computing, the Web, and blogging.

Twitter is all the rage because it hit fertile ground. People like it, people use it, and because what it does catches us. The key to it is something related to publishing and broadcasting. It’s why I like writing this blog, why you like writing your blog, and why both of us read each other’s.

It’s related to instincts deeply embedded in our human nature.

Image by Carla16 on Flickr

Image by Carla16 on Flickr

The first of these is expression. When nothing else was possible, people drew on cave walls. That was about expression. So is telling stories, reciting  poems, and singing songs. It’s in our nature. We crave expression.

The second is curiosity. We want to see the pictures, hear the stories, know what’s up, and what’s going on.

And then, beyond these two basic instincts, there’s how much we like gathering, and shows, entertainment, and keeping up with each other.

All of which happens on Twitter. It’s not email, it’s not blogging, it’s publishing in 140-character pieces. Do it well and you have more people reading what you publish. Do it poorly and you have nobody reading what you publish. Make it interesting, informative, or funny and it’s good to do and people will follow. Use it to sell stuff or whine or share trivial life details and people will stop following. Use it to push sales talk at people and they will stop following.

Which–the click to follow or not–is the clincher, in my opinion, that makes Twitter more significant. I’ve seen some very interesting musings on Twitter’s future, such as Jeff Sexton’s piece asking is Twitter is digging its own ditch?  He says some of the Web’s bright and shiny new things (he mentions Digg and Technorati) burst on the scene, become popular, and then got manipulated, declined. The classic pattern is email with spam now killing it. He asks whether that might happen to Twitter.

And I think not. Because of both sides of the coin: the instinctive allure of posting like this, and reading the good posts, which is one side; and the ability to click and unfollow people, which is the other.

So please, follow me on Twitter: click here.


  • evan says:

    The guy who thinks electromagnetism is harmful, calling other people naive- hilarious!

  • Kirk Fox says:

    Dear Tim,
    Your well meant blog seems a bit naive.
    It is in essence BABYLON: Everybody pushing their message out to folks who might read it. Many are shouting. Few have time to read the 1,400 folks they are “following”.
    Twitter has indeed changed the concept of following. Soon, kids will define following to mean to feign affection in order to get the other person to follow you for personal gain. It is all quite twisted. . .

    Perhaps because you are followed but don’t follow many folks. (The cost of fame and power.))

    I assure you that Twitter is currently getting just as overrun with “overnight internet millionaires” as the web. The advent of “little addresses” makes fertile ground for everything from get rich quick hawkers to Cialis sellers to spread their spam wantonly.
    Geekdom’s hopes that a new tool will not be abused never fails to disappoint.

    My work for EFM Report helping folks become aware of the possible health effects of electro magnetic frequencies (which are all around us) and making suggestions on how to reduce such exposure uses Twitter, but I try to use it in an unobtrusive manner. Time will show if it is a marketing tool, or novelty.

    Kirk Fox

    • Tim Berry says:

      Hey Kirk, I like the comment, but if you’re going to call me naive, well, let me put it this way: if you had tweeted that, I would simply unfollow you. Click. Then I never see your tweets again. No big deal. Which is exactly why I disagree with you. Nobody is pushing anything on me in twitter because I have that unfollow click, and then never get them again.

      I follow more than 2,000 people, and I have more following me than I follow. Does that mean that somebody chains me to the computer and forces me to read every tweet? No. I use tweetdeck, divide up by categories, enjoy the flow when I have time, and what I miss, I miss. I also keep groups of people whose tweets I want to see, always, also managing by categories.

      Those overnight Internet millionaires? Nobody in twitter has to see them more than once, and that once, only if they choose to follow them. You mention hawkers and Cialis sellers, but, wait a minute, do you actually use Twitter? Don’t you realize that they have to trick me and you into following them first?

      I don’t know, but if I were you I’d just try to make my point and not call somebody else naive unless you’re absolutely sure you’re right, and maybe not even then. No reason to offend. Let your ideas speak for themselves, and leave the ad hominem out. But that’s just me. And I do thank you for the comment, just wish you’d left the little insult out of it.

      And by the way, I can edit you on this blog, but you’ll notice I haven’t. It’s a point of view, let everybody see it. I was tempted to leave the note on EFM Report out — makes you sound like one of the hawkers you criticize — but maybe you’re actually saving us from something they’ll document in the future.

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