Feb 18, 2009

On Building a Case for Twitter

Many times previously, I've tried to explain to others the wonder that is Twitter. Twitter, for like maybe the 3 of you out there not in the know, is a service in which you broadcast your thoughts and ideas to everyone who wants to follow (subscribe) to your updates. The catch is, these updates can only be 140 characters in length. It's part social networking, part micro-blog.

But why Twitter? What practical use does one get out of being a part of Twitter? I've heard arguments that people really don't want to be updated on every last detail of a person's goings-on, whether they are going to the gym to going to the bathroom.

There's a simple solution to that: stop following those people not adding value. If you've maintained a good friend list, a large majority of the tweets you receive (80%-90%) should either be entertaining, informative, or about people you do care enough to know all the little details. My friend list, for example, contains:

  • A number of my friends
  • Web comickers whose work I really admire and follow
  • Video game personalities whose opinions I trust
  • Bots (like woot) or official Twitter accounts (like AmericanMensa or BarackObama) that provide me updates
  • Celebrities I find interesting
To me, my feed is valuable and I enjoy getting updates from the 60 or so people I'm currently following.

But I think the most compelling argument for Twitter is the same one that won over masses of people to more mainstream social networking sites: it's reaching a critical mass of its users. I remember a time when I didn't "get" Facebook. I resisted it for a while, not really understanding why people would want to put all of their information out online in some kind of database. But suddenly, all of my friends were on it. This gave me a compelling reason to join (which I did), in that I could connect with people that I know.

Twitter is starting to catch on in the same way. Twitter has an estimated 4-5 million users (not all profiles are public, leading to the estimate), with a growth rate of over 700% over last year's usage. It's growing, and fast. If your friends aren't yet - emphasis on yet - on it, there's plenty of other interesting people/services (besides me, of course) you can subscribe to.

Take this team of doctors for example, who decided to tweet an entire tumor extraction operation: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/02/17/twitter.surgery/index.html#cnnSTCVideo

Join us, will you?

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