Sunday, July 08, 2007

Twitter Explained

The latest issue of wired has a terrific article in it explaining Twitter. For those not in the know, Twitter is site where you share tiny tidbits of your current status (under 140 characters worth) and your friends follow along.

It's like keeping a blog, but each entry is super tiny. While I've found a few uses for this type of blog it hardly seems like a million dollar idea. That is, until Clive Thompson shed light on it:

They're precisely right [Twitter messages are virtually useless]: Individually, most Twitter messages are stupefyingly trivial. But the true value of Twitter — and the similarly mundane Dodgeball, a tool for reporting your real-time location to friends — is cumulative. The power is in the surprising effects that come from receiving thousands of pings from your posse. And this, as it turns out, suggests where the Web is heading.

When I see that my friend Misha is "waiting at Genius Bar to send my MacBook to the shop," that's not much information. But when I get such granular updates every day for a month, I know a lot more about her. And when my four closest friends and worldmates send me dozens of updates a week for five months, I begin to develop an almost telepathic awareness of the people most important to me.

Ahhh, so it's the aggregate of information which is so powerful. Got it. I'm glad someone explained this to me.

Lately, my brothers, Mom and Dad have all taken to text messaging each other. It's asynchronous, so nobody needs to worry that we're bothering Josh while he's saving a dying patient, David while he's doing breakthrough research, Mom or Dad on the Golf course, or me in the middle of blogging. And it's ubiquitous, we can all do it no matter where our location is or what our choice of hardware is.

I also noticed, just like Clive explains in his article, that the messages on their own aren't of much value. But taken together, they start to form an interesting story. I've even started considering how I could archive the stream of messages so we could go back and share it.

Or, maybe, just maybe, it's time that I get my family into Twitter and not reinvent the wheel.

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