I’m constantly amazed to read, over and over again, about people who don’t “tweet”, because they don’t care what you had for breakfast. When I first heard about Twitter in early 2007, I had the same feeling. What am I supposed to do? Tell people when and what I’m eating, how often I’m using the restroom, and what time I went to bed? It seemed so pointless to broadcast my life in such a way. Why in the world would anyone care what’s going on in my personal life?
Then, while working for Guru Labs, I was on the road with Christer, another guru, and he was using it rather intensively. After dinner one day, and heading back to the hotel, he called me over to his room to hack on some stuff for our classes. In the meanwhile, he was go, go, go on Twitter (back then, they rocked it hard with a Jabber bot. They’ve since ditched the bot, and as a result, my interest in using it).
Him: “Dude, you need to get on Twitter. It’s a lot like an IRC room. Just post something, and people following you will likely reply if it’s interesting enough.”
Me: “So, I just tell people I’m having a burger for dinner, or that I’m about to take a shower, and people are supposed to care?”
Him: “Would you post that in an IRC channel?”
Me: “I guess not.”
Him: “Here’s the thing: start following others that you would be interested in keeping up-to-date with, like those in an IRC channel. They’ll likely start following you in return, especially if they know you. Eventually, you’ll have enough people to start a conversation with. Then, post something, and see if replies come back in. You know, stuff like what you would read on Techdirt, why the latest random distro sucks, etc. You know, stuff you care about that others can relate with. The conversation will just follow.”
He was right. I started following people first that I already knew personally. Mostly, those in the Ubuntu community. Then I started finding others that I didn’t know too well, but knew that their nerd level was on par with mine. As I started following others, people started following me. Then, the test- posting something. I don’t recall what I posted, as I ended up deleting my account in favor of Identi.ca (which I re-opned later, but lost my nick, my posts, and those I followed), but I’m sure they were awkward.
Then it hit me. When I found cool posts online, I usually shared the URL with an IRC channel I was in. Instead, I started sharing that link on Twitter. Sure enough, it would usually garner a reply. Then, a conversation would ensue. Before long, I “got it”. Twitter was nothing more than a platform for casual, off-the-cuff conversation. It wasn’t about what I was eating for breakfast, as much as it was discussing current topics, trends, fads, and such that I and my followers were interested in. As Christer mentioned, it was just like IRC, except rather that starting a conversation with a very limited set of people, it was being broadcast to anyone who could see my public profile, and people could subscribe to that feed if they liked what they read. Further, it was nothing about what I was eating for breakfast. Instead, it was all about having conversations with people I wouldn’t normally converse with.
Of course, if you know your Twitter history, you know it finally found its fame when celebrities started using it. People wanted to get closer to celebs. Celebs want to get closer to their fans. Then TV stations, news, weather, and just about anything and everything hit the Twitter trend. And rarely, since I’ve been on it, do I see people broadcasting what they had for breakfast. I see hurricane updates, earthquake news, when and where my favorite music artists will be, discussions, arguments and flames over some certain technology and on and on. Twitter has been the biggest platform for discussing the World Cup. Follow your favorite sports team, player and stats. Check out http://hashtags.org, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. It’s really quite remarkable.
So, it never ceases to amaze me those who don’t understand the technology, or the Luddites fighting against it, keep saying “I don’t care what you had for breakfast”. Is it really hard to understand how to use a microblogging service? Let me guess. You probably don’t have a Facebook account either, right? Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying everyone should jump on the social bandwagon, but if you aren’t using the service, because you think it’s nothing but vain, self-proclamations and promotions, then it’s clear you don’t “get it”, just as I didn’t back in 2007.
There are a number of reasons why Twitter, Identi.ca, Facebook, and other microblogging platforms will be successful over and over:
- Keeping in touch with those you care about
- Getting caught up on the latest news
- Looking for a social outlet beyond your current lifestyle
- Using it when other methods of conversation would fail (maybe you’re a mute)
Sure, as with any service, there are those that abuse it, and people who have used a microblogging platform knows that there is some noise to come along with it. But, when you learn how to use the tool effectively, it’s rather trivial to filter out the noise, and get a high degree of signal.
I use it entirely for conversation and news. I am an IRC junkie, and hang out in far more channels than I would care to admit. I do it for the social conversations, as well as support and providing support. Identi.ca and Twitter are that for me. A place to converse when I want to converse. It’s a place for news, when I’m in the mood to keep up-to-date (along with RSS and email. No, I don’t watch TV). I’ve even used it to get deals when travelling and scheduling appointments with friends. Heck, I recently became a ham radio operator for similar reasons.
So, to each their own, but if your problem with Twitter is not caring what people have for breakfast, then it’s clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about and you haven’t used the service. But then again, unless I ask, I’m likely not interested in your opinion anyway. I definitely won’t try to “convert” you.