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Breakfast, Anyone?

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. :)

{ 13 } Comments

  1. Brenda using Firefox 3.5.6 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 21, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Snap - i blogged much the same thing this morning.
    http://www.coffee.geek.nz/more-what-you-had-breakfast.html

    73s de ZL2UMF

  2. Brenda using Firefox 3.5.6 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 21, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    oh, and your openid verfication thing doesn't work.. it says "comment must be submitted via webform" - and i'm not using firefox thank you!

  3. David using Firefox 3.6.3 on Ubuntu | June 21, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

    Aaron,
    Just saw that you get your radio license: congrats! I haven't made much use of mine lately -- perhaps I should find a way to rectify that. My radios have been in a box since I moved. Need to get them out.

  4. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.70 on GNU/Linux | June 21, 2010 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    @Brenda- Yeah. I'm not sure why the OpenID verification isn't working. I need to figure that out. I just haven't had the time. However, regarding your UserAgent string, I see: "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; U; en; rv:1.9.1.6) Gecko/20091201 Firefox/3.5.6 Opera 10.53". So, I'm guessing Opera 10.53? Interesting it reported you using Gecko, instead of Presto, however.

    73 de KF7KPM

    @David- I don't have any gear yet, other than EchoLink, which is hardly living the ham life. Hopefully soon.

  5. NoOne using Firefox 3.0.15 on Windows XP | June 21, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    "Hey, this other thing is just like IRC! Spend a few months at it and you can have a conversation!"

    Why not just use IRC?

  6. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.70 on GNU/Linux | June 21, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    You must not have read the post

  7. Aspie using Firefox 3.6.3 on Ubuntu | June 22, 2010 at 4:53 am | Permalink

    I find your comments very interesting. I find some of it very harsh, for instance your final paragraph where you say of non-users "it’s clear that you don’t know what you’re talking about".

    From an alternative perspective, I think that there are people and personalities well-suited to sharing information within a stream of social trivia. There are people and personalities who find it hard, even impossible, to engage with informal social networking. In fact, Facebook, Twitter and similar are often discussed on Wrong Planet http://www.wrongplanet.net/index.php where people with autistic spectrum disorders are variously mystified, perplexed and excluded by social networking.

    The last is the most interesting, and where social networking (in my case instant messaging) becomes a part of regular work routines, the technology begins to actively discriminate and exclude some human traits. The expectations that I will participate by social networking has undermined my contributions in a work program in which previously my output was consistent and excellent.

    Sorry if this sounds like a rant, I merely wish to draw attention to the diversity of human character.

  8. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.70 on GNU/Linux 64 bits | June 22, 2010 at 6:14 am | Permalink

    I don't think the last paragraph is harsh at all. I'm specifically addressing a certain group of people, not the general public. Those I'm addressing are the ones who wish off the services, without giving second though to them. It doesn't have to be Twitter. It can be anything: cell phones, television. the Internet, and so forth. If you don't have the patience to try something new, but have the volume to express your displeasure about it, you are the one I'm addressing.

  9. Aspie using Firefox 3.6.3 on Ubuntu | June 22, 2010 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I do have the patience to try something new, but I do not have the social wherewithal to make use of it. I identify strongly with the comments in articles such as http://www.eetimes.com/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=225700747 "Why Engineers do not like Twitter", so obviously I do have the volume to express displeasure and I am one of those you are addressing.

    I am a technology worker and I am highly skilled (and qualified) in a specialized area of technology. I also happen to have Asperger's syndrome. The brain elements requisite for socializing are absent from my neurological makeup, and embedding employment in a stream of social trivia turns my impairment into a disability. I have direct experience of one project where the introduction of always-on messaging, and its broad acceptance, made my further involvement impossible.

    This may be difficult to accept for those unaware of autism spectrum disorders, but communication media like Twitter, for all the evident value that they offer, can also be extremely isolating and frustrating to some people.

  10. Aaron using Google Chrome 5.0.375.70 on GNU/Linux | June 22, 2010 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Then you are not one of the people that I am addressing. You appear to be aware of the technology, what it offers and what it provides, but because you have a neurological disorder, you cannot participate. It sounds like if you could, you would, but you can't. No, the people I'm addressing, I summed up very clearly here:

    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?

    Further:

    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.

    I'm addressing the intentionally ignorant and naive. Are you intentionally ignorant and naive?

  11. Ron using Firefox 3.6.3 on Windows XP | June 22, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    "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”.

    Social networks are those things and more, such as Facebook's anti-privacy stance and the TOS of many such "free services" have a price - your freedom.

    Also, by using them, it allows extreme transparency into ones' life which can be used by potential employers or anyone else who wants to gather information on you. "Followers" (or as I consider them "Stalkers") are a security risk; neither are these people nor the risk not wanted by me.

    I'm no Luddite, having worked with computing technology since age 11 in 1978, but I for my own reasons (not fear or misunderstanding them) do not use social networking at all. (I used to, but wised up.)

  12. Aspie using Firefox 3.6.3 on Ubuntu | June 23, 2010 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    Again, you are perhaps overly harsh with a statement like "I’m addressing the intentionally ignorant and naive. Are you intentionally ignorant and naive?"

    To my colleagues I am sure that is exactly how I appear - I have never, and probably will never, ask for any workplace accommodation for autistic traits. I moved from the project where always-on messaging became a requirement, because it was easier to live with the misconception that I am an intentionally ignorant Luddite. I am fortunate to have skills that are in demand.

    Social networking tools have some useful applications, but expecting everyone to comply with their use in employment communications will potentially discriminate against and exclude capable people.

  13. eggs&bacon using Firefox 3.6.4 on Windows XP | June 27, 2010 at 12:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t care what you had for breakfast and I don’t have a Facebook account either. Why? Like you said: "I’m likely not interested in your opinion anyway." so why should I?

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