Twitter As Resource?

After Perf’s own James Mowery tore two strips off of me in the comments of my non-rant post, Twittering or Navel Gazing?, I went and used my Twitter account for only the second time since July 2007. I asked, “So help me out. Why do you love Twitter?” I’m not sure if Dan York was responding to me, but about 25 minutes later he tweeted about Dr. Moshe Yudkowsky‘s article on Twitter as a Technical Resource (in which Dan is mentioned as a Twitterer followed by over a thousand people – 1200+, in fact). Dr. Yudkowsky says,

If you haven’t used it, Twitter is one of those “I don’t think I get it” technologies… I’m fascinated by the capabilities of Twitter. Twitter is disaggregated: Twitter allows access to Twitter as a building block for other services. Now I’ve begun to wonder just where all this will lead.

In a similar vein, Chris Winfield writes Twitter Wrote This Column For Me. In it he explains how he asked several questions on Twitter and offered to link to the best answers – which he did, in his article. Of course, if you haven’t realized it consciously, I used the same method to write this article. In fact, Alex at Geekpreneur says Twitter is a great way to stimulate ideas – for blog posts or otherwise – if your mind has gone blank.

Now these are some of the ways I’d be happy using Twitter, and I can’t believe I didn’t “get that” about Twitter until now. Why didn’t I? A few reasons:

  1. One study I had wanted to do last year on Twitter was build a “web corpus” of the vocabulary of Twitterers. Besides the fact that there was too much noise with acronyms and short forms, there was no good search engine for refined searches on Twitter. [Now there is one. Aaron Wall points to Summize, a real-time search engine that scans Twitter. There’s a Summize API,
    if you want to get sophisticate in your searches and results in a feed
    (Atom format only) or in JSON. (Should we start expecting Twitter-like
    tweets in our blog comments? Might be time to turn on CAPTCHA for your
    comments, if you haven’t done so.)]
  2. When I first started using Twitter, I “followed” the people I knew online as well as many top bloggers/ online celebs. The people who knew me were often in different time zones, and the celebs didn’t really know me. The few that were also following me didn’t respond back if tweeted a question. However, that usually means (1) they’re not online; (2) they’re occupied with something else; (3) I didn’t use “@theirtwittername” in front of my question.
  3. Using Twitter isn’t really conducive to use in a web browser, even while using a (Firefox) extension such as Twitbin. But now that Twhirl (Windows, Mac) is available, the Twitter experience is much more interesting. (See the video clip about twhirl at the end of this post, produced by Ed Dale of Thirty Day Challenge. It’s really long – 24 min – but extremely informative about both Twhirl and Twitter.)

The Twitter Experience
The fact is, if you tweet to people who dont really know or don’t directly address them, then the Twitter experience is like a whole bunch of people free-associating. Yes, it seems like they’re talking to themselves, and occasionally someone might deign to respond.

But that’s looking at it at the worst of times. At the best of times, Twitter is a hot bed of news and ideas and of people connecting with each other in semi-real-time, bouncing off ideas, making requests, getting help, getting answers, getting ideas, getting work, and giving back all of that. If you’re follow real celebs, you get a peek inside their mind. If you’re following peers you don’t know very well, it’s not too hard to communicate with them on Twitter – easier than emailing them for the first time and wondering if their spam filter ate your message.

That, in a nutshell, is why you need to Twitter (and ignore any of the neutral stuff I’ve written about it in the past). It’s access to part of the Hive Mind of humanity, and if you blog, Twitter is a goldmine – though you do have to mine it.

How to Look at the Twitosphere and Participate
If you want to mine it, there are several services that give you different views of the Twitosphere. Muhammad Saleem points out Twitt(url)y, a real-time twitter tracker, as well as other similar services: Twitlinks, Tweetmeme, and Quotably. Twitt(url)y and Tweetmeme both look like a Techmeme of Twitter. Twitlinks doesn’t look like Techmeme, but it does follow both the Techmeme Twitter account and what various tech bloggers are twittering. Brad Linder at Download Squad talks about two other ways to look at Twitter: Crowdstatus and Gridjit. Other lists of/looks at Twitter tools:

  1. Chirpscreen – Download Squad.
  2. Twitter Ecosystem – Web Worker Daily.
  3. Twitter Fan Wiki.
  4. Twitter Twerp Scan – Download Squad.
  5. Twitter ToolsWeb Tips.

If you’re not sure who to follow, start with the bloggers
that you like. (You can “find and follow” on Twitter.) Then look at who they’re following and selectively pick
some of those people. It’s interesting to confirm that human beings run
in social circles even online. If you haven’t done so, read James Mowery’s 8 reasons why Twitter is the blogger’s new sidekick. And remember to filter the “noise”. If someone’s tweeting isn’t what you want to follow, unfollow them.

Now going back to what Dr. Yudkowsky said about Twitter being a building block… I just stumbled across twhirl, a desktop-based client – based on Adobe AIR – for both Twitter and Friendfeed. Now this is a great application that can get me excited about at least browsing Twitter everyday. I simply didn’t like Twitter in my web browser, and the twhirl client makes the experience so much more enjoyable. Whether I’ll actually tweet much myself I don’t know. I’m a notoriously verbose person.

6 thoughts on “Twitter As Resource?

  1. Shane: Agreed. I liked Tumblr and Jaiku for that reason, but I see now why Twitter is good for what it is. But yeah, Twhirl really makes the difference. Without something like Twhirl, I wouldn’t bother with Twitter. I’m now peering in on part of the Hive mind. A lot of the stream still looks like dozens of people free associating, but interesting conversations happen quite often.

  2. The success of Twitter beyond the early-adopter Valley echo-chamber has been in the developer ecosystem. In my opinion there are technically better micro-blogging solutions (Jaiku, for one) but they lack the mash-ups and the desktop apps.

    In my own experience, Twhirl totally changes how people use Twitter. I can’t put my finger on it but it just makes more sense when viewed through that lens, far more sense than the web interface ever made.

    Of course, Twitter is what you make of it. No one can (nor should they) tell you the right or wrong way to use it.

  3. sounds like it’s time i beef up on twitter. thanks for the reminder that it’s a valuable tool to help readers

  4. Hi Dan, thanks for dropping by. I’ll check out your article this weekend. Thanks for the link. Well, I know that your name is fairly well known in tech circles, so that probably partially answers why you have so many followers.

  5. Raj,

    Nice post. No, I wasn’t responding to your message (I wasn’t following you, actually, then, although I just added you now) but was more just putting out Moshe’s article in my Twitter stream as I tend to do from time to time.

    I did, though, summarize my own thoughts on the use of Twitter back in December in my post “The Ten Ways I Learned To Use Twitter” which I’ve since revised a bit but still find accurate. It’s fascinating to see how Twitter has evolved and I expect it will be interesting to see where it goes.


    P.S. Yes, I do have 1,200+ followers on Twitter which I continue to find rather amazing and actually hard to understand. I’m not sure WHY they all follow me but hey, it’s all a grand experiment!

Comments are closed.