Posted tagged ‘twitter’

The Power of Twitter

November 20, 2009

this post is also posted on my personal blog. You can view it here as well.

Recently I keep hearing the same story over and over about twitter. The headline reads 40% of twitter is pointless babble. Now of course there are a variety of reasons the headline is misleading. First and foremost is the method the study used to determine pointless babble. Of course there is always a random tweet out there, even I occasionally engage in what is clearly pointless babble, but in a lot of cases what you or I may think is pointless babble may be of great value to someone else. I know in Facebook (FB) land I don’t mind random posts about what someone is doing, after all I do have a true friendship with most of those people. Another problem with the headline is the subtext. Essentially they are trying to say that twitter is pointless. Here is where I would like to show you the power of twitter. I’ll show you how I’ve used it in some very powerful ways.

It started last year (2008) when I was working on a project for work. I was trying to interface a router with my Comcast internet. Sounds easy, but for some reason my router wasn’t working. In frustration I tweeted about it and in my tweet in included Comcast. Not long afterward I got a popup from a Comcast representative asking me what the problem was. At first I was a little weirded out, but after we went through a few steps together I found it quite helpful. I didn’t ask for Comcast to contact me, but they did and they were quite helpful, probably more so than if I had called. It was at this moment I realized just how powerful twitter can be. I probably posted the same “tweet” on FB, but certainly didn’t get an answer through FB from a Comcast rep. The nature of FB is closed, which is in some ways a very good thing, but in this instance even though I have 3x as many friends on FB I still wouldn’t have gotten a Comcast rep. I’m just not friends with any.

More recently I needed to book a bus between Boston and NYC. I was booking for a Tuesday departure and Tuesday return. As such I needed a late bus. The one company I wanted to with, Bolt Bus, didn’t go late enough. I searched online, but I really wasn’t turning anything up. So I tweeted. Another difference between my FB friends and Twitter friends is that more of them are local or tailored to my profession. I figured if I tweeted there were plenty of Boston followers that would help me out. I got this response in little time at all. Not only did Megabus work out, but I got the round trip tickets for $2.50. In the process the official Megabus twitter account also contacted me.

Later that week I started having problems with this very website. Again out of frustration I twittered about it. One of my followers was kind enough to take the time and help me through the problem.

Probably the most fascinating story is the one that happened recently. My wife got in a minor accident with an MBTA bus. From the sound of it she cleared the red light, but there wasn’t enough space for the bus to make the turn. The end result was that the bus hit our car. When my wife confronted the bus driver he had already let out all of the riders leaving no witnesses. To make matters worse the bus driver already made up a story to try to make my wife the guilty one. I tweeted about the situation and got this in response. Which eventually led to an actual witness. Fortunately, it looks like everything is going to be taken care of without such a witness, but it is nice to know I can contact one if I needed to.

This *is* the power of twitter. Sure there are times when I get random tweets, but for the most part I ignore them. And of course there are plenty of people not worth following, but that is why I don’t follow them. But when it comes to getting things done or answering questions that Google doesn’t suffice for twitter is there and is quite powerful. These are just my personal examples, there are plenty more. Examples like breaking the news about Michael Jackson, or following real life opposition in Iran. None of this is pointless babble. It has real worth, and despite what anyone may think of twitter it is what you make it. If all you want is pointless babble have at it, but you can make twitter much much more.

Advertisements

Teens don’t tweet?

August 31, 2009

I saw this as a trending topic recently.  It’s true, I don’t follow any teenagers on Twitter, but that’s because most of the younger generation (even the <30 crowd) I see on TT and the public timeline mostly post obscene or useless information – which, furthermore, tends to be filled with grammatical errors and misspellings.

Here’s a thought.  Social media like Twitter is text only.  Yes, you can link to other things, but it’s harder to simply spy on people like you can on Facebook so easily.  It’s information-based, like the Web was originally supposed to be.  I like it that way, because that’s life in the 21st century.  But it’s possible that the medium itself is a little more conducive to business use and adult interaction.  Thoughts?

Blogs vs. social networking

June 24, 2009

I read a post recently (and can’t find it now) asserting that blogs are basically outmoded by social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.  It’s true that many bloggers are completely narcissistic.  Some blogs are informative but wordy or devoid of any healthy grammar practices.  I love Twitter for its prevention of wordiness.  Still, I disagree with the conclusion that social networking has replaced the blog.  Here’s why.

1) Blogs are relatively easy.  Once you get your social network set up, you have a great way to communicate with those in your network.  But you have to build the network.  I’d like to think I’m reasonably popular, but over about 2 years on Facebook, I’ve connected with about 365 people through my profile and a handful more through my musician page.  We’ve had a lot more hits than that on the blog in a single day.

2) Blogs can be used as information repositories to avoid cluttering up people’s news feed with note posts.  Just post the link and a 140-character summary, thank you.

3) People don’t become less narcissistic when they join Facebook.  In fact, the opposite may be true.  I saw a tweet yesterday saying “if I see your avatar more than 15 times in my timeline, I’m blocking you.”  And you know that friend who constantly talks about their Twilight fixation, or their bad relationships, or how they hate their job (which, by the way, is not a good thing to put up on either blogs or SN, because you DO like your job more than you like unemployment).

4) The blog network is wider than my social network.  Through tag clouds and friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend surfing, you can travel through all 6 degrees of separation in a few hours.  I appreciate this wealth of information, even if I have to weed through some useless blogs too.  With Facebook, for instance, you have privacy concerns and friend requests, and “I really want to know more about my VP, but I REALLY don’t want her to see my St. Paddy’s Day photos” concerns.  This leads us to the last, and perhaps most vivid, point.

5) Separation of roles.  This is probably the biggest one, and it’s the reason this blog exists.  I don’t really have anything on my Facebook profile to hide.  In fact, my St. Patrick’s Day celebrations to date have been very mild (think listening to The Chieftans orcorned-beef-and-cabbage eating corned beef and cabbage).  but the point is, I don’t want some people having unlimited access to my personal information (ahem, Bozeman).

The fact is, people separate roles in their life.  I avoid talking to my officemate about my marriage, but I don’t discuss network security with childhood friends who simply don’t care.  This blog gives me the chance to write about relevant technical and/or techno-cultural topics without posting it and tagging all my friends.  Likewise, Facebook gives me the chance to post friends-only photos of my vacation without having who-knows-who looking at my family.

Separation of roles is vital in a technologically driven world, and blogs are a way to accomplish that.  Facebook, Twitter, and my music blog give me a way to express another side of myself – a side that (in American culture) must be at least partially veiled from the work side.

Final point – this doesn’t mean blogging is better than social networking.  Just that SN hasn’t replaced blogging.  For those who are pouring their heart out about their recent relationship disaster, maybe it has.  But not for those with something that strangers might actually want to hear.

ben