March 14, 2009 spout

How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Twitter

Scott Hanselman performed an intervention on me in the mall the other day. I was in denial and while I can’t say I’m fully into acceptance, I’m at least past anger. : )

It took Scott 90 minutes and I fought him every step of the way, but I think I finally have a handle on what Twitter is. I’ve heard it described as a 24-hour virtual cocktail party,” which always turned me off. I’ll take a lake of fire any day over more than three strangers in a room with which I share no common task and with whom I’m expected to socialize. Making that into a 24-hour thing and including everyone in the world does not make this more attractive to me.

And while that is one valid way to describe Twitter, the more attractive way for me to thing about it is as a single global chat room with conventions and tools to pull out the bits and pieces you want, i.e. the people to which you want to listen, the topics you care about, etc.

Except that’s not right, either.

Instead, it’s more like a poetry reading in a hippy bar where you’re up on stage saying whatever comes into your head and the audience is generally ignoring you (because they’re also on their own stage) except occasionally when they holler yeah man! right on!” back at the stage.

And why is that cool?

Well, I can’t speak for anyone else, but until Scott turned the light on in my head, it wasn’t. Now I check Twitter (via TweetDeck) half a dozen times a day looking for direct messages first, then replies, then new search results (I search on my name, Oslo and DSL right now), then whatever’s on top of my All Friends.” When I find someone that says something interesting about a topic I like, I follow them for a while til I decide they’re saying mostly stuff I’m not interested in and then I unfollow.

The whole thing feels very much like what we used to do in email (“Look! Cute kiddie pictures!“) and then in blogs (“Look! I have a blog!“) before we figured out how to use it and what it was really for. I can’t say I really know what Twitter is for yet, although I’ve been following Scott’s advice, i.e. bigger, permanent stuff goes into blogs, transient stuff to a few people goes into email and transient stuff that goes to the hippy bar audience (i.e. the world) goes into Twitter.

I’m still very much learning and hardly anyone is following me (@csells), but that’s OK. I’m already finding out who’s in the Oslo community and have had lots of useful stuff on personal topics, too, e.g. sharing my iPhone love/hate.

Also, I have to say that I really love the social aspect — I’m working alone at my house a lot and it’s nice to have the world listening to every fool thing that comes into my head. : )