Monday, February 22, 2010

Twitter, thy name is Legion!

It sounds like a great idea at first, especially if it makes its inventor wealthy.

Twitter is a social networking and "microblogging" service, founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, which allows its users to send and receive messages of up to 140 characters known by the ridiculous name of "tweets." Account holders create a username, have their own page for receiving messages they follow, and from this page (or a third-party platform like Tweetdeck) can follow others, or restrict who follows them.

Twitter has been instrumental in getting news to the world from within Iran, in the face of recent political upheavals. A number of charitable organizations associated with relief to Haiti have found it to be an effective fundraising tool. And such applications of new media were likely to have been a critical factor in the most recent Presidential election.

I started using Twitter about a year ago. It is used by mwbh mainly for two reasons; to alert followers about new stories, and to send occasional "twitcasts" while following special events on location. It also has an added benefit of allowing me to keep up with how my son Paul is doing. The kid still cracks me up.

And yet, there is a trade-off in following another account holder. As a wise editor/publisher once told me; some people have something to say, while others have to say something. You'd be surprised how many people appear to be the former until you follow them on Twitter, after which they become the latter. I have two examples.

One is a well-established blogger in Virginia, who is a fascinating writer, but especially if you follow her on Tweetdeck, she will spend Friday and Saturday nights inundating you with fifteen or twenty "tweets" about what she's doing at any given moment, or what she's watching on television, or listening to on the radio. Judging from her picture, and the fact that she is happily married, you'd think she has better things to do. Not really.

Then there's a guy in Maryland who's a very talented young man; a musician, songwriter, and multimedia developer. Sometimes, just when I'm about to wish I could be him, he will update his audience on exactly which restaurant he's visiting (and he seems to visit a lot of them), what he's eating, and where he's going next.

Imagine what the life of yours truly might be like:

here at starbucks, sipping latte, scratching my @$$. when they say free wifi, you get what you pay for.

leaving starbucks. in the mood for sushi. anyone know a good sushi place nearby? my latitude and longitude are ...

hey there's a place across the street. light's about to change. i can't wait that long.


Like I said, it's a trade-off.

It pains me to do it, but starting this week I have to cancel several people I'm currently following; not because I don't like them, but because -- I'm gonna be polite here -- I don't fit the profile of their target audience. In the meanwhile, I have some advice for the people who fit the above examples. First of all, STOP! Your own mother doesn't have the time to follow your every move, and you come across as a pathetically lonely person, and the people who really know you know better. Second, keep the "potty mouth" to a minimum. When you cuss like a sailor, in person and off the record, it's there, then it's gone. When you do it in print, it stays there, and the initial shock value has a bad aftertaste. Third, and finally, if you must tweet the universe every ten or fifteen minutes, have something to say of lasting substance; a link to a story, or a photograph, a video -- something that isn't just you shooting off your virtual mouth.

Because, while much of what is read in this medium saves paper, we're no better off if it still belongs in a landfill.

[POSTSCRIPT: If you think that so-called "new media" doesn't become "old media" rather quickly, think again. And again.]

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