There is no “Twitter Debate”

BusinessWeek is joining in the carpet-bomb coverage of Twitter, with, what is now, the di rigeur focus on some debate that is going on about it, summed up in the following “but others say” snip:

“But in pointing to a world where the noise of the social crowd is amped up exponentially, Twitter forces into the open a basic schism–between those who want to know what everyone is doing all the time and those who are revolted at the idea of giving up that information or caring about anyone else’s. “We’re hitting a world where we’re constantly connected,” says Dave Cote, a marketing consultant who wrote a blog post entitled Twitter is for Twits. “It’s creepy to me. Why does someone need to know I am putting on my socks?” he asks.”

Let’s step back, people. Out in the real world where well-educated, erudite, professional people still ask me everyday, “Why do you, what do you call it, blog?”, the notion of blogging is still creepy. For a blogger to describe as “creepy” the first few months of a micro-niche of geeks “playing around” with a new platform of self expression, is to me, “creepy.” The life-cycle of a new form of conversational media (or any new technology) is fairly predictable. As Dave Winer has pointed out, you should never dismiss something that lots of people are jumping aboard, even if you think it’s creepy (although Dave would never use the term creepy. Often, the network effect of the community is far more important than the technology or what its initial envisioned use. (I used to blog about this topic “back in the day” and often pointed to this post about Paul Saffo’s explanation of technology adoption he calls “macro-myopia.” (The Gartner folks later “borrowed” the idea and called it the “hype-cycle.”)

Sure, the focus now on “What are you doing?” as being the content focus of Twitter does not portend a significant future for Twitter. However, what if it were used by a group of transplant centers around the country to alert one another of the availability of a donor organ? (Granted: The current answer to that hypothetical is, ‘someone would die,’ as Twitter’s current stability is no where near “mission critical” stage.) The ability Twitter (in theory) allows to update someone simultaneously via web, IM, mobile phone, RSS feed, can provide the basis for life-saving applications and a wide-array of fun and business application. It’s not about “What are you doing?” and following Robert Scoble around. Today, it’s merely having fun to learn what a technology and “culture” and community is all about in such an environment. It’s about what works on Twitter that we’ve adapted from blogging or IMing or IRC — and what doesn’t. The practical stuff will come later.

More importantly, there is no “debate” when you can so easily ignore something as you can with Twitter. There are so many ways to turn it off and on — it’s like RSS that way — that I can’t understand why people can be “against” it. Just ignore it if you don’t like it — or understand it. There’s no reason to label it “creepy” — especially if you are a “marketing consultant.”

By the way, I’m at twitter.com/rexhammock if you want to monitor all the creepy things I do on Twitter.

Later: The By Line on the BW story is buried at the bottom of the page so I didn’t now that Heather Green wrote it. I would have whinned to her that when I posted a comment on the story, I got a message that the comment would be reviewed “within days.” Heather, ya’ll have some of the savvyist bloggers in magazine-land. Spread some of that wisdom to the “post a comment” folks.

Later II: I often get listed among those commenting on a story that makes it to the top of Techmeme, but on this early Saturday morning, I’m having 15 seconds of fame: Thanks Gabe, for having a means to point to a frozen-in-time version of the front page: http://www.techmeme.com/070324/h0850.

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  • Hudge

    Thank you for not debating this. Signed, “Nowhere, Man.”

  • scott

    twitter status: sick of twitter.

    defending the honor of twitter as a valuable (or even potentially valuable) tool against those criticizing it seems to be an act of debating to me. ymmv.

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  • http://www.jmg-galleries.com Jim Goldstein

    Very well said. This is a very early stage for Twitter. As a web strategist I see numerous opportunities for use of this type of technology. The killer app component is clearly the social network bridge spread across web, IM, & SMS. The ability to open up communication channels is the high value element and no doubt will be integrated in future solutions. Unfortunately for now people can only see what is in front of their nose “What are you doing?” If only people could see the real questions:
    Who in my social network can…
    a) help me with…
    b) connect me to…
    c) help spread word about…
    d) attend…
    etc.
    The novelty surely is “I’m putting on my sock”, but the value comes from these other questions. The future is wide open for Twitter

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  • http://www.doepay.com doepay

    There is no “Twitter Debate”. This is a very early stage for Twitter

  • http://www.robhyndman.com Rob Hyndman

    “especially if you are a “marketing consultant.”

    !!

    I thought we bloggers were all writers now, regardless of whatever else we also are?

    ;)

  • Rex Hammock

    Rob, I was not directing that barb at all “marketing consultants” — just ones who dismiss a potential new marketing platform at conception — as in the quoted “m-c” in the BusinessWeek article. But, hey. I’ve said lots of dumb things in interviews before — and on this blog, come to think of it.

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  • Hudge

    Twitter’s Shark has been vaulted: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17787810/

  • Heather Green

    Hi Rex,

    Thanks for blogging about the story, but I wasn’t dinging Twitter. I think that this kind of service, whether it’s from Twitter or another company, is here to stay. My story was simply pointing out why some folks like it and why some don’t and why there was such a strong debate about it online. I don’t think talking about that is being critical of it, since in the end I basically said that I thought it was around to stay.

    Also, on the comment review, couldn’t agree with you more, but we went through this debate early on with our bosses and blogged about it here:

    http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/blogspotting/archives/2005/04/why_we_run_comm.html

    I apologize in the delay in getting to the comment earlier. That’s my fault. But my VPN connection imploded over the weekend and I didn’t have a chance to come into the office since I had an engagement party being thrown on my behalf.

  • Heather Green

    Me again. On the comment. I see you meant on the story. I meant on my blog, where I see you commented on Steve’s post this weekend.