Twitter Triumphant

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The following essay was written by yours truly for www.mobilitysite.com, reposted here for your convenience.

For the last decade or so, technology has become a question of the “next big thing” and getting on the bandwagon ASAP. After all, early adopters are cool, bandwagon jumpers are not. IBM, Microsoft, Apple, Google…people are always looking for the next sure thing, the next company that will rewrite the rule book.

The same thing holds true for technology trends. I remember when the Mac ushered the concept of the GUI into mainstream computing, when emails first started to become an issue in the modern office and when ICQ popularized Instant Messaging for both consumers and businesses. I remember the first crude forays into VoIP by InternetPhone and other basic applications.

So far in this century we have had eBay making everyone an entrepreneur and YouTube making everyone a videographer and Facebook/MySpace making everyone the center of their own little cults of personality, ushering in the ongoing revolution of Social Networking. All of these technologies changed the way we work and live in various ways, some subtle and some world-shaking.

However, in my opinion, the most revolutionary and change-inducing technology of the century thus far has been Twitter…hands down.

Twitter (www.twitter.com) has been featured and discussed all over the net for some time now, so it needs little introduction, but things are really reaching a critical mass for the microblogging service. Just look at some of the facts and statistics….in 2008 Twitter use increased by more then 900% in the UK alone. More then 50 members of the US Congress and President Obama now use Twitter to send messages to their constituents. In the recent wildfires in Australia ,Twitter was the number one source of news and information out of the hardest hit areas. Twitter use among celebrities is so common now that a recent hacking into the accounts of some high profile users was front page news. Twitter is following the same meteoric rise of such services as Facebook and MySpace, but without the same privacy concerns and need to create pages and profiles. Of course, Twitter has it’s own problems, such as being based on an infrastructure that is badly overwhelmed by it’s current success, and several massive popular members who can paralyze the system when they send tweets.

Part of the strength of Twitter is that it is extremely versatile, it can be used in many different ways. For example, I use Twitter to send out stray thoughts, song lyrics I am listening to and the occasional Haiku (just follow BardHaven to see for yourself). People use the service to send out personal updates or important news (births of babies, dinner plans, where they buried their cousin, etc) Celebrities have their staff send Tweets in their name to their followers, announcing concerts, appearances or pretending to chat about “candid” moments. During the US Presidential campaign, both candidates used Twitter to send talking points out to their activists in real time, to try and control the tone of the debate.

All of these are important and/or fun uses of Twitter, but I have to say my favorite Twitter user is British actor, tech columnist, wit and author Stephen Fry. Reading his Tweets can be like sitting across from him at Tea. Random comments about what he is doing, what is happening in his life, who he is having dinner with, momentary flashes of inspiration…all of that is folded into his Twitter stream so it becomes a wonderful sort of snapshot into his life. A few weeks ago, Fry gave a talk at the Apple Store in London (I forgive him the fact that he is an Apple Fanboy Deluxe) which he had a friend LiveBlog for him using his Twitter account. Then later in the same day Fry was trapped in an elevator, and he Tweeted all the way through it, complete with pictures and messages from his elevator mates. It was funny, interesting and exciting to read…like a reality show only featuring someone you actually like and who has something worthwhile to say.

Users like Stephen Fry show me very clearly the way that Twitter is changing the way we exchange information, far more the MySpace or Facebook did. Those are just simplified personal web pages. Twitter gives us an entire new way of speaking, and reaching people with not only our nonsense but our news. If Technology is supposed to bring us closer together globally, then Twitter and microblogging is the broadest step yet on that road…even when it’s trapped in an elevator. Twitter Triumphant, indeed.

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1 Comment

  1. *grins for several reasons, only one being that Mr. Fry is part of the cult of Apple*

    Thanks for the post. Seriously, Twitter is rather fascinating — it’s a great way to organize “flashmobs” and monitor public events. And it apparently has legs. Still, it seems to be more of ‘have’ tool than a ‘have-not’ tool. If I ever get an unlimited data plan on my phone … I might sip the Kool-Aid® …


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