Flying Against The Twitter Migration

twitter /’twit-er/

  • (n.) Opt-in instant messaging spam.
  • (v.) To make oft inconsequential chatter.

The buzz around singing praises, like Ed Yourdon, who made me aware of Alex de Carvalho’s vid.

Now before you shoot this messenger and characterize me as a Luddite (okay I could be a stick in the mud, given I’m about to celebrate the 15th anniversary of my 28th birthday), I am one of the more connected people I know. I started and run a company with several online communities, I participate in numerous other online communities, have four active e-mail accounts, an iPhone with unlimited calling. I have a Facebook account. And LinkedIn. And SMS. And Forums. And Mailing Lists. Accounts with Yahoo, AOL IM, MSN Messaging. Is that enough? I forgot to mention, I also have accounts in MySpace. Plaxo. Oh and how could I forget this blog or my twitter account?

So I was glad to find that I’m in good company, as a recent study at Harvard seems to expose the much ado about nothing hype. In a recent memory, the buzz around twitter is akin to when Orkut first came out. Arguably Orkut had more meat around the bone, support from Google and enough media buzz to require a battery of flyswatters to beat back the blogosphere hype. But at the end of the day Orkut didn’t go global but headed to Brazil. As Tom Lehrer would say, Orkut is now in the “Where are they now?” files. Nonetheless, Social Junkies greater than I seem to embrace all social networking fads and put them to work.

While twitter could be a Flash in the Online Community Pan, it could stick just … because. Yet what does it provide that is really so earth shattering? Solving which big pain? Like many people, I’ve signed up to find that signal to noise ratio is deafeningly slanted toward white noise. At Google IO we watched presenters answer questions from audience members who stood up as well as those that put tweets up on the wall (a screen in the room). Huh? For crying out loud, just stand up and ask the question.

As a friend would say, “this is the answer to a question no one ever asked.” For all the fascination, even by visualization statisticians, no one is putting meat on these bones. It doesn’t stop people from trying to rationalize value, even to CIO’s as Abbie Lundberg has weakly demonstrated by writing an article in CIO magazine touting twitter’s value in such a murky way as to leave its readers wondering why the article was even written. Until I see someone present a cogent explanation of the need which twitter is filling or can fill, how its sound bytes and pub/sub model suits that need, I remain firmly in the “It’s hype” camp. Who knows, maybe Google will buy them just to own the Noise-o-Sphere.

As for Iranians being able to twitter during the shutdown of Internet services and web sites in Iran, the media has somehow portrayed that twitter uniquely enabled this capability for outbound communication from Iran to the rest of the world. That’s simply bunk. Had twitter not existed, there are hundreds of other ways to post information to the Internet, not to mention rapid indexing by Google which makes up-to-date information discover possible. Best of all, one could communicate with more than 140 characters, which is like trying to sip steak through a straw.

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