Today, media snacking is a way of life. In the morning, we check news and tap out emails on our laptops. At work, we graze all day on videos and blogs. Back home, the giant HDTV is for 10-course feasting – say, an entire season of 24. In between are the morsels that fill those whenever minutes, as your mobile phone carrier calls them: a 30-second game on your Nintendo DS, a 60-second webisode on your cell, a three-minute podcast on your MP3 player.
From YouTube’s clip culture to Apple’s iTunes (not iAlbums), it seems for the time being smaller is, in fact, better! In the world of social software, the coolest and probably the smallest is Twitter, which allows users to post entries of no more than 140 characters, sent in from the web, IM or text message and being sent out via these same three platforms to your Twitter friends. Twitter has some impressive parents, including Evan Williams (who started Blogger before is was sold to Google) and the other Obvious folk. I’ve experimented with Twitter for the past few days, and I can see the appeal of its immediacy, and the fact that you really can’t take up much time with so little space to type! From the larger blogosphere, Jill Walker has been thinking about her Twittering in terms of blogging, noting similarities and differences:
…there’s something very satisfying about logging your days like that and seeing what others are up to. It’s a blog at a different scale than this one, in a way, very short posts, but far more frequent…
The logging aspect is quite addictive, and despite the brevity of posts, reading just a few Twitters seems to build quite an intimate picture of someone. Ross Mayfield in his post ‘Twitter Tips the Tuna’ gives this succinct explanation of Twitter:
Twitter, in a nutshell, is mobile social software that lets you broadcast and receive short messages with your social network. You can use it with SMS (sending a message to 40404), on the web or IM. A darn easy API has enabled other clients such as Twitterific for the Mac. Twitter is Continuous Partial Presence, mostly made up of mundane messages in answer to the question, “what are you doing?” A never-ending steam of presence messages prompts you to update your own. Messages are more ephemeral than IM presence — and posting is of a lower threshold, both because of ease and accessibility, and the informality of the medium.
I think that notion of ‘Continuous Partial Presence’ may very well be the core of Twitter. Mayfield goes on to argue that Twitter is peaking, with the uptake rate getting higher and higher, with everyone from Joi Ito to the BBC staking their claim as Twitterati. Indeed, as Steve Rubel notes, even John Edwards who is once again campaigning to be the Democrat candidate in the US presidential elections, is using Twitter to keep in touch with his supporters.
While there are probably a lot of people who’ll see Twitter as the icon of procrastination (and I can see their point!), Liz Lawley responds to criticisms of Twitter, pointing out that these ephemeral tidbits can actually be quite important:
The first criticizes the triviality of the content. But asking “who really cares about that kind of mindless trivia about your day” misses the whole point of presence. This isn’t about conveying complex theory–it’s about letting the people in your distributed network of family and friends have some sense of where you are and what you’re doing. And we crave this, I think. When I travel, the first thing I ask the kids on the phone when I call home is “what are you doing?” Not because I really care that much about the show on TV, or the homework they’re working on, but because I care about the rhythms and activities of their days. No, most people don’t care that I’m sitting in the airport at DCA, or watching a TV show with my husband. But the people who miss being able to share in day-to-day activity with me–family and close friends–do care.
The second type of criticism is that the last thing we need is more interruptions in our already discontinuous and partially attentive connected worlds. What’s interesting to me about Twitter, though, is that it actually reduces my craving to surf the web, ping people via IM, and cruise Facebook. I can keep a Twitter IM window open in the background, and check it occasionally just to see what people are up to. There’s no obligation to respond, which I typically feel when updates come from individuals via IM or email. Or I can just check my text messages or the web site when I feel like getting a big picture of what my friends are up to.
So, for Lawley, it would appear that everyone has their own Twitterati who are more likely to be family and friends than anyone else. Thanks once again to Steve Rubel, there’s now a basic Twitter Search, so if you’re not using it already, why not explore a little and decide who might be in your Twitterati? 😉 (And feel free to add me, if you like.)