twitter: I get it now

I totally ‘get’ twitter now. I’ve been using it for a while but never really figured its real use. I knew I could communicate with people, I knew I could gleam great info from others, but I never really got it. I guess I jumped all over it, hoping that it would become obvious. And the thing is, everyone I know, can tell me how great it is, but they have never be able to convince me why I should use it. The thing that was missing for me, was real life scenarios, proper context – none of this ‘if you don’t know something, you can just tweet it, and you’ll get an answer’. 

Yeah, that’s the one everyone will tell you – and its mostly true, however it isn’t going to win over people who don’t get it, because they can already ask people and get the answer – its called: phone, email and the Internet. 

Ok, so I’ve had these thoughts about Twitter all day now, and I’m finally clear on my explanation of it:

Google is the dead web – the past, whatever is on there is in the past – Twitter is the live web, whatever is on it is right now.  This isn’t my quote btw, I got that from Tom Guarriello 

We need the dead web, just like we need books. So that’s not going away. We need the live web, just as much, because I’m making decisions today (and tomorrow)… so, with that in mind here’s some examples of things I could tweet. First the trivial:

“I’m off to Bath later, is it raining?”
With the dead web, I have to go visit a website, find my location and check out what someone thinks the weather will be like in an hour from now.  With the live web, when I ask this question, someone in Bath can look outside their window and tell me. 

“Boots have stopped processing Black and White films!”
Using the dead web, the best you can do is look up the boots website, find their film processing section and locate the types of film they process – hoping that someone has updated it. With the live web, anyone that is searching for or asking about if Boots processes Black and White films, can find the answer for ‘today’.

“Starbucks is giving away a free filter coffee after 2pm until 21st April if you have a SharedPlanet card”
With the dead web,  you’re either going to have to visit their website, read about the offer in a newspaper ad, be in one of the stores at the time, or have a conversation with someone that has this knowledge. Either way, you might not get the info, and therefore miss the offer. With the live web, everyone in my network gets to find out this offer as soon as I tweet it, and anyone searching for ‘anyone giving away a free coffee right now?’ will probably find my information too. 

neat huh? So that’s the trivial stuff. Trivial, but still useful I think. Now for the work related examples:

“Can someone send me a screenshot of in IE6 please?”
With the dead web, I’m going to have to search for an online facility, email some people that may have IE6, and probably do something involving a whole lot of searching about until I get my answer. With the live web, someone can either send me a link, or say they can do it for me.

“I’m a Volunteer Youth Worker with 6 kids that needs free internet access for 30mins in the Bristol centre area, can anyone help out?”
With the dead web, you’ll need to log on to the net, through your phone, or possibly an internet café, find a wifi hotspot map for Bristol, trawl through the links, find a place, go visit it, and only then discover if the free service is still available – oh and lets add in that its raining too. With the live web, you tweet the same message to your network, and the good people of central Bristol come to your rescue. 

one more…

“I’ve left my Nokia phone on seat 24 Coach D of the 9.07 Bristol Parkway to London Paddington, first person to grab it and call me gets a fat reward and a big thanks”
With the dead web, you’re screwed. The best you can do is call the Station and hope someone has handed it in. With the live web, you can still do the dead web way, but stand a greater chance of getting it back by some quick thinking twitterer.

So there you have it – instant ‘now’ information retrieved from people in your network… and yes you should add as many people as possible, because you don’t know who is going to be online when you ask for help, and you don’t know who you’ll be able to help with your useful info. 

The more people you know, the more things you can do – someone intelligent once said. Agreed, you’ll need infinite friends to receive an infinite answer. (Too subtle? – We never know what information we’ll need, so why limit our contacts?).

OK, now lets assume you’ve added a coupla hundred thousand total strangers to your network. You then realise that you can’t keep up with all the updates – you’re swamped: Twitter sucks! Nope, your usage of Twitter sucks – because you don’t get it. After all there’s millions (billions?) of webpages on the Internet, you don’t keep up with all of them do you? Twitter is the ‘live web’ for you, if you want it. You search it to find answers to your questions, and you tweet your knowledge if you discover something. You filter information from your network, and distribute what they need to know about you – if you so wish. You need to get to grips with the search tool on Twitter and switch your brain from ‘asking’ for information from a static, past, dead web, and rephrase it for a live, active, human network of knowledge today. 

My struggle to switch to this way of thinking, required a lot of internal questions to be answered first, hence this post. Only now do I fully get it, and only now, I can really start to enjoy and make proper use of it. 



4 thoughts on “twitter: I get it now

  1. Mark.. exactly! Twitter is to Google what email is to a fax. A fax is dead information, whereas email is copy/paste-able, editable, push-able. The only issue I have with Twitter is unless you have followers in the 10,000+ or you are some Twitter elite that people fall all over themselves trying to please @calilewis, @chrisbrogan, @guykawasaki, @scobleizer, etc, questions may not get answered.

  2. re: 10k followers questions and answers, I’d argue that statement. Conversations online reflect conversation offline. If you stood in a huge hall with 1000 people and shouted out a question, ‘most’ people would hear you, yet ignore you and carry on with what they were doing. However if you were in a room with 10 real friends, I’m guessing they would all become part of the conversation to help answer your question. Twitter is still about making friends with people, if you want answers, try providing some first. Its karma baby! Build a dedicated following of good people first, and then you’re more likely to get answers when you need it. Search twitter, for a ‘?’ symbol and see if you can answer any – I bet you’ll have more genuine ‘friends’ by the end of the day, than a whole month of pushing out mundane statements.

    besides – you are a dog, what’s a dog doing on Twitter anyways? you have no thumbs.


  3. @Mark dead on accurate.. I like the “huge hall with a 1000 people” metaphor.. I may just use that somewhere, with accreditation, of course.. so if your ears start tingling, that’s just me quoting you in a small conversation with 10 friends 😉

    Ahhh.. you noticed the lack of thumbs… here is the thing:

    1. If people KNOW you are a dog on the Internet, they will follow you anywhere. True.

    2. Having no thumbs is my Randy Puasch brick wall. Because I want it badly enough, I have learned to Twitter and type without thumbs 😉

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