In the past week or so I’ve had several people ask me about Twitter, so this post is both a response to these folks as well as an answer to Joe’s comment, re: what’s the draw [to presence services]?
A few months ago, I noted that “Twitter is as close to a virtual shout across front porches as the suburbs will let us get.” I still strongly believe that statement and to that end, about three months ago I invited about 20 people to join me on Twitter. The people I invited to Twitter were not technologists or early-adopters. Rather, the people I invited were the perfect audience for Twitter: couples who recently relocated back to suburbia and parents of young children. In other words, I invited people whose social capital would flourish were it not for their lack of a front porch from which to connect with those around them.
The way we live is not conducive to connections. When you spend your time in isolation (in your house, at your desk, in your car), you greatly reduce the number of opportunities for social connections. What Twitter excels at is stacking the odds in favor of connecting socially during the windows when you come out of isolation. (Meaning, if I use Twitter to broadcast to my social network that I’m going to the Sickles’ playground with the kids and someone in my social network is heading out the door to do the same but hasn’t yet decided which playground, my message on Twitter offers them the opportunity to join me if they wish.)
Granted, this is not the only thing that Twitter is useful for. But I believe that the ability to easily let your social network know where you are so that you can increase the odds of social connections is a key feature of “presence services.” This notion of “social proprioception” is the draw. The more physically/geographically removed you are from your social network, the more potential for value there is in using a tool like Twitter to amplify the presence of that network.
In my initial round of invites to people, I did very little hand-holding in getting these people setup on Twitter. Only a handful were able to make the jump from using Twitter on their computers to using Twitter on their cellphones. As such, I should add the following caveat here: Twitter is most useful if: 1) you regularly update Twitter regarding your location/activities 2) you are regularly alerted as to the location/activites of other members of your social network. I don’t think either of these things is really possible unless you use Twitter on your cellphone. Twitter and text messaging are a really excellent combination. In fact, of the 20 people I originally invited onto Twitter, the only ones who use it with any frequency (and the only ones with whom there have been on-the-go social connections as a result of Twitter) are those who use it on their cellphones.
- texting “help” to 40404
- twitter will reply with some stuff.
- reply to it with a msg like “yo”
- twitter will reply, prompting you for a username and send you a message back confirming that username.
- make a note of that name and send it to me
Twitter also works with AIM and other IM services as well as your web browser.
If you sign up for twitter, send me an email telling me your username so that I can make sure that you are connected to everyone else who has signed up. Also, if you can think of other people who you’d like to bump into more often or you think other people might like to bump into more often, then please by all means forward them this link.