It’s only a matter of time before people start to Twitter in the bathroom. If you don’t know what Twitter is (either because you don’t follow online technology or you’ve been locked in a sock drawer), that IS as bad is it sounds, but not in the way you probably think.
If you do follow online technology, you know that Twitter is the anywhere, anytime, instant publishing solution that lowers the threshold for publishing about yourself several orders of magnitude below blogging, such that there is nothing you can possibly be doing that is too mundane, private, or uninteresting that it isn’t worth posting on Twitter. Use of Twitter recently exploded in the geekosphere at the SXSW conference, leading to much pontificating on the existential meaning of Twitter, i.e. I Twitter, therefore I am.
I think Twitter is a well-executed application, which, like all technologies, is only good or bad in how it is used. What strikes me about Twitter is that it appears to be accentuating the natural exhibitionist and voyeuristic tendencies of avid blog writers and readers. While blog posts have traditionally been short, Twitter pushes this trend to the extreme, accentuating the attention deficit disorder that the web naturally fosters.
Let’s take Jason Calacanis as an example. He is a long time avid blogger, who often writes long, often insightful, sometime controversial, but always interesting posts. He claims that he’s now doing 90% of his blogging through Twitter, and that he’s thinking of trying a week of Twitter-only blogging. Let’s take a look at Jason’s Twitter feed:
@scoble has 1,498 Followers…. mmmm… wow?! 24 minutes ago from web
is there a twitter leaderboard showing who does the most twits and has most followers? wondering who is 500+, 1,000+, etc. 37 minutes ago from web
@scobleizer: taking orders… when’s the next LA conference!?! let’s have a blogger BBQ! about 1 hour ago from web in reply to Scobleizer
ask a ninja kills me! http://www.askaninja.com/no… about 1 hour ago from web
broke 500 followers today…. who are you people and why are you here?!?!? seriously, let me know via: d jasoncalacanis what you want 2 hear about 1 hour ago from web
Oh snap… Bbq getting installed… Burgers at calacanis compound y’all! about 2 hours ago from txt
I think tomorrow is workout then dimsum+nyt… Any suggestions for ds in LA? about 2 hours ago from txt
Coffee+nyt+wsj+twitter+foggy backyard=bliss. Life is soooooooooo good. about 2 hours ago from txt
Kobe 65 points… Season high. Wow… Like wow about 14 hours ago from txt
Lakers in overtime about 14 hours ago from txt
How many servers does twitter run on? about 16 hours ago from txt
At laker game, private box with project x team. about 17 hours ago from txt
Anyone know of phone that’s does flash/video/youtube? Blackberry doesn’t support right? about 23 hours ago from txt
@nick: you’re not a virgin any more?!?! Who knew! about 24 hours ago from txt in reply to nick
@kentnichols: I’m doing ninja HIIT training… Seven one minutes sprints at 8.5-10mph spread over 20 minutes. Details on calacanis.com later 10:08 AM March 16, 2007 from txt in reply to kentnichols
On treadmill listening to Cake. Lalalalaallalalallalalallalal 09:49 AM March 16, 2007 from txt
Want to get in studio guests soon.. Want the ninja, scoble and jimmy wales–on same show!! 09:40 PM March 15, 2007 from txt
@gaberivera: thx for feedback.. Had tellme founder on today… Video tomorrow, and had andrew lih of wikipedia book on as well. More good st … 09:39 PM March 15, 2007 from txt in reply to gaberivera
Askaninja kicked my ass at sxsw… Video at 11! It was hot… I’ve got the videooooooo 08:44 PM March 15, 2007 from txt
Jason is an interesting guy, so his Twitter feed is probably as interesting as Twitter feeds get. Of course, you have to find Jason Calacanis interesting to find the trivia of his life interesting.
The interesting question here is how would the value of Jason’s online publishing net out if he switched entirely to Twitter. Well, you certainly wouldn’t be getting any more long, interesting posts like these:
Is Squidoo becoming a massive, dirty SEO back alley?
Social Bookmarking 101: You gotta own your bury/sink. (or How Kevin Rose is painting himself into a corner).
Wikipedia’s Technological Obscurification: Three ways Wikipedia keeps 99% of the population from participating
It would also likely have been a lot harder for Jason to have singlehandedly started the phenomenon of fatblogging, which seems to have caught fire like Twitter. It would have been harder because it’s harder to inspire people with 140 characters.
I’m not suggesting that Twitter isn’t a fascinating form of publishing and communication, and that there isn’t much to learn from the phenomenon. There are elements of mobility and instantaneity that can’t be achieved through blogging software. The issue I’m raising here is what happens when people start Twittering instead of longer-form blogging — by long, I mean even a paragraph.
Of course, this is nothing new. People who write long-form journalism in print bemoan the short attention span for online content — Twitter is just the next step in the evolution towards the complete fragmentation and disintegration of attention.
So am I using Twitter yet? Well, I set up an account (yet one more domain land grab). But I still haven’t worked up a sufficient sense of self-importance and vanity to believe that what I’m going at any given moment is really all that important or interesting to anyone. But I’ll work on it.
Scott Karp blogs in the traditional sense at Publishing 2.0.