I was thinking about Twitter at the weekend. That’ll annoy the readers of the Guardian. Take a look…any article on the Guardian website that has any mention of Twitter seems to attract a stream of vitriolic comments like you’ve never seen. Lots of them are of the “Twitters for egotistical idiots who think that everyone’s interested in what they’re doing every minute of the day and it’s just a fad which’ll be around until the next shiny new thing come along” type.
And I can understand that. Hell, when I first came across Twitter, I had a similar reaction. But I don’t now.
When you first have a look at Twitter, it does seem a bit rubbish. And then you sign up and start following people like Stephen Fry and Jonathan Ross, which is fun for a bit but then gets really, really dull. In the meantime, you’ve started following people you know, people who work in the same area as you do, and people that make you laugh (this is really important, I reckon). As with any social media, there’s more to be had in listening than in talking.
Over time, you build a little network of people who add value to your life in one way or another. And I reckon it is a relatively small network. I follow fewer than 300 people. Any more than that and there’s no way that I’d be able to keep up. I’m still suspicious of people who follow thousands.
The 300 people I follow are what I might call my network of trusted sources. I’ve vetted then all and therefore listen when they say something or point me to some information. In fact, as my feed reader replaced a huge amount of my web browsing, so Twitter has reduced the amount of time I spend checking my feed reader. I’m either subscribing to the Twitter feeds of the same sources or, more often, I’m being pointed to relevant content by my network.
Which is why I don’t think Twitter’s a fad. It’s become as fundamental to my working life as email, IM, browsing and RSS feeds. All of these technologies had their naysayers. Honestly, I remember an old schoolmate of mine who was working in the City in the mid-90s who said that he “couldn’t see a day when his company would use email due to its inherent insecurity.” As long as my network’s on Twitter, I will be.
Mind you, email’s about as far as my mate’s got. His wife stuck him on Facebook but I’m not convinced he’s ever been there himself. Twitter’s as far away for him as a lightsabre is for me.
But he’ll get there (as will I, because The Force is strong in this one).
Mark Pinsent (@markpinsent)