Friday, April 11, 2008

The Power of Twitter

So, I mentioned that I was really excited to have been able to affect change on Macbreak Weekly on a discussion forum I am a part of, and I was met with either apathy or down and out hostility.

To be sure, I tried to create a character and write from that POV. Most people took it to be me. Which it was, and yes, I was jazzed to have my words appear on my favourite podcast, even if it was (sorry John, Alex) one of the least interesting ones in recent memory. But it was only a part of me, and it was a silly, risible part. I was trying to be self-deprecating, but most people thought I was just crowing about my grand achievement. And on the surface, I was. But there was an undercurrent there too. But I focussed on the surface, went are hyperbolic, and wound up confusing or antagonizing most. I am sorry for that.

My underlying reason for making that post was inspired not by how cool it was to have my words at the end of Macbreak Weekly (which is, for someone who is a fan of the show pretty cool), but because for a moment, I caught a glimpse of the power of Twitter., for those who don't know, is like Facebook Status Updates without anything else. You have a box and 140 characters. Type your 140 character or less message into the box (Hello World), and send it out to anyone who will listen.

Chances are, nobody will, unless you have friends who are on Twitter, too. They can choose to "follow you", meaning that when you send out an update: "Ooh. That one was pretty rank. Be glad you're not here.") it will show up on their home page. If you chose to follow them, what they send out will show up on your home page.

You don't need to follow just people you know. You can follow anyone else on Flickr. Folks like Barak Obama are on Flickr, as are Leo Laporte (, John Foster (Macbreak Tech), Merlin Mann (43 Folders) Jason Calacanis (, Veronica Belmont ( and anyone else you like.

But the dialogue is two ways. If, say Gruber (Daring Fireball) asks what type of rechargeable batteries work best, I can offer him my opinion by prefacing the post by @Gruber.

I know, if you don't get it, you don't get it, and it makes no sense. But here's the thing. I have seen the power, and the potential that Twitter offers. It offers us a chance, yet again, to connect.

Something like facebook was built on that promise, but is slowly starting to crumble under the weight of a billion pointless Pirates vs Ninja invitations. And people turn from communicating to simply amusing themselves (ooh. I kicked some Pirate Booty!). It's not dead, but soon it will start to fade into myspace-style irrelevance.

With Twitter, I can, for 140 characters, bend the ear of Guy Kawasaki or John C Dvorak. And what I say might not have any effect on them. But sometimes they do. And for a moment, I can connect to politicians, heroes, pundits or journalists. For a moment, we can connect, and it is those connections that we build between each other that will make this world a better place. It is a thread in the fabric of humanity that might have been before unrecognized, but now there, adds another dynamic to the tapestry of this life.

And it's a great way to waste your time when you should be doing real work instead....

The Big Juicy Twitter Guide
Me on Twitter
Twitter as Communication Platform
Conversations are shifting to Twitter (with lots of links)

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