Arjan's blog

What is the fascination with Twitter?

Originally published on August 29. 2009

Ok, I know this isn't exactly breaking news. Twitter has been out there for a couple of years, but still many people don't know what Twitter is. If you're one of them, have a look at this short video explaining Twitter (2'23").

And even knowing what Twitter is, fewer understand the fascination with it. I think Twitter with its simplicity has several interresting aspects, and they are different for all of us.

Twitter is this giant stream of information (tweets) that you can filter by people or topics that interest you.

Anyone can add to that stream. I can add to that stream by tweeting about liking a movie, recommend a restaurant or ask a question about anything! Someone else might tweet about what they're doing, or something they saw. Maybe draw attention to an article/site/blog or telling about their whereabouts. Others might just tell a joke, share a picture or... well, say just about anything. And anyone can listen in or join the conversation. It's easy to contribute from a browser, more specialized twitter apps or your cell phone. You might not find all those tweets interesting, but you could filter them to find the interesting parts. Not only from people you know, but from everyone on Twitter.

Instant Communities

Twitter search lets you filter the information stream in realtime. When you learn how to monitor something interesting, and maybe contribute to the stream, you're suddenly part of a sort of community around a topic.

I recommend looking at another video that really explains Twitter Search. (3'19" and well worth the time).

I find these "instant" communities to be one of the most interesting aspects of Twitter.

How to be a part of Twitter?

Everyone has something to tweet! Contribute to the stream and put lots of information out there. About anything. To do this, make sure you always have Twitter available. Install it on your cell phone, or register with twitter so you can tweet by SMS. (Still haven't tweeted today? Click here to tweet about this article and you're on your way!)

Reply to and retweet others. If you read an interesting tweet, share it by retweeting it. If you have a comment on a tweet, feel free to leave a reply.

Use keywords and hashtags to make your tweets discoverable.

Don't read every tweet that shows up in your Twitter stream. Get used to NOT reading everything, and still feeling comfortable about it. This is not your email inbox, personal SMS message or a phone call. You're not obliged to answer or even read the stuff people tweet about. You'll see that most Twitter client apps don't emphasize wether tweets are read or unread, no unread counts etc.

Follow people and follow searches. Most twitter apps will keep a list of searches.

What did I know?

The Twitter logo

I started about 9-10 months ago, but it took several months before the fascination kicked in. I hadn't seen any of the explanations, so to me it looked like a SMS-like app using the internet to send messages to a group of friends. Twitter really didn't seem all that interesting. As it turned out I was wrong. There was more to it...

The turning point was when I was watching the Eurovision Song Contest. During the votes, many norwegian twitterers were active using the #mgp hashtag. We twittered mainly about two things: All the votes we got (Norway won the contest) and the norwegian commentators* pointless talk during the vote. Every funny/stupid/good/inapropriate line was instantly commented/criticized. That was an instantly forming community of people from all over the country, sharing in on the same conversation.

*) Wikipedia: norwegian/english. I tweeted her a thanks for an enjoyable evening on Twitter…

Other forums/groups are being created all the time, such as #tdf (Tour de France), #agt (Americas Got Talent), #pdc09 (MS Professional Developers Conference). I already know that when that conference starts, I'll go on the twitterverse and share my learnings/joys/rants about it, as I did on #ndc09.

Some final words about twitter

You'll find lots of crap in the twitterverse too. Pear Analytics categorized 2000 tweets in a recent study, and categorized just over 40% as pointless babble... Seems high? Hmmm... No, maybe it seems low. But its probably lower than the percentage of pointless babble on the Internet as a whole...

Anyway, if 40% of the currently more than 2 billion tweets twittered are nonsense, there are still more than 1 billion tweets remaining. Its from these tweets we find the gold that makes Twitter fascinating for me.

Ready for one last video? If you now believe less i more: Is Flutter the new Twitter?