Some guy named Jerry Bowles commented today, in a harsh affront to African Gray parrots everywhere, that “Twittering is for Birdbrains.” Bowles starts:
May I share a secret with you? I really don’t care what you’re doing. I don’t care that Jason has quit blogging, or that Chris is hyping yet another dreary marketing conference where the usual dreary suspects gather for the usual dreary presentations (to which, of course, they pay no attention because they are busy Twittering). I know we all need some sort of excuse for work and/or spousal avoidance but come on people, really.
And he ends with:
What I do care about is ideas and the power of the written word to change the world for the good. There are only a handful of people on the planet who can say something worthwhile in 140 characters. The chances are good that you’re not one of them.
Get over yourself.
Maybe this was one of those tongue-in-cheek missives to which so many curmudgeonly bloggers are prone. But I think not. Jerry really doesn’t like Twitter. He doesn’t want to hear that you’re late for your meeting. Then again, Jerry doesn’t have a limping clue how to use Twitter.
Yes, most of the content is prattle. If it isn’t some asinine detail from someone’s life (see the video below), it’s non-stop Navel Gazing 2.0 bullshit. But most of the content isn’t for you. Just because it’s accessible by you doesn’t mean it’s addressable to you. That’s the little conceptual trip wire that seems to give so many people problems with open content models in the web 2.0 model.
So what do you do about? You turn it off. You listen only to the people who have something valuable to say, or something relevant to say. Because when my coworker posts on Twitter that he’s late for a meeting, everyone else following his feed knows that. He didn’t need to send out an email, he didn’t need to call everyone, he just posts and it’s done. If you don’t care you - well I can barely bring myself to say this - you ignore it.
An intuitive transition from instant messaging
For people who grew up with instant messaging it’s normal to mix your life online and in real life (IRL, meat space, whatever). If you’re chatting with someone online you don’t just leave, you say goodbye, tell them you’re out. If you’re chatting with a bunch of people you might just put a hasty away message instead of responding to every open window. And if you’re going to be away for a while you’ll leave up an away message for the person who wanted to talk, so they know whether to bother expecting a response.
In the college days, and I doubt much has changed expect for a heavier reliance on Facebook, you’d include in your away message where you were, where you’d be next, when you’d be back, or where you were going for the night. It’s a passive way of letting your friends know how to meet up with you when you’re away from your computer and you can’t contact every single one. It’s a way of anticipating chance interest in what you’re doing or where you are.
And so it is with Twitter. Some people use the platform for informative microblogging, others for situational awareness, some just to vent, still others to rate every song played on Pandora for their friends. Or something else. When you get to an open platform with everyone’s content available you have to do the same thing you do at the grocery store confronted with 20 brands of pasta sauce - choose.