A few days back, I read a post by SeaBee, which tracked back to Sarah’s post – both on the subject of Twitter. While I’ve already done a post on Twitter and journalism, this one is inspired by the contents of these two posts.
Both these posts constitute what I see as for and against viewpoints on how useful and user-friendly Twitter is.
Sarah mentioned how so many people got involved with the Egypt revolution because of Twitter, and I agree. Had I not been on Twitter and following the relevant people, I might’ve read about it in the papers and eventually forgotten about it; it definitely would not have made the impact it has. Twitter made the revolution even more real for those who were far away from the scene of action. Updates from tweeps who were at Tahrir were gripping; they were real. Much more real than a second-hand report. So much more real. There have been so many other issues that I’ve learned about or gotten involved with because of Twitter and its propensity for hashtags.
User-friendliness? I find Twitter simplistic. It’s honestly quite easy to use. I’ve read the argument about how you know whom to follow, and how to figure out threads of conversations. While the Twitter website is pretty okay to use at times, don’t make it your full-time Twitter outlet. I’ve used Seesmic Web and Twimbow (I tried Tweetdeck and it just didn’t gel with me, but loads of people like it so it really depends on your preferences) and they’re amazing to help make sense of what’s going on.
Most “stories” (#BenihanaKUW, #jan25 just to name a couple) are hashtagged, so just click on the hashtag within whatever Twitter application you’re using and behold, you’ll have an entirely separate column dedicated to that “story”.
How much time you dedicate to Twitter depends on what you want to do with it. I’m quite addicted (I admit it freely) so I trackback to where I last left off and scroll through. I must admit though, I’m a good speed-reader so I take less time than many other people would to do this. Again, filters are so useful when you want to wade through the mess.
I rarely ever go to anyone’s Twitter profile (unless I’m stalking them ;-)). What I like about Twitter is that on the main feed, you can only see conversations between people whom you follow. So there’s no unnecessary nonsense going on the main page. Sure, if you go to a profile page, there will be lots more conversations going on but that’s for the profile owner to figure through his/her mentions, not ours. If you do, however, have a hankering to read through conversations, the web application will show you the conversation if you click on the relevant tweet; other clients like Seesmic and Twimbow also have a “show conversation” option so you can quickly figure out what’s going on.
After a few days/weeks (again this depends on how fast you get used to it), I managed to filter out what I want to see and not see even when skimming through the main news feed. Why don’t I unfollow some people whose tweets I skim over? I normally do want to read their tweets, but knowing the kind of tweets that they publish, I only read when I need/want to. When I know I don’t have time for those tweets, I unconsciously pass them and move on.
Twitter found a niche we didn’t think we needed. Microblogging seemed ridiculous to me when I first heard about it. I had my blog. I had Facebook. Who the hell needs Twitter, I thought? Well I’ve garnered more readers for my blogs from Twitter, and I’ve met loads of interesting people through it from different walks of life whom I would never have met otherwise. Especially in Dubai where there doesn’t tend to be much interaction between people of different communities…this is a boon! The Dubai Twitterati are quite active and close-knit, it’s more or less become a microcosm of teeming activity.