It’s not the tweets, it’s what they mean

It’s time to stop using Twitter, even if you haven’t started.  That’s what Mark McKinnon says, and he says it in Tina Brown’s The Daily Beast, so you know this wouldn’t just be someone hopping onto a meta-media bandwagon.

Say hello to my little friend.(In the same piece, he says he “wrote a blog” about Twitter—he means a post, not an entire site, so I’m not sure he’s all that far ahead of his chosen straw man, Congressman Joe Barton.)

I’ve had contractors living with me for nearly two months, so I’m an expert on recognizing tools, even if I don’t always know how to use them.

That’s all Twitter is: a tool.  If you’re not doing any framing, a framing nailer’s still a tool; it’s just not one you have much use for.

I’m still finding good ways to have Twitter work for me.  I’m distractable, so leaving it open all the time isn’t the best idea.

Lately, though, I begin the day by opening Twitter, email, and my blog.  The first two update themselves while I deal with any comment that’s poured in.

I scan the email to see if something needs early attention.  Then I browse Twitter.

No, because doughnuts at Starbuck's are TERRIBLE.Probably because of my years in corporate life,  Twitter feels like a walk down the hallway or through the cafeteria.  You get quick updates from people you know, and you overhear snatches of things.  (Clay Shirky says “they’re not talking to you,” but sometimes there’s stuff worth hearing.)

Today, for example, I picked up the following:

  • A post on Andrew Lightheart’s blog (he focuses on presentation), with ways to invite questions.
  • Alan Levine’s technical but detailed description of how to create RSS feeds at Cogdogblog.
  • A tip from @shantarohse that I could back up my delicious bookmarks to Evernote (which I’ve downloaded but haven’t played with much).

What about my own part in this?  I just scanned my last dozen or so tweets.

  • Public comments to individuals (e.g., thanking Mark Moehlert because his tweet told me you can put audio into Evernote)
  • Sharing a link (e.g., to Head First HTML)
  • The occasional wisecrack
  • An enjoyable, semi-asynch, three-way conversation about real-world potential for virtual worlds

Those are all individual-level meanings.  Tools like Twitter have potential for group and organizational work, too.  Will Twitter be here a year from now?  Who knows?  But I’m still going to need certain kinds of meaning, so I’ll keep browsing the tool aisle.

Framing nailer photo by emtboy9, used under a CC license.
Doughnut-cup photo by unit2A, used under a CC license.

2 thoughts on “It’s not the tweets, it’s what they mean

  1. Loved this post. Everyone gets emotional about the tools they use and love… and in case of Twitter, the tools they hate.

    We can only but share the value of using a tool, and also the best practices to use the tool. In the end one should use the tool that works for you as an individual.

    Catch you later on Twitter Dave :-)

  2. Manish, as you know, I’m often too talkative for 140 characters. At the same time, I’ve had many useful exchanges entirely in Twitter.

    It’s got a big buzz now, but that’ll die down. I think mini-messages in public will become a common item in many toolboxes–like a pair of needle-nose pliers. Not useful for many jobs, silly for others, work-in-a-pinch (pun intended) sometimes, and just right in others.

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