Twitter: “What is it good for?”

As someone who’s only more recently adopted Twitter as a tool, building on top of multiple blogs, Facebook, and LinkedIn, I’ve been consistently faced with two questions:

  1. Is there a specific model for using twitter that makes the most of the tool?
  2. How can folks following hundreds (thousands!) of people get anything done other than read tweets all day?

Question 1

Geoff Managh, of BldgBlog, writes on question #1 and answers the pre-complaint: who wants to read that stuff?
He urges us to separate the tool from the work; that ballpoint pens and twitter are just as capable of capturing (NB: not “producing” like some robot Bartleby) quality writing as moleskines and MS Word. That said, he defaults to a simple position: twitter is a note-taking tool and you can write what’s important to you. There’s less difference between me reading a WSJ editorial that I disagree with and a tweet that bores me; if the content isn’t interesting, we’re supposed to stop reading it, the same way we do with books, magazines, articles, editorials, blog posts, and emails. Notice a trend?

I have recently decided that the microblogging description of twitter might be the real secret sauce here. Once upon a time, there were these things called weblogs, and many of them were like personal online diaries or journals. Eventually, as people are wont to do, some of these weblog-ers started writing more interesting things, and people liked to read those posts. And then it continued. And some of you might have even recognized that we now have blogs and bloggers and no one automatically things that these are a fortiori silly things to do. We now note that well-written blog posts are closer to newspaper columns than the online “dear diary.” Since twitter works over SMS as well, and many people don’t have full-fledged blogs or even carry laptops and smartphones with them everywhere, maybe democratizing access is an important piece of the story. People will find their voices. That’s not a bad thing.

Question 2

I’m hoping to get a mini-interview with Darren Rowse of Problogger to expand on his recent tweets on how he manages the 37,828 people he’s following and his 57,965 followers (as of 1445 Eastern Time on 4/28).

That post will be part II of this mini-twitter series.