“If you donâ€™t read tweets for eight hours, donâ€™t worry, all the big stuff you missed will be on TechMeme.” – (Scoble’s latest meanderings on the evolution of Twitter)
No, that’s not nearly it for me, or for many others. It’s not just a technology aggregator. It does that well, but it does so many other things well. Robert undoubtedly has scores of friends, loved ones, and colleagues on Twitter, and who have been there for a few years now, and yet he continually misses out on(or chooses to tune out) what makes Twitter great because he’s so focused on it as a tech news beehive. He starts out the above blog entry by celebrating that Twitter used to be “for telling all your friends you were having a tuna sandwich at Subway in Half Moon Bay” and is no longer. Incidentally, that’s the same argument newcomers make who haven’t yet immersed themselves in Twitter’s culture, which leads me to believe Robert really is only on the fringes while looking at his usage numbers you’d think he’s at its core. I’m thankful that sandwich talk is still a big part of what happens on Twitter. Robert dismisses birthdays as “small stuff,” of little importance if you miss it, and/since it’s not on Techmeme. I’d be pretty crestfallen if all of my friends dismissed my birthday as the small stuff. The “small stuff” is what I use Twitter for. The rest, meh, I can read in a zillion places that Adobe acquired Omniture. He’s got it backwards.
Any number of articles have been written, including Leah’s piece from the Spring on the value of phatic communications and how Twitter extends them to new territories — “Seemingly meaningless conversations that add up to a relationship being formed. It is the digital version of what’s up/fine in the hallway. Relationships include long conversations, sure, but the cement is often tiny interactions that keep the door open between long conversations. Twitter expands the hallway to the globe…”.
Another observation from the piece: “Itâ€™s very hard to say anything useful in 140 characters. Believe me, Iâ€™ve tried to spend most of 2009 saying stuff in 140 character bites. It isnâ€™t satisfying most of the time.” For someone who reads so many Tweets and spends so much of his time immersed in Twitter culture, I was floored that he feels this way. He attributes the high percentage of tweets that have links in them to the fact that it’s difficult to pack something compelling into the short format, but I don’t see such a strong correlation between the two. A link isn’t necessarily used to expand on tiny thoughts; it can be an object that commentary is wrapped around. It’s the constraints of the medium that make it interesting. Even early on, I remember Robert struggling with this. He used to use ellipses a whole lot, to try to string together a series of Tweets into one thought — not sure if he still does that. At the time I made the remark to him at SXSW that there was a potential business model there. They could charge people like Robert who have trouble with brevity each time they use an ellipsis.
Robert has always described the world of technology through the lens of a very particular kind of person, perhaps even more particular than he realizes. When he decried the state of blogging in October ’07, he did so in broad strokes and imprecise language but he was really talking about his friends and colleagues in technology, not the rest of the online world. When he “returned to blogging” earlier this year, it was as if no one had been using blogging tools since he’d “left.” When you haven’t read him for a while and then pick up something he’s written, it’s often jarring to what extent he uses general language to describe very narrow and focused behaviors and interest patterns.