What I use Twitter for

The primitive and underlying principle of Twitter is to tell everyone what you are doing so that they can keep up with your daily activities more asynchronously than in real-life relationships. This allows you to discover when your asymmetric friends are doing something you might need help with, are close to your location, or are simply doing something exciting. This is indeed the world of status-updates and without further ado I guess this video(that most of us have already seen) describes it far better, and more simple, than I ever could:

The beginner tweeter uses Twitter for this exact purpose and quickly gets bored with it because of the selfishness and uselessness of the idea. I believe this is where the 60% of the users dump the service, because there is simply no gain in knowing what your friends, or Oprah is doing, as you’ve got bigger concerns in your life(presumably).

Having established that, I guess what I use Twitter for is drastically different from this underlying goal, and I’m not the only one.

Having read through some of Mashable’s and AllFacebook’s posts about Twitter and social media as a whole, you get a sense that Twitter has many uses, among which are:

  • Customer relations
  • News broadcasting
  • Sharing links, videos and pictures
  • Real-time search
  • Spam/scams
  • etc.

The fact of that matter is that Twitter’s simple idea allows it to be the back-bone of a whole range of mash-up services, and many are being developed as we speak.

What I use Twitter for lies in points 2, 3 and 4 of the aforementioned list, or at least that’s what I believed until last night.

I am a person obsessed with news, I have to know what is happening with the economy, business and science, and have to know it not tomorrow, not next week, but as it happens. This why my twitter-feed is full of links to news-articles and videos on the web. Twitter is further-more the perfect media for this, as it is far more real-time than other news channels.

I haven’t had this obsession my whole life, in fact this is only something that has taken off in the past 10 months or so. I started with falling asleep, and awakening to CNN, having a daily read through a major national newspaper, and visiting Techcrunch and Gizmodo a few times a day. I quickly realized the dumbness of these media because of the lack of the ability to share it with several friends at once, and saving the news for future reference. This made me an active source of news within my closest circle of friends, but I was irritated having to retell the stories over and over again, and how I had to spend hours trying to find the news again when I needed them for a report. Basically I needed a broadcasting channel, and this is what Google Reader gave me.

I started out small, first about five 5 feeds, then 10, and then heading up to December last year things really started getting big, and I got up to about 100 feeds. However, this was still only the beginning since these were not major, but rather small-time feeds with only a few, if any, posts a day. Reorganizing my reader several times at first made it filled with 100, 200, 300 and at some peak moments even 400 news articles a day. I would(and sometimes still do) spend hours everyday sipping through these news, sharing whatever was interesting. I therefore quickly became known as the somewhat spammer of news as I was(and still am) the most eager sharer among my closest circle of friends.

andre

The overwhelming amount of information was not the only problem though. Some news are not meant for everyone, some are meant for distinct individuals, and distinct groups, and this together with duplicate news articles(from different sources) needed to be addressed. This introduced the idea of Google Reader 2.0, the idea-paper for which I still have hung up on my wall. The idea kind-of died as comments, along with other features were introduced and discovered in Google Reader. A recent descendant of the idea has been the so-called Twitter Times product that I described in the previous post.

However Google Reader was not only a broadcasting channel, it was a great way to save news for future reference, which allowed me to write a few great reports which were extremely up-to-date as I wrote about Facebook and branding with social media, among many other things.

So what made me switch to Twitter instead? Twitter’s model, along with short URLs forces me to tag information as I share it. Basically the idea is that if Google Reader allowed me to share and comment on a post, Twitter forces me to describe the content in my own words, and keep it short. Doing this allows me to recall the information easier, since I used my own words as I shared it, and I(presumably) used the best phrasing possible. Furthermore the twitter model allows you to share with only a distinct individual via direct messages and @ tags, but sharing with a distinct group of people is still an impossibility.

Another down-side is that information that I didn’t share, but simply read is not indexed as well. One last MAJOR downside is that the content of the news is not indexed, only my own description of the information.

Thus the twitter news model is missing a few things:

  • Relationship groups(one-to-many)
  • Subscription to actual “feeds” of information
  • Indexing of content behind the short URLs

This is what The Twitter Times has been set out to solve, but so far I haven’t had the time to work on it extensively enough.

Thus I had thought of myself as a form of Twitter journalist, that would write a tag-line for each interesting thing he finds on the web. People would thus follow me to see what interesting stuff I find, ahead of actually following me to know what I am doing.

However last night I discovered a strikingly different truth. I do not tweet to share, I tweet to save, or rather sort. Sort the overwhelming information of the internet into a tag-cloud searchable with a very simple search engine that I defined in my Google Chrome browser as

http://search.twitter.com/search?from=shtole&q=%s

Thus, when I last night was looking for Shai Agassi’s video last night, to show some of my friends what the future holds for Denmark, I remembered that he was number 3 in a list of 100 most creative people in business that I had shared recently, and here is what I found:

searchExactly what I was looking for. In fact this way of searching has become far more effective for me, as long as the I know that I have already shared the information that I am looking for. However this does not mean that this eliminates Google for me, I will still use Google to find information I hadn’t already read, but for my history I will probably use Twitter, therefore I’d like to correct a #thought I had posted on Twitter once:

From

#thought Twitter is great for finding out "what" has happened, but the "why" and "who" is still Google’s department

To

#thought Twitter is great for finding out “what” happened, and what I’ve found about it, but the unknown details of the past are still Google’s department.

If that makes any sense? I think I’ll have to rephrase that a bit before I post to twitter, but you catch my drift. Thus, I’m not a journalist, I’m just using Twitter to exercise my ability to sort the immense overflow of information, which I can then use for future reference.

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One response to “What I use Twitter for

  1. Sal Joynal Abdin

    Twitter has changed and evolved since you wrote this piece.

    I use Twitter Search for instant information like films, restaurants, shopping deals etc.
    As of December, Google now includes Twitter feeds into their search results.

    Best
    Sal
    http://cloudywithsunshine.wordpress.com

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