On Twitter

rentzsch: yay morphed a client meeting into client work-time. “Nothing new to talk about, how about I just keep working?” “Sure.” I love sane clients
I never understood Twitter. I checked it out way back when, probably around when it first started, readin’ the blogs and all, and I just didn’t get it. “Okay, you’re supposed to answer the question, ‘What are you doing?’ – I guess you post from mobile phones or something – SMS, I think that’s a phone thing – because posts are limited to 140 characters! What can be said in 140 chars? Well, maybe someone will probably use it.”
I signed up for an account though, mostly to landgrab the esteemed and coveted notio member name. I’m not sure I ever went back, even after I read about Twitter taking off and getting popular. I just figured, “I don’t really have a modern phone, pretty sure it doesn’t do SMS, and gosh ain’t the kids just crazy these days with their Internets??”
Then in early January a friend was flying out to Iowa, and he said, “I’m on Twitter BTW. I usually post when I travel.” And I said, “What is the deal with Twitter? I just don’t get it.” He said, “You have to get a desktop client, like Twitterific. Then subscribe to a few people, look at my friends and then look at their friends and subscribe to the interesting ones. You can’t use the website this way, you need the integrated view. They’re calling my flight, gotta go.”
So I downloaded Twitterific, and did what he said, and it only took about half a day, before, suddenly – bing! – the bell rang inside my head. It turns out that keeping Twitterific on the the background is like sitting in a cafe where everyone there is a friend. The 140 char “restriction” drove behavior toward a new style of online banter, sort of a synthetic conversation made up of everyone announcing presence to each other. It’s not really better or worse, it’s just really different.
I “followed” my friend over two days, as he made his way through his business trip. Here are some examples to give you a sense of the flow:

It’s Jan 2nd, can we stop the Christmas music playing at the airport yet?
Delayed twice already. Looks like I’m missing my connection.
Can someone at Gate 36 in Cincinatti please tell the woman cutting her nails in public that it is disgusting.
Next to Mike Wallace while checking in at the Marriott.
Shorter than I expected.
DSL line just went down… to the backup we go.
Up and running on the backup DSL. That was a little stressful… but better now than 8:00
Romney has conceded Iowa
They are calling it for Obama here.
Adam Nagourney is an intense typist.
The live band at the Ron Paul party next door is playing “When will I be loved”
Teardown time.
Done. I’m outta here.
Happy to see and hard to beleive but the airport is totally mellow.

It’s got its own vibe, doesn’t it? Poetic, in a way. I had a real sense of what was going on in his life. A tight connection, over two days. And each of those “tweets” was read in-line with several other folks on-going comments and announcements. When people subscribe to each other’s tweets you often see people reply to each other, in public, using the “@” to cue the recipient, as in, “@notio are you making a point?”
All this just goes to say that Twitter is an interesting place to play, and I missed it the first time because I tried to box it into existing mental models. On its own terms it’s radical and super-interesting. For instance, back to that quote from the beginning:
rentzsch: yay morphed a client meeting into client work-time. “Nothing new to talk about, how about I just keep working?” “Sure.” I love sane clients
Anyone who has ever worked in a professional services capacity will recognize several nuggets of humorized truth in rentzsch’s tweet. It conveyed to me a complete emotional state. I laughed out loud, smiled, and when I happened to see Twitterific ask, “What are you doing?” I wrote, “Writing about twitterific”