Twitter Isn't All That...Or Is It?

What is wrong with us these days? I've been testing Twitter for the past three weeks in my own social experiment and I gotta say..."get over yourselves people!"

For those of you who don't know, Twitter is another Web 2.0 application that allows you to broadcast messages about yourself to (potentially) the world. The idea is that you type in short blurbs about your "status" and anyone who wants to tune into your special Twitter channel will be able to see your updates whenever they want. It's like a more immediate form of email, where you don't need to address the message to'll just get read by your group of "followers". To see a mile-high view of Twitter messages (called "tweets") in action, I recommend you take a short break and surf to for two minutes. You'll have an ah-ha moment and then you can continue reading...

I am not saying that Twitter isn't valuable. It is. I am wondering, for those Twitter-addicted people who are constantly using it, where you sneak in any time to actually live.

During my experiment, I would make entries like "going to sleep now" or "headed to the store to buy batteries". It was part of the way I immersed myself in Twitter and it taught me something. Silence is golden, or, more accurately radio silence is golden. Radio silence generally means...Don't transmit for the sake of transmitting, transmit only when you have something valuable to say. Now, clearly the idea of Twitter is that you are transmitting to a friendly group of followers, so the word valuable takes on a different meaning depending on who you are transmitting to; however, I tend to doubt people need to hear that I am buying batteries.

Like any new form of communication, much experimentation is needed to figure out the best way to use it. I really believe that Twitter has stumbled upon a fabulous new genre of communication. If used properly, Twitter can fill a niche area quite well. Twitter is a cross between email and instant messaging, with some potentially interesting aggregation services as well. Twitter messages don't necessarily have to come from you. Other devices and services can be programmed to automatically update your Twitter channel for you. For example, each time I post a new entry in my blog, a piece of code picks up on the new material and sends a Twitter message out with a link to the new blog post. Twitter automation is what starts to really get me excited.

Imagine going about your daily life without having to manually update Twitter. Instead, you set up automation triggers that send out useful Twitter updates on your behalf about critical (remember, that's critical to your audience) items. What if you set up a trigger inside your GPS-enabled cell phone that would post Twitter updates when you arrived at work, left work, went to the mall, went to Starbucks, etc. Your friends (followers) might actually have a better chance to know when to see you in real life and you could live a richer, fuller life.

A real-world example of Twitter automation is that you can rig your plants to Twitter you when they need watering. Besides the incredible geek factor, what's interesting is that that particular Twitter message is most useful to you, not others in your audience. So, Twitter can serve as reminder or To-Do service as well.

I think Twitter will mature over time. Let's hope those that use the service will do so as well. Like TV, the technology is only worthwhile if there's something worth watching. Right now, I think the signal-to-noise ratio on Twitter needs work. That work begins with each one of us as individuals. We need to practice using radio silence and judiciously use Twitter only when (and where) appropriate. Not everyone needs to know you just finished your mocha latte...