I have read several commentaries recently on Twitter and observed as others have used it. For me, the jury is still out. I know Twitter is hugely popular and was valued at around 250 million USD in January 2009. The amazing part of this financial evaluation is that Twitter doesn't have any income. It is a free Web 2.0 service.
However, that digresses from the issue at hand. With Twitter, the user has 140 characters to share their thoughts and current actions. It is really much like the status message on Facebook or your chat program. For example, I could post to Twitter: "I am now writing a Be Literate blog entry."
I see Twitter like many other technologies--it is a tool. It can be used productively or result in a significant waste of time and act as a distraction. Some productive ideas that I have heard on how to use Twitter include the following:
1) Take minutes for a meeting--it time stamps everything and keeps statements to 140 characters. It allows multiple people to contribute to the minutes.
2) It is a way to take questions quickly during a live lecture session or Q & A time. I have also seen it used to comment on a big screen about what is being talked about--I'm not a fan of this.
3) I know of one service department that uses Twitter to communicate with each other versus email. It lets others in their department know where they are on campus and quickly communicates to multiple people.
4) In conjunction with #3, it could be used to network a group of people at a conference event, particularly if they are hosting it. The advantage of this over a audio network of walkie-talkies or cell phones is that everyone can see the same message at once and won't get busy signals.
If it isn't purposeful, I wonder if anyone cares that I am writing a blog entry at this moment. Does it matter? Is what I am posting about me or socially productive in engaging others? I am skeptical at some of the non-intentional uses and casual participants. I think it can, like Facebook, be a huge distractor time. For the record, I am not opposed to Facebook but I am amazed at the amount of time people spend on it.
In conclusion, we live in a culture of availability. We carry mobile phones because someone may want to reach us. We are constantly connected to social networks because we don't want to miss anything. Somebody may want me that I am not currently with. And as I reflect on my own practices, I recognize the need to make sure this culture of availability doesn't make me miss the present...the here and now. I embrace this culture in which we live but I see the need to discipline and balance my availability in light of it.
For some further reading, you may want to check out the following links related to Twitter:
Scientists Warn of Twitter Dangers (CNN)
"Just Say No" to Twitter (I take no responsibility for any offense you occur in viewing this link)
The Culture of Availability (The Thinking Stick blog post by Jeff Utecht)
- The previously listed blog posts links to Renny Gleeson: Busted! The sneaky moves of anti-social smartphone users (TED talks). (Again, I take no responsibility for anything in this video that may offend you.)