When Twitter started out it seemed like a cool new web application to update your ‘status’ (what you are up to) for friends and, well, the world in general. Like Facebook status updates, but out on the Wild Web. But when people started having conversations via their Twitter status updates using the “@” symbol (e.g. “@mike Yeah, I thought that”)I was initially quite annoyed. I even direct-messaged some people to tell them to stop it! Go get a chat room! This was not the proper use of Twitter, I told them.
How wrong I was.
It quickly became apparent that this was turning into the best use of Twitter of all. Not for long, winding conversations you might have on instant messaging, but short, to the point wise-cracks between people interspersed with a little status update here, a small observation on life there. Twitter was no longer about ‘status’ or ‘what are you doing’. It was about conversation, ‘what are you thinking’, ‘what are we talking about’.
The key difference is that people who say “take this conversation over into IM” don’t get it. IM can’t do what Twitter does. You can’t instant message into “the cloud”. With Twitter you can. You can shout or whisper whatever you want to say out into the ether and anyone online can hear you. And anyone following you, even if you don;t follow them, can reply – then you may well become connected.
Of course, the problem comes when people abuse this. They Twitter constantly. The worst are those who Twitter their status all the time (making tea, reading paper etc). According to one statistics site I saw, I Twitter roughly every 2 hours. Too much for a status update but about right for an ongoing conversation.
Status updates – unless they are funny – now seem irrelevant and boring. Status updates are dead for me. It’s all about conversation now. I’m on Twitter here.