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Twitter usability question

Do you use Twitter? I'd like to know why. Seriously - I'm not being a smart-ass!

I mean, I check in every week or two to read Conan O'Brien's posts, see what the Onion has to say, and so forth, but even after years of being on the service, I have yet to uncover its utility as a communication tool.

For example, I could see it being useful if users got emails notifying us that someone responded to a post (or @ed at me), but as-is, the only way to have meaningful conversation on Twitter is to leave it on constantly and not "follow" very many people. Also, there's no threading, so how does someone know a conversation is going on unless they're following everyone who's a part of every conversation? And how does one figure out WTF is going on when visiting, say, a friend's Twitter page and seeing a bunch of random @thises and @thats?

Facebook feels like it actually does what Twitter was intended to do, in that you make short comments or post photos or links and people can respond to them right there in context. Took me a while to find FB's utility and warm to it, but now I see how it's a very handy tool - especially in how it simplifies communication to many and enables users to do things that would be challenging if they don't know HTML and don't want to mess around with technical stuff. On the other hand, FB limits posts to 420 characters, so posts are by definition not very complex - and Twitter only allows 120. Barely enough to write a complete sentence.

So Twitter consists of a cacophony of lonely little shouts - tweets, as from a bird sitting on a telephone wire hoping to get someone's attention, hoping usually in vain to find someone to sit on the wire with them and tweet in unison at the uncaring world around them.

Am I missing something, or is Twitter just a site for people to peep randomly into the lonely and vast Webiverse?

Thanks,
Chris

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Comments

( 65 comments — Leave a comment )
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bart_calendar
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
I find twitter completely pointless.

I really tried to make it work for me by starting a project on there called Short Sadness but even that got stifling given their character limit.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, you know it's bad when you have to go to Facebook in order to post a well-thought-out piece!
victoria_lane
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
Either you get it or you don't. I think FacieSpace is the more vapid of the two. Grown men sending me virtual cupcakes? Um...Ew. Micro blogging I connect with. I have interacted with people I'd never meet in any other setting.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:23 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I block ALL applications on FB. Dumb2.

How do you use Twitter, though? How do you overcome the issues I noted? How do you figue out what anyone's talking about unless you only follow a few people and watch it religiously? Is there an email notification setting I can't find?
(no title) - geekmom - Dec. 27th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
auroraceleste
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:21 pm (UTC)
Naka-Kon uses twitter as an announcement service, and it's very good for that. Pre-reg deadline is coming up - we tweet about it, and an hour later we have 20 more pre-reg's. And it's better than facebook, because, honestly (not to be harsh) we don't care what you think about it. It just is.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I totally see the utility of it for things like notifications. That's where the whole "shouting to the universe" aspect makes complete sense.

But do you use it for conversations, and if so, how? Or am I trying to think of this tool in a way it's not designed to work?
(no title) - auroraceleste - Dec. 27th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
rose_lemberg
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)
I use it for #zinechat, which I find extremely useful. I also like following #gudslush and other magazines who talk about their slushing process. I also sometimes post Stone Telling slushing updates on twitter, although it is not frequent for me. I do post PR-related things on twitter (like new issues of Stone Telling).

#ebz is a fabulous online game that wants you to post updates on twitter, and I loved it for about two monts before I got sick of it.

People do microfiction and micropoetry on twitter. I tried this once, when an editor asked for a short poem of mine for her twitterzine. Overall I think I will not try it again; microfiction is not for me, but it was a fun experiment.

I only follow a limited number of people and do not check my twitterfeed daily, but I did find some very interesting things that way.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
Yeah, following informational tweeters could be really useful. Never understood the microfiction; just not my writing style!
(Deleted comment)
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:48 pm (UTC)
I suspect it helps!
orrin
Dec. 27th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
I'm right there with you, so if you figure it out let me know.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Looks like some folks here have ideas of how to use it!
the_themiscyran
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:00 pm (UTC)
Twitter works very effectively as a conversational tool for small* groups of people, but yes, only if you're going to be on it constantly. I signed up after WFC in October because a majority of the people I met there use it, and that's now how I keep in touch with them.

I think it is also a useful tool for people who are looking to build/maintain fan communities - good examples of that aspect are Amanda Palmer and Nathan Fillion, who both have personalities that lend themselves to a regular stream of entertaining tweets, and a willingness to actively interact with thier fans.

It is also good for sharing thoughts that may not warrant an entire blog post, but you still want to share, and, as you mentioned, a very good way to do announcements or say, "Hey, look at this cool thing I found!".

*Note: For varying degrees of 'small'.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the most prolific tweeters are also those using it to develop an audience or build a fan base.
(Deleted comment)
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
I'm with you in preferring the conversational style and room for complete thoughts that you only get with a blog! Though I do see the value of quickly chirping something for lots of folks who are looking for the chirp.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I don't really read stuff there except information, really.
nottygypsy
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)
"Am I missing something, or is Twitter just a site for people to peep randomly into the lonely and vast Webiverse?"

No I think you pretty much got it.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
;-)
silverfae
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:21 pm (UTC)
The only way I've ever seen a point to Twitter is for blanket announcements to a group of folks, where the specific group is there for that announcement. Otherwise, it's just noise to me, and there's enough of that in my life as it is, thankyouverymuch.

Even more annoying? Foursquare.
I really don't care to see where someone is every time they move, unless say, it's for a pub crawl and I want to meet up with them along the way.
I'm sure it's most excellent for stalkers.

mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:52 pm (UTC)
It does seem useful that way, but then LJ also allows such announcements. And it's portable to other websites. Just don't see why Twitter's any better than LJ!
silverfae
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:27 pm (UTC)

Although... I can name one instance in which I saw Twitter work very well.

sh*t my dad says

mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, sure, those kinds of things are handy for Twitter. But again, LJ could do it, too, with room for full posts!
(no title) - silverfae - Dec. 27th, 2010 11:41 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Anonymous)
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
I use Twitter, not because I say anything insightful (I consider Twitter something akin to Facebook Lite), but more because one of my friends is an AP sportswriter in Detroit, and he continuously tweets the games he covers. It's entertaining to follow the action that way.
skyflame
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:36 pm (UTC)
(Sorry... that's my comment. Didn't realize I wasn't logged in.)
(no title) - mckitterick - Dec. 27th, 2010 10:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:55 pm (UTC)
Sure, I can see that. I just wish those folks used LJ or something like it, instead! That way they could also post larger write-ups once in a while, and we could discuss things.
(no title) - bestill - Dec. 28th, 2010 06:14 am (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Dec. 28th, 2010 02:38 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - bestill - Dec. 28th, 2010 02:49 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - mckitterick - Dec. 28th, 2010 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no title) - bestill - Dec. 28th, 2010 05:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
scarypudding
Dec. 27th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
Twitter is weird. It's probably best thought of as a medium, like "email", or "blogs", rather than as a platform like Facebook or a tool like LiveJournal.

For me it's part asynchronous, high-latency chatroom, part RSS feed, but that's really just scratching the surface, if not outright Doin It Wrong.
For other people it's a political organizing tool: http://millicentandcarlafran.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/why-mooreandme-helped-and-how-twitter-busted-twelve-straw-men/ What it's good for for you -- and whether it's good for anything, for you -- is kind of an organic function of who you're following (and what they're using it for) and who's following you.

You can use it like a poor man's Facebook and a lot of people do, but that's only one of many ways to use it and not one of the better ones.
mckitterick
Dec. 27th, 2010 10:56 pm (UTC)
Interesting point. I'm doing it wrong, too ;-)

Yeah, because Twitter and FB both have so many users, they're powerful organizing tools. But if LJ (or Insert Blog Host Here) had half the world on it, too, they could do that PLUS create real entries.
(no title) - scarypudding - Dec. 27th, 2010 11:56 pm (UTC) - Expand
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