Conversations A-twitter

by Greg Andrews | Culture

A web app that comes up often in social media discussions is Twitter. It's also probably the one service that people have the most trouble understanding the nature of it's use. It's often called microblogging, but my original impression, in "Web 1.0" terms, was that Twitter is a cross between a chat room and a web forum. However, after observing the wide range of discourse that happens on Twitter, it's really much more complex than that.

Seattle's Lee and Sachi LeFever put out a good, straightforward explanation on the latest installment of the Commoncraft Show, "Twitter in Plain English".


My favorite line from the video: "real life happens between blog posts and emails."

Now, it may seem that Twitter is just another medium for people with no attention span to share too much information about their lives. In practice, the use of Twitter tends to deviate from the simple question of "What are you doing?". Savvy users will treat the question as "What are you doing that's interesting?". The question is often ignored altogether, with users sharing links, asking questions, and carrying on conversation. Because Twitter spans so many different mediums (web, SMS, instant messaging), users seem to treat it differently depending on their method of use.

Rick over at Silicon Florist did a recent post making a rough list of Portland's top tech Twitter-ers (by the measure of followers * updates). By the same metrics, Vancouver's top twitter users would be, in order, Dave Shea, Tod Maffin, Tim Bray, and Rebecca Bollwitt/Miss604. But nearby in Victoria, Tris Hussey's numbers beat out anyone I could find in Metro Vancouver.

Various apps have popped up that clone and expand on the Twitter model. Jaiku (bought by Google), has developed a small but active user base in Vancouver. It adds a number of features such as message threading and integration of RSS feeds- your flickr photos and blog posts can be automatically pulled into your "presence stream". Streem a project of Imran Zaidi of Kingston, Ontario with a well designed interface, and can also pull content from other services.

I think the term "microblogging" may fade away, as I don't think it's particularly descriptive of how people are actually using these apps. Twitter and similar services are a new medium of communication, bridging many platforms. Users are still trying to understand the best ways to use them. Arguably, they fulfill the long standing dream of being about to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at any time. While I lament the addition of yet another distraction to my digital devices, the conversation is happening, and I don't want to miss it. The trick is to not forget that everyone is listening, and there are public permalinks.

Common Craft
Seattle, Washington, United States

We are two passionate people and Common Craft is our company. Sachi LeFever is the project manager, video editor, and camerawoman. She gets things done. Lee LeFever is the community consultant, communicator and keeper of ideas. Public speaking is part of his passion. We work from our home in Seattle, Washington, USA. Common Craft has been a consulting company since 2003. Lee has been working... more

San Francisco, California, United States

Twitter is a privately funded startup with offices in the SoMA neighborhood of San Francisco, CA. Started as a side project in March of 2006, Twitter has grown into a real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices. In countries all around the world, people follow the sources most relevant to them and access information via Twitter as it happens—from breaking... more

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Greg Andrews

Greg Andrews

Greg Andrews is a Writer and Web Developer and for Techvibes. Born and raised in Edmonton, Greg was blogging about his high school drama long before it was fashionable. In the Spring of 2007, half a year out of school, Greg moved to Vancouver in search of interesting technology and the Canadian dream. His personal sites are and Photo by kk+ more

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