I have this friend who totally doesn’t get Twitter. He doesn’t get it so much that it actually kind of makes him angry that anyone does get – and like – Twitter. To him, it is a total waste of time in every way. He can’t imagine why anyone would spend any time at all having anything to do with Twitter. And that’s fine – to each his own. But I do find it amusing that someone would feel that way about a service used and enjoyed by millions of people.
I’m a Twitter lover. I find it entertaining, amusing, interesting, and good for my brain. I really enjoy reading it, and I really enjoy posting tweets. I get good news, good development information, and a good laugh when I read twitter. I get to express my self in short bursts that help me formulate my thoughts. What’s not to like?
The common impression is that Twitter is for “letting you know what your friends are doing” – or at least that is how it was originally marketed. The common misconception is that Twitter is just a bunch of people posting “Now I’m eating lunch. Yum!”, and perhaps it was that in the very beginning. But in the spirit of “Let a thousand flowers bloom”, Twitter became a lot more than that. Twitter is a forum for expressing not only what you are doing, but what you are thinking, what you are watching, what you are reading, and anything things that you are up to. It is many things. It is a means of conducting a conversation across the world. It is a means of sharing information with like minded people . It can help you track your customers are thinking. It can be a source of entertainment. It can ensure you are up to date on the latest news, and it can even help foment a real live revolutions. Not bad for a site that posts things 140 characters at a time.
Short and Sweet
Here’s the main reason why I like Twitter: It forces us to express ourselves in short, concise sentences. 140 characters isn’t a lot, but it’s not nothing. It is sort of real-world application of Strunk & White’s exhortation of “Use fewer words”. It’s really quite amazing the amount of humor, wisdom, and pith people can cram into that little chunk of text. Anyone who cruises around the internets knows that, while it allows people to publish openly without the barrier of a publishing house, folks – this blog included – don’t get the benefit of an editor. Twitter is the one place where you can know that if you read it, you’ll get things in short, concise, crisp chunks. (And I should add that I pride myself on never using ‘4’ and ‘2’ and other similar shortcuts….)
I find that pleasing as a reader, and valuable as a writer. If I can express my thought in 140 characters, then I know that I’ve really distilled it to the essence of the thought. For instance, it took a while for me to get Hodges Law down to 140 characters but I did. (And I also now have the added advantage of it being in a single place that I refer to my awesome idea – as well as showing that I was the first to think of it. )
The other big reason I like Twitter is that it is an “easy read”. If I have a few minutes to kill, I can pull out my Kindle and flip through the latest on my Twitter feed. I’ve knocked out more than a few pages of Twitter feeds at the Doctor’s office. It also is perfect for solving that First World Problem of being bored while, ahem, “indisposed”.
Third reason? It’s a wealth of information about Delphi and software development. Many great developers tweet, and point to articles and blog posts that teach and explain about development. Want to know what the latest Delphi articles are? Follow DelphiFeeds. You can’t say it is impossible to know what is going on with Embarcadero – they have a Twitter feed that updates with just about everything going on with the company. You can tailor your feed to bring you whatever you are interested in. I’m interested in Software Development, the NBA, specifically the Timberwolves, certain American Idol contestants, and generally funny stuff. That’s exactly what my feed brings me.
Another feature that is both fun and powerful are hashtags. As far as I know, the power and coolness of hashtags was actually an invention of the Twitter community and not an original part of the “spec” for Twitter. According to this article – which is a great history and summary of hashtags -- the idea actually came from a guy named Chris Messina, and his idea has become part of the power of Twitter. Hashtags are used to create groups or topics. Sometimes they are fleeting – like a hashtag for the Superbowl – or sometimes they are ongoing, with people constantly adding to them, like the “#overheardathome” tag. Want to see what others are saying while American Idol is on? There’s a hashtag for that. They have even made a difference in world events. The valiant folks fighting for freedom in the Arab Spring used twitter hashtags to inform the world and each other about important, world-changing events. Businesses are event starting to include hashtags in their advertisements (and of course, folks aren’t always respectful of those tags…..) There’s even a website dedicated to tracking the use of hashtags. From the humble beginnings of an idea from a single users, hashtags have made twitter into a useful and powerful communications medium.
It may have started out as a site to tell your friends that you are eating lunch, but Twitter has become a great place for some quick-witted comedy and entertainment. Heck, I tweet a lot about technology and programming, but I try hard to make a witty, funny comment every once and a while. Some people’s sense of humor is just made for Twitter. One of my favorites is Josh Hara. If you are looking for a series of laugh-out-loud funny, but off-color tweets, look no further than Pauly Peligroso. There are tons of lists of (allegedly) funny people on Twitter. I should add that in my experience, the people that are “supposed” to be funny – that is, comedians whose names you know – aren’t really that funny. But hands down, bar none, the funniest feed on Twitter is Sh*tmydadsays. In any event, Twitter can definitely make you LOL. (I only use “LOL” when I, well, actually do laugh out loud. You should follow the same rule.)
Parody and History Sites
Another feature that dovetails on the straight comedy sites are some of the excellent parody sites. There’s a whole slew of Star Wars characters on Twitter. Lord Voldemort of Harry Potter fame is enormously popular, on topic, and very funny. He and Severus Snape often exchange barbs. (Actually, there are quite a few folks tweeting as Severus Snape on Twitter….) You can keep track of Batman, Drunk Superman, Aquaman (Warning: he’s a little….”salty”), Spiderman, Drunk Hulk, and just (presumably sober Hulk. (Apparently there are many facets to Hulk’s personality). Want some history? You can follow Henry VIII, Calvin Coolidge, You can follow the history of the Byzantine Empire, the first 1000 days of the JFK administration, and real-time events of World War II. And that is just scratching the surface. Believe me. There is no end to the inanity, craziness, and imaginativeness of the folks on Twitter.
In The End
Yes, Twitter would be boring if it were nothing more than people telling you what they were doing. It may have been that at one point, but it’s become way more than that. Shoot, a recent cover of Sports Illustrated had a hashtag for the cover article about Jeremy Lin. In the end, Twitter can me what you want it to be. You can follow technologists, pop stars, actors, authors, characters from books and movies, business, news sites, newspapers, bloggers, family members, humorists, athletes, historical characters, and more. You can keep up with technology, world events, politics, all manner of news and events, what your favorite authors/actors/singers are up to. It’s really a huge, fascinating party that you can control to your heart’s content.
Why anyone wouldn’t be interested in that, I have no idea.