As the token blogger/iPhoner/techno-geek of my friends, I am often asked, “what do you think of Twitter?” The question is usually posed with a sideways glance and a look of utter confusion: neither my friends nor I know what to think of it. My answer always begins, “I’ve learned not to judge new technology but just to accept it, but I don’t know what the point is.” But today, I have come around and can say it: I love Twitter.
First, the gigantic, enormous, 1000-lb caveat: 140 characters is just too little on which to found an information economy. It’s just enough to pop in a unilateral statement or partisan opinion of the kind that dumbs down discourse. “Yeah Steelers!” or “Congress disagrees on transportation bill” are two examples.
In my mind, Twitter is the gigantic success it is due to a weakness in our search and blogging tools. Twitter provides an immediate way to post content that requires very little tech literacy, and a way to search and handle that content all at once. If blog software were easier to use, and every blog accessible up to the minute–with software that intelligently groups blog posts and maps them by concept, date, time, etc–we would not see such a flood to Twitter. Sites like Technorati attempt to integrate the blogosphere, but I’ve found them sorely lacking. Sites like tumblr try to make blogging easier, but why can’t every blogging site be this? What we need is a way to truly engage blogs with each other. And what would that look like? Basically a Twitter, but with pictures, videos, essays, news items…the content of the world coming at you at lightning speed.
Instead we get 140 characters and tinyurl links. And Twitter’s killer app, with which I have finally fallen in love. search.twitter.com – a perfect way to tap into the hive mind and see who won a race, what people thought of an advertisement, where parties and events are being held.
Some examples: a few weeks ago, the Empire State Building was blue and white. Neither Jordan nor I could think of what Jewish holiday it was, so we called Suza – no Jewish holiday. On my iPhone I searched for “empire state blue white,” and within seconds learned it was for Columbia graduation. Yesterday, after the upholding of Proposition 8, I searched for “prop 8 nyc” and found a number of tweets with the time and location of the protest. Twitter asks “what are you doing right now” to its users, and then I get to ask the question to all of New York City.
So thank you Twitter for providing a useful service. I see your contribution as a proposition and a beta, but not as a final draft. Let’s twitterize the rest of the web and open the free content to be accessible, and see where this wild ride goes next.